My earliest memory of my dad is at three. The two of us on hands and knees, noses to the floor watching a spider make its way across the kitchen. My dad encouraging me to see how it moved, the shape of its body, the specialness it possessed just in being.
This lesson was just the first among many that tethers me to my father and the way he saw the world and his relationship to the web of life with whom we share this planet.
My sister and I grew up appreciating and often handling spiders, snakes, slugs and every kind of bug. If we showed reluctance, Dad would ask, “Who is bigger?” Then: “Who should be afraid?” He always helped us see the beauty in the maligned and misunderstood creatures, counseling us that if we would just stop and observe, they would reveal themselves and we would learn more than we ever thought possible. To this day our favorite sister thing to do is to sit quietly on a summer evening watching the darting aeronautics of bats filling a star-lit sky.
My mother added to these lessons by loving the small creatures and seeing to their needs. Sharing our home by putting out sugar for the ants to keep them in one spot and away from places she preferred they leave alone. A ploy that always worked.
These early examples set my feet firmly on the path of activism. I have spent my career protecting habitat and finding ways to meet human needs while accommodating the needs of other creatures and their progeny.
I have learned much along the way. From wolves I’ve learned the power of cooperation, from coyotes the art of strategy, from bears how to mother, from spiders the importance of patience, from snakes how to shed that which no longer fits my life, from bats the beauty of the night. And from cats, the animal with whom I feel the most affinity, how to set boundaries and when necessary, defend them. Most of all I’ve learned that every creature, large and small, contributes to the uniqueness of this world and enriches my life.
This is what I believe. What we know, we learn to respect and often to love. What we love we care for.
Each day I am grateful to my parents for the gift they gave to me of experiencing the natural world without the filter of fear and through a lens of respect. And as a result, I have learned more than I ever thought possible.