The greater-racket tailed drongo sits on a crisscross of what were once-upon-a-time most likely painstakingly placed electrical wires. I say painstakingly because I’ve had the honor of observing Thai and Burmese laborers working with Zen-like focus on almost a daily basis. Here in Thailand labor is less expensive than machinery so the roads, houses and buildings are literally paved and built by hand. High voltage electrical wires are installed and maintained by hand as well. They use handmade bamboo ladders to reach the high spots and sometimes walk across the thick bands of wiring as nimbly as if they were walking on the road below instead of 15-20 feet up in the air. (Seriously folks, I can’t make this stuff up – I have pictures to prove it but I digress…)
The beautiful black bird whose identity I now know as the “greater-racket tailed drongo,” although I typically just refer to it as “the black bird with the two feathers that dangle from its butt,” perches atop the wires just as naturally as if the wires were tree branches. I am reminded of the simplicity of nature; animals have the enviable ability to just accept things as they are. Surely this bird’s grandparents and probably parents perched atop a lovely tree in this very spot 5 or 10 years prior but now the tree is gone so our bird sits upon the wire. It is highly doubtful that he judges the wire. There is probably no angry internal monologue which hums along like the internal workings of a clock while he perches that says “These terrible humans are always destroying our homes! I preferred the stability, comfort and beauty of the tree that used to be here.” Nope. Our feathered-friend sees the wire, pops a squat and just “keeps it pushing,” as the kids say these days.
Whether his perch is a tree or a wire today makes no never-mind to him; he still has, literally, a bird’s-eye view of his purchase. He can see what he needs to see and hear what he needs to hear and that’s good enough for him. I am jealous of the innate ability of animals to accept that which is so without argument or fight. I’d venture that unless an animal’s ability to eat or procreate is interfered with then there probably is little or no resistance to change.
My judgmental human eyes see the ordered chaos of the electrical wires which I instinctively know mirror the madness in my infantile brain but I still, perhaps self-loathingly, assess them as ugly for they mar the beautiful seaside landscape. I think: “Why are we so greedy and destructive?” My mind flashes to ways that I can quickly help “save” the planet: recycling, education, pick up any litter that I come across on my path, etc. For a moment I experience resignation and despair and think “we are going to obliterate this whole thing (the planet) and there’s nothing I or anyone else can do to stop it. All of our so-called green initiatives and eco-friendly endeavors are a drop in the bucket.” I get a quick mental image of a well-dressed twenty-something in a bustling metropolis stepping over a homeless person in order to drop her $5 pumpkin-spice latte cardboard coffee cup into the recycling section of the gigantic trash can on the corner.
I understand in that moment that if in fact we do mess this up, it will be because of our lack of awareness and compassion towards ALL living things which includes our fellow man. I’m not sure how we can ever have an appreciation of the bounty of Earth’s gifts when we don’t include our brothers and sisters in the equation but again, I digress…
As I walk down the path my eyes follow the trail of wires in order to find their point of origination. I observe how the vines have begun growing up the electrical poles and encompassing the wires. Someday very soon the wires will no longer be visible and serve as simply a trellis for the greenery. I am hit hard by an awareness: I understand now why we call nature/earth “Mother;” it is because She is the epitome of motherhood.
We humans, her children; her hormonal fear-filled teenagers are wilin’ out and because we are limited by the arrested development of our proverbial evolutionary frontal lobe as a society we are not aware and/or don’t care about the consequences. Surely we are doing our best but we are making a mess of it in many ways. We have created materials that make our daily lives more convenient, easier and perhaps simply more fun. I.e. the wires in question provide electricity to many seaside houses so that their tenants can have both the joys of living by the beach such as the sounds of the sea and nature and not have to sacrifice their creature comforts: TV, computers, phones, Wi-Fi, lights, blow-dryers, etc.
Every now and then, as a mother does, Mother Nature reminds us who is in charge. She gives us reminders, loud and clear, in the form of natural disasters that destroy our worldly possessions and sometimes our lives. Perhaps she is trying to remind us where not to lay our treasures. (Not unlike when your mother threatened to throw away your belongings if you continued to leave them in shared spaces rather than in your bedroom…am I the only one???) Or perhaps Mother Earth is simply using natural disasters to remind us of what it means to be a part of this world and the meaning of the word natural: “in accordance with the usual course of nature.” I read that as meaning that something is supposed to be there; it is not unusual or out of place. As Westerners we tend to view severe weather as unnatural because it impedes our daily activities however if we were able to take a broader view, perhaps we could see the function of it.
For example, it is monsoon season here in Southern Thailand and I recently went for a stroll on the beach the day after a particularly rainy few days. I saw debris, literally for miles as far as the eye could see, everywhere along the shore – plastic and glass bottles mingled with seaweed, Styrofoam, shells and a few dead fish – a grotesque combination of organic and inorganic matter. My first thought was one of judgment about how awful it looked and how terrible it was that all of this trash had made its way into the ocean in the first place.
My next thought was that it looked like the sea had vomited the rejected contents of her stomach onto the land; in a move not unlike that of a college freshman who had drunk five too many cheap tequila shots then raided a 7-11 in an attempt to soak up the alcohol with a hot dog, bag of Funyuns and a Snickers bar then arrived home with the bed spins only to spend the night on the floor of the bathroom ridding his/her stomach of the aforementioned non-food smorgasbord. (Apologies if the previous sentence hit a little too close to home for some of you).
Gratefully, Mother Earth is far classier than an over-indulged freshman so in delivering the garbage back to the seashore via huge rolling waves she elegantly states: “These things do not belong in my ocean so I am giving them back to you so that you can dispose of them properly.” Mother Nature takes all the abuse we have to give into her bosom and continues to nurture us just like a loving, kind, compassionate, forgiving mother who provides unconditional love.
And just as a mother who gently strokes your head when you’ve feared you’ve made a regrettable, irreversible mistake and tells you everything is going to be just fine and all the while she prepares, serves and cleans up after your favorite meal and all you feel is the comfort but fail to see any of her actions; Mother Earth shows her love in very subtle ways that speak volumes.
She smooths over the messes that we have created which is evidenced by the life that continues to propagate from our waste: the vines growing around the electrical wires, mollusks that grow on long-discarded shoes that wash up on the shores, birds on wires, hawks nesting in skyscrapers – Mother Nature shows us that everything is going to be ok. She is going to let us continue to do our worst and she will continue to forgive us and one way or the other, we will learn from our lessons or suffer the consequences but she will continue to provide only love and comfort.
 Funyuns, for those of you who may not be familiar with them, are the convenience store simulation of onion rings which contain, among other ingredients: cornmeal, buttermilk and MSG.