Nature Notes: Koyaanisqatsi

Nature Notes: Koyaanisqatsi

Coy-ahh-niss-caught-see? It means "life out of balance" in the Hopi language. An Indian tribe living longer on this land than any white clan of man or woman. We, the invading great white horde, "gave" them permission and title by treaty to live on the land on which they had lived for dozens of centuries. There's a correct term for such behavior.

It seems only fitting to examine balance on the autumn equinox, the time of equality between summer and winter, between daylight and nighttime. When the sun crosses the line in the sky to which it will return in exactly six months and again six months after that. A time when geese fly south to the warm lands as their cousins in the sky, the ducks and murres, hummingbirds and bats, robins and vultures, are all in sync with the cycle of life and food and weather and most of all, balance.

Whales know better than we do that conflict between one another hurts the whole of the ecosystem and that they prosper from cooperation, not warfare. In fact, just about every species except us seems to have figured out how to coexist without wiping each other out.

So what can be gleaned from a day that is the same length as the night, from the ending of another season of bounty to the beginning of our lean winter? The simple answer is all around us everyday if we will only look.

The answer cannot be found on the handle end of a working chainsaw, or on the deck of a boat that kills fish for "sport," nor can the answer be grasped with one hand wrapped around a budweiser and roaring down the beach doing forty in a seven cylinder truck with no muffler while flipping cigarette butts out on the world's longest ashtray. That much is clear.

But the Hopi have much to offer. After all, they invented "mother earth" so they should be the ones who know her the best. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out we seem to have lost our grip and understanding of the fine and sensitive wild land that in many ways has allowed us to become the self-indulgent people we are today.

The bears and raccoons, osprey and eagle work just as hard, if not harder, now than they did during the heyday of the Chinook tribe, but they have never lost their grip, their balance.

Pure and simple, the ocean waves are driven by the same forces which drive a bee to work it's entire life for the benefit of the hive. The ant has no vacation or retirement, the hummingbird can only play for moments at a time before resuming its pursuit of food.

Balance is not something we ever permanently attain or grasp or even understand. Nor is balance something we can control, even as we try harder and harder. No elected official can deliver balance. It's all in the feel.

Try looking outward. Watch songbirds drink and feed, or watch whales swim southward to Mexico to give birth and to begin yet another cycle in their long and warfare free lives. But most of all, walk to the beach and listen to the old and very wise ocean speak in waves and draw pictures in the sand for us to see. The Hopi were right about "life out of balance," but warfare does not have to be our manifest destiny. Just say "No." Loudly.

Craig Sparks is director of NAWA and a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Found injured wildlife? Questions? Call NAWA at 665-3595 or e-mail:

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