Day 278 3/31/14: Free Sunder: An Elephant’s Story

september-3Why is it that human beings so often seem to revere the symbolic embodiment of the animal to the thing itself?  As Alice Walker once wrote,  “Animals are forced to become for us merely images of what they once so beautifully expressed.”  We can wipe out the grizzly bears in the wilds of California, while  proudly displaying them on the state flag. In India, Ganesh, the elephant god ( “destroyer of obstacles”) is revered, yet the living embodiments of this divinity are treated like lowly slaves. Sunder,  a captive temple elephant in India suffers incredible abuse at the hands of his captors, while his ostensible function as a holy mascot is to bestow “blessings” on human visitors.

When he traveled to India in 2012 Paul McCartney, whose animal activism is truly an inspiration, fought to secure Sunder’s transfer to a sanctuary.

However, the 14-year-old elephant is still chained, regularly beaten and forced to live in a chicken shed.

Today is the day that activists around the world are rallying to get Sunder to a sanctuary.

Please help! It only takes a few seconds to tweet, copy and paste a letter to the Indian consulate or sign a petition to free Sunder.

 

Day 277 3/30/14: The Coolest Shark Site…EVER…..

great-white-shark-wallpapers_35944_852x480The ocean is oddly silent and still, then a white shark bursts out of the water, nearly sending a startled kayaker into the water. A surfer watches a black dorsal fin slice the surface and disappear. Headless seals wash up on the beach. These are just some of the thrilling dispatches from Pacific Coast Shark News, my favorite feature of Ralph Collier’s Shark Research Committee website. I have learned a tremendous amount about shark behavior and intelligence just from reading Pacific Coast Shark News. But keeping detailed and accurate records of shark activity along the Pacific Coast is only a small part of SRC’s very important work. They are currently working on a pioneering non-invasive DNA project that if funded could revolutionize shark conservation. The identification and migration patterns of specific shark populations through DNA, could help researchers predict the chances of future attacks offering an alternative to the barbaric retaliatory slaughter of sharks, like the “cull” happening in Australia right now.

For a $20 donation, you will receive the fascinating SRC Quarterly e-mail newsletter and for $70, you will receive Ralph Collier’s utterly riveting, lavishly illustrated book Shark Attacks of Twentieth Century.

Please consider making a donation of any amount, even $10–to help SRC continue its essential conservation and education efforts.

Day 276 3/29/14: Waiting for the Dead

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Waiting for the Dead

Once the fortune-teller shut the black curtain

wound the ticking clock and set the alarm,

assuring no revelation

spilled past the allotted hour.

He held my right wrist and traced

two broadly divergent lines on the edges of my palm.

“You have the ability to transgress boundaries

and enter the world of the dead.”

This I already knew.

The paths inscribed in the body

mirror those I walk in the wooded past—

trails marked with faded red ribbons

blurred by rotting and growing.

I pass the serenity of beaver ponds,

the crude warnings nailed to trees,

the collapsed wedding altar.

But where are the dead?

Should I watch for them

in wilderness

or  feel them

rise and fall in every step?

I hear that the dead often appear

just beyond the borders.

So I follow the cold stone walls

up and down the leaf-strewn hills.

Once I dreamed that they wait for us

at places of transition—the parting of two roads

or the benches of lonely depots.

I remain alert when traveling alone.

They’re attracted to still, late hours

and fragments of their bright voices can be heard

fleeting transmissions

in moments of our greatest joy.

But most often the dead enter through sorrow

that old forgotten gate, past the whorled trees

in a forest of undeciphered lines,

of startled clearings and ever-widening paths.

(I wrote this poem to explore the idea of having a “gift” whatever that might be, and the inescapable burdens that come with it.)

Day 274 3/27/14: Carmel Point by Robinson Jeffers

(I love Robinson Jeffers and share his reverence for Big Sur and animals and poetry)

Carmel Point

The extraordinary patience of things!
This beautiful place defaced with a crop of suburban houses—
How beautiful when we first beheld it,
Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;
No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,
Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop rock-heads—Now the spoiler has come: does it care?
Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve. Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty
Lives in the very grain of the granite,
Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff.—As for us:
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.

Day 273 3/26/14: Consider the Lobster (and the Crab!)

10153885_10151908464905895_386163572_nAlthough lobsters look like alien beings and live in a world, that despite all of our exploration and exploitation of it, remains “other” to us, science has proven that these strange and humble animals do indeed feel pain in ways quite similar to the ways we do. If you have never read David Foster Wallace’s essay Consider the Lobster, please do. Assigned to cover the Maine Lobster Festival for Gourmet magazine, DFW’s exploration of the orgy of butter and cracking claws and kitsch, becomes about something much more profound.

Day 272 3/25/14: An Artist of the Endangered

“Obviously great whites have a nasty reputation,” says artist Dave White. “But in actual fact they’re fragile and beautiful.  I want people to look at how rare they are–that’s the crux of it all.”

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Day 270 3/23/14: Shark Surrealism: Artist Unknown

Don’t know the provenance of this nightmarish painting, but I like the colors. It seems that these pickled specimens  have come alive in their floating jars, seeking escape and revenge. As much as I want to get lost in the weird, dream-like imagery, I can’t stop thinking about how buying shark pups in jars (like purchasing shark jaws or teeth) encourages the slaughter of these already beleaguered fish. Maybe that’s what these angry little babies have come back to tell us. (Thanks, Helen!)Image