Fear Feeding

Sunday’s aborted night-time trail adventure was rescheduled for last night, so armed with the camera and a storm-free sky overhead, I headed off to meet Jax and her little daughters for eight.

It was right around sunset as we arrived at the trail so the brief light from a lovely sky was soon no more than a memory as we shuffled ahead through near-complete darkness.

There was a rising moon but its light was muffled by some clouds that it chose to stay behind. So we quickly became reliant on the flashlights that the ladies had.

For my part, I had a flashlight in my pocket but was planning on using the camera flash unit to capture anything that needed to be photographed.

While that initially worked, after just four or five flashes for some reason it became non-functional and nothing more than a dead-weight mounted on top of the camera. I haven’t figured out why, just yet. But will later. I had just put new batteries into it, so it can’t be that.

In any event, for the rest of the trail I relied on the lights of my co-adventurers or of the one in my pocket. It turned out to be a badly-handicapped photo-journey, between the lighting inconsistencies and my own inabilities to steady a very heavy camera assembly in my right hand, lighting the subject with my left, and relying on the auto-focus to be able to figure out what I am trying to shoot. I know that was an overly long sentence … sorry! But there was a lot going on.

The end results were pretty poor and all the poor shots have been duly buried, never to see the light of day again. But the images that have made it onto the end of this blog are decent enough to make someone think that I knew what I was doing.

Apparently, I don’t.

But as much as images are a big part of my life story these days, they were truly a secondary element to what was really happening last night. Eagle-eyed Jax and her two wing-ladies opened up a world of detail for me that I would surely have missed, had I been there on my own.

There were bats, toads, spiders, beetles, moths, and crickets … all setting about their nocturnal business. But for me, at least, the main attraction was the awesome collection of stick insects that worked their way across the tall grasses and shrubs.

I would never have even seen one, yet there must have been at least ten pointed out for me to study and shoot. These are amazing and such gentle little creatures … I just wish my images could have done them justice.

My senses were completely satiated by the time we returned to the start of the trail and I needed not another victory to make this night one for the memory-bank. Yet, Jax managed to find a little green preying mantis clinging to some grasses off the trail and so I got a couple of decent shots of him too.

They are all there for you at the end of the blog. I hope you enjoy.

I was in such good company, so I wasn’t fearful on this little adventure. But normally the thought of walking in near-total darkness in a habitat like this might have made me a little nervous. Stepping on living creatures and face-planting into spider-webs are just a couple of reasons, I guess.

But last night I trailed five or ten yards behind the ladies for much of the journey and there was no such worry.

Anastasia and Kallista are 7 and 5 respectively and they walked forward unabashedly but carefully. In fact, it is the “carefully” part that really gave me the idea for my blog today.

They have been brought up in a household that not only respects nature, but loves it. There is no fear regardless of what creatures they might encounter (although one of them did say she hoped we didn’t come across any wolves) and their willingness to softly pick up and love even the most humble of creature was truly inspiring.

There were discussions about what our favorite insects might be or animal might be and there wasn’t a single “eww” factor as they both had such a nature-harmonious character that they recognized the role of all. Which is really quite remarkable for such young minds.

They have obviously been nurtured into this mindset by a mom and dad that are themselves at one with the world we live in. And it was wonderful to witness up close and so personal. If I had any eww feelings at all, they would have been shed quickly out of a feeling of ridiculousness, trust me.

And I realized something last night. Something that these two young ladies have, that many of us do not.

By having no eww feeling and by having an appreciative understanding of the roles of each creature in the circle, they have developed a respect and love that makes them excellent guardians of their natural environment.

There is no possibility that some creature might be crushed, hurt, or even disparaged. Certainly not by these little ladies.

All of us start off in the world with a clean-slate when it comes to interaction with the world around us. When we establish a fear, or an eww factor in how we respond to any creature, it changes how we relate to that creature.

When we develop a superiority feeling over any creature, we become hunters or abusers. Their feelings or well-being become collateral damage in how we run our lives.

Children absorb their fears and phobias from the environment we create for them. We feed these fears by reinforcing stereo types like killer sharks, killer whales, and even killer bees.

When they see us fish or hunt, they immediately understand that prey are lesser beings than us.

Bonding time between father and son where fishing or hunting is involved establishes an ingrained disrespect for these “lesser” creatures. This act of cruelty becomes associated within their minds as a good memory of time with their dad. And, as they likely revere their own father, they would outrightly reject any such argument as the one I am making.

Footnote: Sport preying on creatures is very difference from hunting or fishing for sustenance. And I honestly see nothing wrong with that. But when the killing of another creature is done for any reason other than survival and sustenance, then I have a big problem. Sorry.

Oh wait. No. I am not sorry.

When we grow our children with a real view of the planet we live on and how each creature plays a role…

When we teach each child that regardless of whether the creature in front of them is a gorgeous little puppy or a strange looking invertebrate, they are equal in the eyes of mother nature and deserve our love and respect…

When we teach our children that our interactions with the world around us should be done on a level playing field of respect and awareness…

… that’s when the world will begin to find a balance and humans will no longer be a scourge or parasite, but a genuine team-member within a flourishing world.

For just a while last night, it seemed that I lived in such a world. Yes there were still stories of Barbies and magical caves, but there was a deeper story that played out in front of me and it gave me hope that maybe future generations will give this whole tale a happy ending.

… just a thought.