Tag Archives: natural presence

Eyes on the Sparrow

A heartbreaking image of a swallow with seared wings is what initially scared me away from Rebecca Solnit’s important recent essay in the New York Times Magazine. But Rob insisted rightly that I needed to read it, so I finally prepared my all-too-sensitive eyes and mind to get through painful descriptions of bird tragedies.

Solnit argues forcefully that to deal successfully with our contemporary climate crisis, we need to reinvent not only how we extract energy (and, I would add, our desire for it), but how we tell stories about our time. She is right.

We do need to tell stories, Continue reading


Summer’s Secret Stories

As I mentioned last time, it’s been a hard season for forest babies: no eaglet, no owlet, no bushtit-lets. After realizing this wouldn’t be the year for any of them, it took a while to recalibrate my attention toward the less conspicuous developments of spring nesting, those subtle clues to smaller dramas. On closer inspection, the Black-capped Chickadee hopping through the hawthornes turned out to be gleaning nutritious protein for its children, hidden somewhere in nearby shrubbery but peeping insistently for their forthcoming meal.

Black-capped Chickadee with grub

Black-capped Chickadee with grub

Continue reading

Speed and stillness: A contemplation

Yesterday the fastest creature on Earth stopped by for a visit. Ever the news-bringers, our park’s crows alerted us to a predator’s presence, and I was astonished to see a rare Peregrine Falcon up there on a high branch, lit beautifully by the winter sun as the crows called, annoyed or just gossiping.

Peregrine Falcon with crows. Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Peregrine Falcon with crows.
Lincoln Park, West Seattle

My first Pacific Northwest peregrine encounter, 27 years ago, had involved only sound. I had just sweated my way to the top of Little Si (at 1500′, higher than almost all of the eastern state I’d just moved from).

Snoqualmie Valley, WA

Snoqualmie Valley, WA

I was sitting there on the rocks, munching granola and admiring the vast glaciated valleys and the two forks of the Snoqualmie River merging below me, when suddenly the air vibrated with a sound I couldn’t place; I caught a blur of movement out of the corner of my eye. Continue reading

Traces of Hidden Presence

Yesterday, in the darkness at exactly 6:00 am, I heard a high-pitched screech outside my window, which turned into a squeal. Finally the call evolved into one I recognized: a Barred Owl, the familiar denizen of my park. After a short but fierce inner argument between the Voice That Wanted To Stay In My Warm Bed, and Naturalist Voice, the naturalist won and I dug myself out from under cats and covers, pulled on pants and a jacket, and ventured out into the dark street to try to spot the light-gray owl in the thick trees.

Unfortunately, the conifers along my street were too dense and tall for me to find the owl, who stayed quiet after that. So after my brief foray into the dark morning, I (quite happily) went back inside and crawled back under the covers to read for a while with tea and juice, knowing contentedly that the owl was somewhere nearby.

We humans, as you may have noticed, are pretty much diurnal: we’re active during the day, and if we’re out and about at night, we go where there are artificial lights. You can tell this is what we’re made for by looking at our faces. Continue reading

Natural History Renaissance: Opportunities Near and Far

Natural history—the ancient tradition of close, thoughtful attention to the natural world in situ and over time—is experiencing a contemporary revitalization as we realize not only the critical information, but the deep wisdom that can be born through the naturalist’s practice.

Rain lifting over the Kitsap Peninsula

Rain lifting over the Kitsap Peninsula

Programs, workshops, publications all indicate our rising interest in reconnecting with nature though contemplative observation, critical thinking, and creative arts. I thought you, dear Natural Presence readers, might be interested in knowing of such events, so I’m adding a sidebar (look to your left) where you can find more information about them.

Please feel free to let me know if you have items to suggest that are either of local (if you live in the Pacific Northwest) or broad interest (if you live elsewhere). I’ll update the list regularly, and every so often will post a discussion of some of these interesting opportunities. We want to find what’s precious and grab it when we can!

Gull with clam, Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Gull with clam, Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Nearest on the horizon is the Celebration of Lincoln Park Nature. The first part of the celebration, the evening of April 23, will feature local speakers about the park’s history, present state, and future prospects. And I’m even more excited about the field day on Saturday, April 27, with nature walks led by local naturalists (including yours truly) and workshops with nature artists/writers such as Lyanda Haupt, Denise Dahn, and Cass Nevada. Find out who lives in the forest and near the beach, and how you can respond artistically to our astonishing natural neighbors.

Also coming up soon is the Burke Museum’s workshop called Environmental Writing: Inspire, Observe, Inhabit (May 5). Three award-winning writers—David Montgomery, David George Gordon, and Brenda Guiberson—will integrate classroom work and field exercises to help you hone your awareness and your skills.

We could all use a little support as we develop our Natural Presence. Let’s help each other better find nature’s beauty, intelligence, and wisdom.

Eagle angling through a stiff breeze, carrying prey to its mate

Eagle angling through a stiff breeze, carrying prey to its mate