On July 18, one week ago today as I sit typing, my colleague and good friend called with unfathomable news. He called to say his 11-year-old son was killed in an ATV accident. My heart cracked in that instant—both for the loss of one whose sweet energy and exuberance for life touched so many and for my friends who just lost one of the most important beings in their world.
As time ticked by, my eyes gradually opened to the gift that Owen left in his passing.
I remembered the times with him, during his visits to the office or out and about in the world beyond, when he reminded me to play; to celebrate life and love and connection to this planet and to one another. And it impresses me to no end this gift he shared with all who knew him.
Yet, with his passing, with everybody who has come out of the woodwork to lend their support and condolences, I cannot help but think of how easy it is to take life for granted; how easy it is to become subtly or not-so-subtly disconnected from those we care about and from our surroundings. I cannot help but think how our detachment perpetuates many of the difficulties in our world.
This past June was the warmest on record and July, with many days like a furnace blast, is on track to pop previous records as well. In this heat wave, our region’s waterways are warming up with undue haste. Fisheries experts on the Klamath River are raising the warning of a likely fish kill given extremely high levels of a drought-loving parasite in juvenile salmon. Domestic water supplies are concerningly low throughout many parts of the state. On top of that, fire season is well underway.
With change as the never-ending constant, forecasters are projecting a very wet El Nino this fall that may lend some relief to these dry times. A flipside to this rainy onslaught from the heavens—should it be as intense as anticipated—biologists predict an unraveling of North Coast watersheds that have been abused by shortsighted timber barons and are now being wrecked at the hands of those seeking fortunes in a relentless green rush. No doubt our collective indifference has contributed to the series of calamities in this region and throughout the world.
Life has a way of articulating the tragedy of disconnection and despair; but it also has the uncanny knack for illuminating the wonder and spectacle that is creation, and reminding us that we all have a role to play. Even when it feels that all is lost, the world has a way of bringing us back together to explore not-too-distant peaks and immerse ourselves in sacred waters, to dig in sand and build sculptures on the beach, to eat and breath and laugh and cry together and to take comfort in each other during times of remembrance, of celebration, of renewal.
So here’s to that blessed buffalo boy whose spirit carries on, and here’s to being present and supporting one another in our life together on this wild and wondrous living earth.
Click the image at right to view or download the memorial page for Owen printed in this issue of EcoNews.
Hands in the Sand
At this year’s Friends of the Dunes’ Sand Sculpture Festival, the Northcoast Environmental Center’s Madison Peters and Sydney Stewart sculpted a tribute to life on our planet with the beautiful message: “Lend a Hand.” The sculpture was created in loving memory of those who have left us, in support of those who are grappling with the loss of their loved ones, and as a reminder to care for one another and for our wild and wondrous home. Many thanks to Madison, Sydney and Roman for your care-full sculpting!
A bouquet of Lilium humboldtii (Humboldt lilies) to Lucille Vinyard for over 50 years of adventurous leadership to save Redwood National Park, our Northern California Wilderness Areas and inspiring generations of
A bouquet of airwaves to Mike Dronkers, whose dedication to the environment was evident in his daily KHUM 104.7 FM radio show and manifested in seven years of “Coastal Currents,” a feature focusing on Humboldt’s ocean, beach, bay and watershed stories. We greatly appreciate Mike’s use of his stage to highlight important issues facing our community. HIs unwavering support of a better Humboldt brought true and qualitative difference to our world.
A bouquet of celestial light to Pope Francis, for highlighting the crisis posed by climate change in his recent papal encyclical. While environmentalists and religious figures have not often found themselves on the same side, the Pope’s encyclical—which warns of serious consequences from climate change and strongly criticizes relentless resource exploitation—has profound potential to foster a new sense of stewardship and ecological urgency not only in the Catholic Church, but also other faiths and leadership worldwide.