home…home on the range

Where the Deer and the Antelope Play. Robin L. Chandler, 2022.

“…..as is well argued by Bruce Pascoe in his book Dark Emu, the Europeans had a terrible track record for arriving in a new world (Australia in the case of Dark Emu) and, as we all know, devastating the Native tribes by varying methods of genocide, or at least brutal displacement. In order to treat other human souls so viciously, this behavior on “our” part required a certain degree of denial. This was achieved by treating the American Natives, or the Aboriginal tribes in Australia as less than human – vermin, really – that required extermination, so that the proper “civilized” humans could set-up house. Pascoe succinctly points out that when the English made their reports detailing the progress of their settlements Down Under, they therefore had to necessarily ignore the complex civilizations of the local tribes entirely, despite their methods of surviving amicably in concert with nature that had been developed over millennia. Housing, farming, fishing complete economies: eradicated. Wiped off the face of Australia. “Nothing to see here, your highness, except some random savages!” Next, of course, the English heroically shipped in herds of grazing sheep and cows and attempted to plant their wheat and other continental grains, and then looked on stupidly as they all faltered and died in inhospitable soil, within an ecosystem that was entirely alien to the biology of their plants and animals. They exhibited all the common sense of hijacking a plane for its cargo of riches and then killing the pilots without gleaning any of their imperative knowledge. We’re all in so much of a hurry, then and now, to make money, that we never bother learning to land the son-of-a-bitching plane.”

Excerpt from Nick Offerman‘s book Where the Deer and the Antelope Play: The Pastoral Observations of One Ignorant American Who Loves to Walk Outside.

for our Grinnell

fragile and fleeting. Robin L. Chandler, 2022.

To live to mourn an ancient woodland, known

Always, loved with an old love handed down,

That is a grief that will outlast the griever,

Grief as landmark, grief as a wearing river

That in its passing stays, biding in rhyme

Of year with year, time with returning time,

As though beyond the grave the soul will wait

In long unrest the shaping of the light

In branch and bole through the centuries that prepare

This ground to pray again its finest prayer.

An excerpt from Wendall Berry’s A Timbered Choir, 1987: III

Today March 31, 2022 our beloved Grinnell, peregrine falcon and mate for seven years to Annie, passed away. Thank you Grinnell for gracing our lives and for giving us so many treasured moments. Life is so fragile and so precious. You will soar always in our hearts.

nature and nurture

Point Reyes. Robin L. Chandler, 2022.

“Did you know, Dad, that if you write the word ‘red’ in green and ask a small child to tell you the color, the answer will be ‘green?’ But if you show the same word to an adult, the answer will be red. Children see the color, not the word. Adults see the word, and not the color.”

I am an advocate for wild creatures, rare plants, arrays of native vegetation, clean water, fish, stewardship of natural resources, and learning. I believe these things are compatible with ranching, sometimes lost without ranching. Some people call me a cowboy. A lot of good cowboys call me an environmentalist. I suppose there are lots of labels you can attach to me. There was a time when doing so was hurtful, so I threw back labels of my own. We throw a lot of anger at each other with words. It doesn’t do much for the land, really.

The time has come to see colors, not words.

Excerpt from the essay Colors and Words by Bob Budd in Ranching West of the 100th Meridian: Culture, Ecology, and Economics

“This bird has flown”

For All Time. Robin L. Chandler, 2021.

Patiently we live stream, waiting for Wek’-Wek’ the last Peregrine chick to fledge from Sather Tower.

On nearby Evans Hall, his brothers Fauci and Kaknu, and his parents Annie and Grinnell encouraged the youngster to join them.

At last, “this bird has flown.”

So the story ends, and so it begins.

In this our lost year-of-Covid, Annie and Grinnell have raised two families and unknowingly shared their intimate life with a world of humans. 

In darkest March 2020, these beloved Peregrines were a gift to the imagination when four walls defined our world. With joy we watched as Annie laid her eggs, the chicks hatched, devoted parents provided food for their brood, and Grinnell kept the chicks warm at night while Annie took her rest. And then with excitement, in May 2020, we watched as the brothers Sequoia and Redwood flapped their wings, caught the wind and soared for the first time. And a few days later, with her brother’s encouragement, Poppy joined them and was airborne. And all was delight.

Another year has passed, and another family raised and fledged. Annie and Grinnell we thank thee for showing us that dedication and devotion will guide us through the darkness. Until next year dear Peregrines, good hunting and fair winds.

ex voto

Souls of Birds. Robin L. Chandler, 2020.

Thank you for the hummingbirds…a glimmer of hope we cherish in our gardens.

Hear our votive prayer for the bird souls, thousands dead in New Mexico, victims of the wildfires fueled by climate change:

“And when bird song is gone will earth be the only witness?

Will only rocks grieve the absence?”

Do we pray for a miracle

or…

awake from the dream that our world consists of disconnected beings?

