Monday, December 23, 2013

Thoughts on Christmas eve eve

Last night I watched, out of the corner of my eye, the last few minutes of the Pittsburg-Green Bay game. They were playing out doors, in the snow, the way some of us think that football was meant to be played. Our local snowfall  last night prompted another round of shoveling stairs and decks and blowing driveways this morning. We're also seeing lots more activity at the feeders when the snow comes down. A few times in the past few days we've had a Northern Flicker at the suet. No photos yet, but we'll watch for an opportunity.

birds at feeder in snowstorm
snow covered holiday frenzy     © harrington

Have you gotten excited about what you hope to find under the tree on Christmas? Are you thinking yet about resolutions for next year? I'm thinking that local, organic, sustainable, renewable and, with luck, indigenous will play a large part in both my Christmas and my 2014. I read something the other day by Winona LaDuke that made me think (her writing almost always makes me think). She claims that "there is no such thing as sustainable development. Community is the only thing in my experience that is sustainable." As someone who is intimately involved with green building and "sustainable development," I think she has a legitimate point.

white christmas tree
white christmas tree     © harrington

If we think about development as the conversion of green fields, the natural environment, into a built environment, she's right. If we recognize that much of sustainable development involves restorative (re)development of brown fields or gray fields, if we continue to move toward creating a built environment that is adaptable and long-lasting (not yet a mainstream trend), then I think she's misjudging what sustainable development is trying to accomplish. As I understand it, it's working toward becoming more involved in building communities, not just developing things. That's one of the reasons that sustainable development recognizes social equity is a significant element of sustainable development. Although, I'd definitely like to see more emphasis given to  weaving indigenous values into any approach to sustainable development and to doing more to restore that which historically has been "appropriated" (taken) from Native Americans. Wouldn't you like to find some of that under your tree this year, next year, and into a sustainable future?  I doubt that we can create the future we want unless we all build it together. So, here's another perspective on indigenous that we can unwrap over the next few days.

Morning Talk

By Roberta Hill Whiteman 
—for Melissa L. Whiteman  
“Hi, guy,” said I to a robin   
perched on a pole in the middle   
of the garden. Pink and yellow   
firecracker zinnias, rough green   
leaves of broccoli,
and deep red tomatoes on dying stems   
frame his still presence.

“I’ve heard you’re not
THE REAL ROBIN. Bird watchers have   
agreed,” I said.”THE REAL ROBIN   
lives in England. They claim
your are misnamed and that we ought   
to call you ‘a red-breasted thrush’   
because you are
indigenous.”

He fluffed up. “Am I not
Jis ko ko?” he cried, “that persistent   
warrior who carries warmth
northward every spring?”
He seemed so young, his red belly   
a bit light and his wings, still
faded brown. He watched me
untangling the hose to water squash.

“Look who’s talking!” he chirruped.   
“Your people didn’t come
from Europe or even India.   
The turtles say you’re a relative   
to red clay on this great island.”
Drops of crystal water   
sparkled on the squash.

“Indigenous!” he teased   
as he flew by. 

FOOTNOTES: Jis ko ko is the Iroquoian name for Robin. In the story, he is a young warrior who confronts the old man of winter. The old man uses ice and brutal winds to keep Jis ko ko’s warmth away from the earth. When the old man shoots him on the chest with an arrow of ice, the young man bleeds and transforms into the bird. Even as a bird, he continues his purpose, bringing warm rain and growth—green leaves, flowers and fruit.

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