Thursday, August 14, 2008

Courage and Connection

Courage. defines it "the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery."

The above photograph is called "Lily Pad Hunter". It speaks volumes to me about courage. In it a tiny American Pipit hunts for food on a carpet of undulating lily pads. The little bird was intrepid and fearless as it hopped here and there searching for morsels. I remember being moved by such a tiny creature all alone in such a great big world. I was so fascinated I nearly missed the shot. This is not uncommon for me. I often get so wound up observing I forget my mission as a trapper of moments.

Some would say that the pipit, being a bird, is not displaying any such thing as courage. It is simply doing what it does instinctually, mindless of any danger hence no courage required. I beg to disagree. We humans have an arrogance about us that, for the most part, denies our kinship with the animal world. Yet, my years of observation have led me to believe we are connected in ways yet to be fully understood or appreciated.

Many years ago I had the privilege of watching a pair of hawks come to the same nest five seasons in a row. It was like live theater. I was able to observe the complete cycle from nest refurbishment to departure. What I remember most is the utter amazement I felt, that first year, when I realized birds have to learn how to fly! I had always assumed they just knew how "instinctively".

The baby hawks would hop up on the edge of the nest, teeter back and forth and scream their little heads off in what could only be described as terror. It took quite awhile before the first chick had the "courage" to make the leap. Soon the others screwed up theirs and followed.

I'm uncertain that I know where I am going with this other than to say we are so much more connected to the natural world than most of us are willing to admit. I believe we are particularly connected to animals. Ask any marketing expert how to reach people and they will invariably say through emotions. Why? Because our emotions are who we are as individuals and animals are no different. I have observed in them love, tenderness, joy, terror, pain, jealousy, anger all the very same emotions we humans express.

It is said that we are more intelligent. This may be true although I sometimes have my doubts. But, on a fundamental basis we are more alike than different. Our so called intelligence is the very reason I believe we have a responsibility and obligation to treat all animals with kindness and care.

©Kinsey Barnard