The Thing-As-It-Appears

 

Bison
The Thing. Robin L. Chandler, 2020.

“Artists render things.” In my case, landscapes, cityscapes, human figures, combinations of artifacts, and even toys are rendered on canvas as they appear to me. Selecting a subject to paint calls upon both external and internal factors. Shapes, volumes, colors, and textures engage my senses – establishing my experience of the “thing” – while simultaneously my subjective connections, associations, and memories open a hailing frequency. For children (and grownups) toys (and art) are gateways to worlds we imagine where we are inspired to create a balance between what we observe and what we experience. And so play, and in this case, a painting, begins.

There were twelve toy animals on the table; the one that spoke loudest to me was the Bison. Though only inches in height and width, the expertly modeled Schleich toy called to me. I was captivated by the massive strong body, the tones of sepia, burnt umber, and yellow ochre, and the sense of the thick shaggy fur. Instantly my mind surfaced thoughts of John Muir’s wilderness and my associations with ecologically minded indigenous peoples, capitalist resource exploitation, and land stewardship combined with my memories of hiking and camping. I could easily imagine the cloud of breath released from the Bison’s nostrils on a cold winter Yellowstone morning. The “thing” reached out, grabbed me, and as all good toys do, brought a joyous smile to my face.

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant believed “humans were like citizens of two worlds, occupying both the world of the Ding an sich (the thing-in-itself) which was the external world, and the internal world of one’s perception (how things appeared to individuals).” According to Kant “when we experience an object, it becomes a thing-as-it appears-to-us. Our senses as much as our reason are like tinted spectacles through which we perceive the world.” [1]

The world, unfortunately through other spectacles, is gritty and grim. I read this morning about how the Bison herds in Yellowstone Park are managed.[2] Because this is the sole remaining place in the United States where the public can experience bison living free-range, sustainable herd percentages are identified (4800), and numbers beyond the benchmarks are destroyed by capture and slaughter or by hunting. Range management is rational, and yet I weep at the loss of numbers realized through our ongoing conquest of the planet. “According to the naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton, North America at the time of Columbus was home to sixty million bison, thirty to forty million pronghorns, ten million elk, ten million mule deer, and as many as two million mountain sheep…incredible to imagine today, bison roamed from New York to Georgia.”[3]

[1] Wulf, Andrea. The Invention of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt’s New World. (Vintage Books: New York, 2016). p.38-39

[2] https://www.newsweek.com/bison-migration-slaughter-yellowstone-1489558

[3] Mann, Charles C. 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. (Vintage Books: New York, 2006). pp. 282, 357.

the infinite

IMG_5249 2
View to the Caspar Headlands State Reserve. Robin L. Chandler, 2019.

Darkness punctuated only by the light emitted by stars hundreds of thousands of miles distant and the embers of our fire; and a quiet stillness, broken only by the sounds of waves crashing upon the beach and my wife’s slumbered breathing, measured exhales. The sound of the infinite, slow and steady. We came to Mendocino to slow life’s rapid pace and savor special moments, but, we were unexpectedly blessed to briefly experience the infinite.

Caspar is situated on coastal prairie between the communities of Mendocino and Fort Bragg. An active lumber company town in the 19thand 20thcenturies, it is now a quiet village whose headlands, once the location of a lumber mill, are now conserved as the Caspar Headlands State Reserve. The terrace grasslands are home to meadowlarks, white crowned sparrows and harrier hawks and the beach and estuary below host cormorants, gulls and oystercatchers and the endangered Coho salmon and steelhead trout.

From the balcony of our lodgings, we have a good view of the headlands and the Pacific and on Saturday we were rewarded with a sighting of a pod of gray whales migrating north. The whales were surfacing, exhaling and spouting warm, moist air before diving, their flukes breaking the surface as they plunged.  Now as I lay in my bed after midnight, listening to the sounds of the surf, I imagined the gray whales swimming through a deep blue sea, and the sounds of their breathing as they steadily continued north to Alaska, guided by an ancient knowledge passed from cetacean to cetacean. The infinite.

“Close your eyes, prick your ears, and from the softest sound to the wildest noise…it is by Nature who speaks, revealing her being, her power, her life, and her relatedness so that a blind person, to whom the infinitely visible world is denied, can grasp an infinite vitality in what can be heard. ” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

what you have tamed

LittleFoxes
Foxes heading to their den at sunrise. Robin L. Chandler, 2018.

For the past week, I have slept little…my nights spent watching the family of Gray Foxes living underneath the old shed near my father’s house.  Sleepy days give way to frenzied nights, as the three kits turn acrobat and lovingly and relentlessly tease their doting parents. I will always remember this trip to Texas and my new friends who opened doors in my dreams.

In Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince the fox gives important advice to the Prince:

“One only understands the things that one tames….men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more… What is essential is invisible to the eye…It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important…[and] you become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”