Sharpening Our Vision

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It’s just a little unsettling that as we get older, before we invest in updating any body part, we consider its life expectancy. I have a friend who is “making do” with a temporary crown on a tooth.

“Holy moly!” she says, “I’m 75 years old! How much longer am I going to live? I’m chewing just fine with the temporary–I think it will last!”

I was unprepared, however, when I drove the Potter to his eye appointment, where, after his exam, he scheduled appointments to have cataracts on both eyes removed. He was a little quiet in the car riding home.

“You know,” he finally said, “I have a decision to make. I can simply have the cataracts removed and Medicare and my insurance will cover it. Or, if I pay extra, the doctor can correct my vision. I wouldn’t have to wear glasses anymore.”

Another long silence. “I really don’t mind wearing glasses–I’ve worn them most of my life. That would just be a vanity thing and I don’t care about that. The real issue is that I’m 81 years old–if I knew how much longer I was going to live, it would really help to make this decision. It’s not worth it if…..” And his voice trailed off.

That evening when he called, he said, “Well, I’ve made the decision! I’m going to go for the complete fix! You know what helped me decide? I can see through binoculars a lot easier when I’m bird watching–I can get the binoculars right up to my eyes if I’m not wearing glasses!” He was joking, but I know how important those binoculars and birds are to him.

There is a delicious irony here. You know about birds’ eyesight, right? Birds have the biggest eyes, relative to their size, of all animals. So yes, they have much sharper vision than we do. Raptors, especially, have keen eyesight. I have read that if we traded eyes with an eagle, we could see an ant crawling on the ground from the roof of a 10-story building. And, birds see certain light frequencies, including ultraviolet, that we can’t see.

Will I remind the Potter of this? Probably not. He’s been in a foul mood lately–he might not even chuckle at that pun. In this Year of the Bird, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, one of the most important conservation laws in the world, is turning 100 years old this year. A reason to celebrate, right?

Wrong.

This law prohibits the unauthorized killing of migratory birds. Viiolations are criminal offenses. The Interior Department has just issued a memorandum ruling that corporations and businesses that accidentally kill migratory birds during their operations are no longer in violation of the act. Under this new ruling (or Rep. Liz Cheney’s similar House bill), BP Oil would not have been legally responsible for the one million birds that were killed in the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf.

So we are gutting one of our most important environmental laws in this Year of the Bird.

It’s another attack, and another reminder to all of us. We renew our support for local and state conservation efforts, we continue to support those national organizations that fight for birds and science (Audubon, Sierra Club, Earthjustice, Union of Concerned Scientists, Nature Conservancy, etc.). And we continue to send letters and make phonecalls, and make sure our families and friends are all registered to vote.

We need to demand our lawmakers sharpen their vision. This is not a time to be short-sighted.

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Earth Lovers

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Earth Day is Sunday, April 22, but since I know you are all Earth Lovers, I think we need to start early and spend the whole month in celebration of this beautiful planet. The earth is under attack from a number of different directions–another reason to spend a little extra time this month in thinking about it. I have no words, but here are some thoughts that I treasure from some wise people. See how many you recognize!

“The world is holy. We are holy. All life is holy. Daily prayers are delivered on the lips of breaking waves, the whisperings of grasses, the shimmering of leaves.” –Terry Tempest Williams, from Talking to God: Portrait of a World at Prayer.

“In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” –Baba Dioum, Senegalese conservationist.

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“Love all that has been created by God, both the whole and every grain of sand. Love every leaf and every ray of light. Love the beasts and the birds, love the plants, love every separate fragment. If you love each separate fragment, you will understand the mystery of the whole resting in God.” — Fyodor Dostoevsky

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” — Rachel Carson

“When we tug at a single thing in nature, we find it attached to the rest of the world.” –John Muir

“To see a world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wildflower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.” –William Blake

“We should notice that we are already supported at every moment. There is the earth below our feet, and there is the air, filling our lungs and emptying them. We should begin from this when we need support.” — Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones.

“Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.” — Rachel Carson

“Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play and pray, where nature heals and gives strength to body and soul alike.” –John Muir

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“When we come upon beautiful things, they act like small tears in the surface of the world that pull us through to some vaster space.” –Elaine Scarry

“Remember to look up at the stars.” — Stephen Hawking

“I had assumed that the Earth, the spirit of the Earth, noticed exceptions–those who wantonly damage it and those who do not. But the Earth is wise. It has given itself into the keeping of all, and all are therefore accountable.”                    –Alice Walker

Earth Lovers love to read about the earth! And some authors make that easy. Here are just a few as reminders. Please feel free to add your own suggestions in the “Comments” section below.

The poetry of Emily Dickinson

The poetry of Mary Oliver

Loren Eiseley

John Muir

Terry Tempest Williams

Rachel Carson–consider reading a biography of this oh so courageous woman!

Wendell Berry

The Wind in the Willows, written for children, but challenging and earth-loving