The morning after the US elections, I made my way to my favorite lawn chair under the guinep tree in our friend Sheena's lavish Jamaican garden. I had a date with the hummingbirds, the Banaquits and yellow warblers that come out at dawn to flit, frolic, feed and groom in the big old tree's wide canopy.
Frank and I voted early and left for a week in Jamaica to put some distance between us and the cacophony. We'd ensconced ourselves in paradise and given up our devices in favor of languid conversations with our hostess and her friends, interspersed with a daily trip to the bar a stone's throw outside her gates.
So I didn't know the results for a full 90 minutes after awakening while I watched the streamertail hummingbird perched above me leisurely grooming itself, then piercing the air with wings and tail feathers beating as it headed to feed in the wild orchid tree a few feet away.
How long have they been doing this? I wondered. How many generations of birds back to the beginning of time have come to this area to feed, from when it was virgin forest through its many iterations to today? Deeper in my reverie, it suddenly struck me what a huge and devastating mistake we are making by thinking HUMANS have to "SAVE" the Earth and to "PROTECT" nature. Conceiving ourselves to be at the center of the universe, we completely miss the fact that the natural world was here intact, long before Homo sapiens appeared. Nature does not depend on us - we depend on it! So treasuring it should be our greatest preoccupation.
The sound of the dogs barking interrupted my thoughts and I saw a lady who helps out on the estate pushing her bicycle up the driveway.
"Good morning!" I called. "Do you know who won the US elections?"
"Trunk, ma'am! Trunk won!"
"Yes ma'm! Trunk won! Everybody is talking about it."
The world wobbled on its axis. I saw Frank coming down the path with his binoculars and camera.
"Honey," I began, a look of panic no doubt in my eyes.
"Yes, I heard," he said, nodding good morning to the lady.
"Funny, this is the day I practice the 'Law of Least Effort' in my meditation," he said.
"Yes. Every day I practice one of the Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, and today is Least Effort. It says 'Today ...I will accept things as they are, not as I want them to be.' How appropriate!"
Numbly, I went back to my chair. I thought about the caution I issued in my previous blog, emphasizing the Republican Party's plans to significantly reduce our public lands from approximately 630 million acres, including just under 90 million acres in national parks. I thought about how it's even more pressing now for President Obama to issue the Presidential Memorandum that our Next100 Coalition has been asking for, to establish a base level for engaging a larger percentage of the American population to cherish our public lands.
Beneath my musings ran an undercurrent of amazement: What could my fellow Americans be going through to make them vote for a man who is demonstrably amoral (def.: lacking or indifferent to moral standards, criteria or principles) as the leader of our country and the world?
I believe that rather than dismissing so many of our countrymen as incorrigible, we must address legitimate grievances such as the inability to make a living in interior states and the prospect of a diminished future for their children. We must differentiate these people from those whose grievances stem from misogyny, nativism and white nationalism and engage the former in repelling the latter.
As an American citizen who deeply loves and appreciates the meaning of our National Park System, I strive to refrain from pointing the finger, choosing instead to emphasize that these are the places where key events took place in our nation's evolution:
The site of Boston Massacre which launched the Revolutionary War, at Boston National Historical Park; the place where General George Washington's Continental Army was formally organized, marking the formation of the US Armed Services at Valley Forge National Historical Park; the place where the Declaration of Independence was issued and the US Constitution debated and signed - Independence Hall National Historical Park; the place where the Civil War officially ended at Appomattox Courthouse; the place where the urgency for Civil and Human Rights were established at the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the Selma to Montgomery National Historical Trail, and many other sites pivotal to our evolution as a nation embracing equal rights for women, the LGBT community and many other categories.
A week into this "new world" my sojourn among the hummingbirds has left me calm and relaxed, observing the discordant public discourse with detachment and resolve.
But my fellow Americans, it's time to pick up the gauntlet on behalf of our country, our ancestors, our legacy, and our descendants yet to come. It's time to connect deeply with our National Park System to see the lessons of struggle, of perseverance, of deep belief in the value of our country and the possibilities of our fellowmen that are sheltered in these places of our history. Then it becomes easy to know what's right:
It's what supports liberty and justice for all. It's what supports the integrity of the natural world, our life support system.
The hummingbirds don't need us, but what's good for them is good for us.