An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of June 29, 2006
Issued from Polly's Bend, Garrard County, in Kentucky's Bluegrass Region

A SONG IN EVERY TREE

The other day Alex somewhere in cyberspace wrote with regard to my short book One Year in the Life of a House Sparrow. He said that having had House Sparrows brought to his attention, "... all of a sudden there is 'a bird on every corner, a song in every tree.' If you don't allow for it, your mind doesn't register. People don't expect sparrows to be fascinating, and thus ignore them."

Alex has discovered something important: Human minds are wired so that we grow blind to everyday things. Maybe it's an evolutionary defense against the fact that if we could see plainly how many things can go wrong with our bodies, how tenuously society is held together, and how fragile the planetary ecosystem is, we'd all go berserk.

The resulting desensitization, though maybe useful, produces a sad effect, because as we habituate and grow blind to the world's novelties and awe-inspiring features, apathy and detachment set in. Moreover, there's a positive feedback mechanism: As one thing after another drops from our radars, life grows less inspiring, and we see less reason to make efforts to know and care about the world around us. And when we just don't care, then we're more likely to live in ways that threaten and destroy Life on Earth -- which is the profoundly dangerous situation that has developed now.

Several times in my life I've drifted into the no-seeing mode myself. Sometimes it was because I was trying too hard to achieve something -- maybe to succeed in a job or maintain a relationship with a woman -- and sometimes it was because of my obsessive personality, which can give me tunnel vision as I drive things into the ground. So far I've always been able to shake myself out of these ruts. I'd consciously and ceremoniously take a few days of walking around reexamining my priorities and reshuffling my strategies for life. Then I'd forgive myself for having been so dumb and unfeeling, and make a new start.

Here's an important point: Each time I've made a new start, nothing harmonized with and encouraged my rebirth more than paying attention to Nature. When I paid attention, Nature was always there advising me: Simplify; don't waste resources; take care of your body; keep growing...

These profoundly important teachings are best taught by Nature Herself. The process works like this: You make yourself available, and then Nature takes over, first slowly healing, then slowly pleasing, and finally slowly bringing you into new awarenesses and more sophisticated manners of being. And that process is pleasurable, and makes you happy.

If you are completely at a loss as to how to make an initial contact with Nature, one approach might be to look over my "101 Nature-Oriented Things to Do This Summer" webpage at http://www.backyardnature.net/101/summer.htm.

For example, you might begin the process by taking my Suggestion #27, which is: "List all the birds in your neighborhood" -- I show you how to get started -- then let Nature take over as you begin paying attention, making your lists, and finding a song in every tree. Facebook Icon.