In the town where I grew up, there was a lake. Lake Massapoag. I once swam across the entire lake with three of my friends. In one direction, two of us swam while two others rowed a canoe beside us. Then, we switched.
Also in this town, there were many committees. One committee’s sole purpose was to find a way to rid the habitat around the lake of the growing population of Canada Goose. As a child, I did not think very much about the ridiculous nature of such a committee. It made sense. The Geese belonged in Canada, they were pooping in our lake, and they never seemed to leave. I considered them a nuisance with the rest of the population.
It was not until years later, when I introduced to the world of birds, that I began to rethink my ill treatment of a beautiful being.
My partner and I were driving by a group of them standing in a field in Western Washington, and I made an offhand remark about how obnoxious they were. The moment the words came out of my mouth, I realized I no longer believed them.
With this realization came many others, not all at once but with time, awareness, and dedication to learning about the world around me that stretched beyond the human-centric existence.
There were birds in the world, this I had known. But I began to know them as individuals and characters in an exquisite dance with the universe. On my trips east to visit my family, I found dozens of species frequenting their bird feeder that I could not recall ever having seen during my childhood.
The lake where I went swimming had been a habitat for animals long before people, and the grass that my own kind had planted made it possible for those birds to overwinter in New England. A migratory life was no longer necessary. The fecal count from their poop may have made have put a damper on our ability to swim in the lake from time to time, but the impact of the choices we made to allow motor boats, jet skis, and the like were far more likely to cause long-lasting damage to the earth, water, and sky.
In my daily life, I try to take responsibility for my actions and to make choices that reflect a heightened awareness of the full scope of repercussions that will follow—social, economic, and ecological. I am aware that as I write I am seated on a plane bound for Utah, and then I will board a second plane that will take me to British Columbia. Flying is no friend to the earth; of this I am painfully aware. But I have not seen my sister in nearly two years, so I have made a choice.
I take photographs of the fallen that I may remember them and bury birds that have been lost to the fast-paced urban environment of Lowell. I pick up trash and plastic bags, even though there are still thousands that will continue to blow into the canals and waterways around the city.
I know we are not alone in this world, and I am thankful. No matter how hard we try to rid the city of so-called pests and weeds, they will return and remind us that we are not so different. There are commonalities in our ways of being, and we are each working to survive against many odds.
Perhaps, someday the human species will take step down from its pedestal and unceasing thirst for more and greater power over others and realize that this great planet’s ability to continue to support future generations will only follow greater awareness, humility, and intention.