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I just read this post today from The Christian Science Monitor about how the Oxford English Dictionary, one of the fundamental reference leaders of the English language, is dropping nature-related words from its junior edition.

As a writer and a mother struggling to give my son direct experience of the natural world in a culture over-saturated with electronic media, branding and advertising, I can’t tell you how much this saddens me.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my computer. I own a TV. I am grateful for the convenience that my cell phone has brought to my life. But I also believe that more important than all this technology is a fundamental connection to the wild (or at least semi-wild) spaces of our landscapes. Today I don’t see children as having freedom to explore—or in some cases, even access to—such places, which I found to be essential to the development of my subjectivity; senses; and spiritual understanding that I am a living being who is part of something fierce, beautiful and so much bigger than myself.

Thus, I find the loss of such language from this preeminent dictionary as a sign of a much larger extinction.

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I took a walk pre-dawn today to view the lunar eclipse. I am not an early morning person. But at 5:30, I awoke and sat up straight. The full moon was shining through our bedroom window and calling me to attention.

In our old house, I remember peering through our bedroom’s French doors at some wildflowers I had planted in the spring. Every night they seemed to straighten and raise their heads in the direction of the moon, a lithe little army bathed in silver incandescence. I used to wonder then about the effect of the moon on their lives and how much we really understood of that connection.

This morning I felt that pull of the moon on my own compass. I put on a coat and shoes, stayed in my pink plaid pajamas, and walked to the field down the street, where I would have the best view of the setting orb.

The moon hung at the edge of the sky, brilliant and huge. It had taken on a golden glow as though it were a harvest moon wandering through the wrong season. As I waited for the eclipse, I felt the ascent of the rising sun at my back and the sinking of the moon in front of me on the horizon. I felt myself and my Earth exactly in between. I breathed in the cold air and stood suspended in a polarized allegiance. Read the rest of this entry »

Yesterday I visited a wildlife rescue center with my son, W. As I chased him through the obligatory gift shop, lamenting the irony that I had paid for us to see real wild animals and yet was spending time in a glorified toy store filled with their faux counterparts, I caught smidgens of the adjacent presentation on a maimed bald eagle staying at the center. My son calmed down enough to “watch the eagle get a shower,” which meant they sprayed him with a hose as he trotted about on a leash in a tiny plastic pond. The docent explained how this exposure to water, a simulation of what he would encounter in the wild, was actually an “enrichment activity” for this poor one-winged creature.

My eyes welled up with tears as I heard this phrase, so often spoken in reference to the situations we fashion for our children, as we shuttle them from one organized sport, class or play date to another: enrichment activities. I saw this bird, once wild, now divorced from his own habitat, as a metaphor for us as a species. We wall ourselves into our myth of being separate from nature and then create synthetic experiences for our children and ourselves in an attempt to meet our needs, which, despite our best attempts to numb or evade them, do not go away. We are, in our hearts, in our biology, animals. Wild things. Are we not like this injured bird? Broken? Divorced from our own nature, from what truly makes us human?

The docent said he believed the bird had made a choice to accept his new caregivers, but I do not think a choice between survival and non-survival is much of a choice at all. The bird was adapting, as we adapt, as our children adapt. I wondered if he remembered the feel of the wind under two healthy wings as he flew through a seemingly limitless sky. I wondered if he missed it. Read the rest of this entry »