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Birds Of Paradise: Reflections On The Oil Spill

06/07/2010 04:46 pm ET | Updated Aug 01, 2012

There is much to celebrate about this sweet afternoon on Martha's Vineyard. There is a steady cool breeze from the ocean carrying the sounds of oak leaves dancing and heavy surf crashing -- a power I can feel deep in my bones, invigorating every cell. The sun is filtered by a soft haze and the scent of a distant rain brings anticipated renewal and cleansing. Outside our expanse of windows, a pair of ospreys are building a nest on the pole erected on my neighbors lawn. I am told that this is the first time in at least twenty years that a pair has claimed that site. The wonder of their majestic flight as they lever branches into the still shapeless debris is fascinating to watch. I find myself reaching for my binoculars for a close-up many times during the day.

The pair appeared about ten days ago. We have enjoyed the sight of raptors perching on the platform to eat their fish for many years, often remarking that their late afternoon repast was a perfect segue to our own dinner. But they never stayed to build a nest. So this new development is a source of great hope.

This year seems to be a special one for birds in our homestead where we harbor the nests of chickadees, nuthatches, and barn swallows. We have, also for the first time, a lone wild turkey foraging in the yard each day. Everywhere about us the flights and songs of the birds evoke the invisible threads between the physical and spiritual world, bringing a bit of heaven to earth.

And yet I cannot help but juxtapose these beautiful inhabitants of paradise with the photos of birds drowning in oil. I want to weep. I say to myself how fortunate that this tragedy in the Gulf has not happened here. And yet, that sense of fortune only serves to underline the despair the people of Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Alabama must be feeling. We all are and will continue to be touched by this catastrophe.

We do not smell the fumes in the surf or see the dying birds on our shore. But like oil plumes hidden deep in the once crystalline oceans seeping into our awareness, we are made to see what we do not wish to see. Each time we burn oil in our furnaces and gas in our cars or buy throwaway plastic utensils and bottles we make our own offerings to the altar of an unsustainable and yes, selfish lifestyle. Those birds and fish have paid the price and we shall as well. Just as the sight of the nesting osprey lifts our spirits and delights our senses, the loss of every animal diminishes us. This reality is all the more poignant this idyllic afternoon in paradise.

There are ways we can give back and contribute to the healing of this tragedy. Mindful awareness of our daily lifestyle choices is one way. For a brief list of everyday actions click here. Supporting organizations that protect and rehabilitate wildlife with our time and money is another. Contributing to relief organizations that assist the people of the Gulf coast is another.

Bringing a fledgling into these trying times, whatever the species, is the ultimate act of hope and faith in the goodness of humanity and the supreme wisdom of the natural world. However we choose to respond, we must take time to appreciate the courage and beauty innate in the building of each nest, the hatching of each fledgling. We must do what we can to support the creatures with whom we share this planet. We must try to do no harm. And we must nurture hope where we find it.

Kay Goldstein, MA is a writer, cook, and meditation teacher. You can read more of her stories and essays at lessonsforthecook.com and in the Huffington Post archives.

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