Moms, birds, beans

We had a nice Mother’s Day, treating Mom to a Dalts brunch and then presenting her with the backyard birdfeeder from Wild Birds Unlimited she’d admired.

That’s an appropriately symbolic token of what mothers do for us all, I think. Moms are all about feeding, nurturing, and civilizing our wildness, while also standing back and simply appreciating (sometimes applauding) the grace and independence they’ve helped instill. Good mothers know we’ve got to spread our own wings eventually, and soar or plummet as we will.

I spent a good portion of my rainy afternoon saunter yesterday recalling my own Mom’s genius for nurture. She was a nurse, and a good one. Hard to believe she’s been gone more than four years already.

Mom was not a close observer of nature. I don’t recall many outdoor moments with her. Wish I could go back in time and introduce her to the therapeutic benefits of time on shank’s mare, in the open air. Might have saved her a lot of time and trouble with shrinks and their prescriptions.

I did give her a copy of Walden once, possibly on a Mother’s Day. She didn’t enjoy Henry’s praise of simplicity, having come up from a hard-scrabble childhood herself. Thoreau’s obsession with bean cultivation, in particular, annoyed her greatly. I thought she was missing the point. But maybe she got it well enough. As someone says in Michael Specter’s New Yorker essay this week:

The idea of… benign nature is ridiculous. The Bambi view of nature is totally false. Nature is violent, amoral, and nihilistic. If you look at the history of this planet, you will see cycles of creation and destruction that would offend our morality as human beings. But somehow, because it’s ‘nature,’ it’s supposed to be fine.’

It’s not always fine, for Bambi or for us. The excessively sentimental “Mother Earth” feeling that captivates some environmentalists is a load of beans.

Speaking of which: I finished Ecotopia this weekend. We’ll probably read it in Environmental Ethics, its excesses are instructive. But so is its critique of ours. More on that later.


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