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If Paradise Is Lost, Keep Looking
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We waiver between the dream worlds. They have their way with us. Best not to argue, or to fight the realm of the moment and discard the only oxygen of life we have.

It is just ignorance that informs the building of the losses. Yesterday, behind the glass and steel bubble of my vehicular safety pod, immobile in a car park waiting for a friend in a dapple of shade and sun, with a pond beyond the tarmac, fountain in center, a passel of regal smooth-feathered swan-like geese parading before me in a liquid ballet, Paradise revealed.

And then, more in sorrow, than horror, I saw a woman begin to feed the geese bread. Large amounts of bread chunks. From her point of view, as she multi-tasked, walking dog along with her swinging release of the perceived sustenance, it was a win-win situation. She was re-purposing the bread from her larder to the geese in a generous gesture: She was coming as close to breaking bread with the geese as any of us ever get.

Clearly, she didn’t know that the bread of the day was no better for geese than humans, and probably worse. Filling their gut with the stew of calories in today’s ersatz bread confuses their digestive system. It’s not the equivalent of a meal, rather, more like feeding them a diet of chopped sponge. In extreme cases, birds fed bread over a period of time can develop a condition called “Angel-Wing,” and they are no longer able to fly.

Who would wish upon such elegant birds that they should no longer fly? She was smiling too freely and innocently for me to imagine she meant any harm. Watching sadly, in a leaden mood, I could only extend armistice. It was clearly giving her a great deal of joy to do something for the birds, for nature, for the world, for life.

I sat in pacifism in my glass bubble, knowing that doing nothing was the best thing to do for her — and for me. Who am I to take the joy away from what I perceive to be ignorance? Do I have the skill to effectively communicate to someone who I have just robbed of their momentary happiness?

Better for me to return to my prior reverie, enjoying the pond, the fountain, the sunshine, the gentle fall weather, this moment of respite, rather than worry the stomachs of geese. My mood now had two elements: t the joy of the moment, and a necessary inflection of sadness around our collective human ignorance in sustaining and preserving such moments, such environments.

What ignorances do I carry forward in every moment? I may know about the stomachs of geese, but what mysteries of omission or commission am I missing in the moving parts of my every living day? I know they must be legion. I cannot do either, neither turn away nor gaze in fixation that what this life is, is part of what has been wrought.

Unless we are blissfully ignorant, this is the often-sharp dual edge we carry within. The obligation to enjoy our moments and hours, for they are fleeting, irreplicable’; often ineffable. The obligation to know the sadness that much that I do could be done better.

Today, in the park, a man walking with another man approached me about a dead tree. He was looking for further cohort to have the tree chopped down, and he said so. He had caught me marveling at the weathered marbled core of tree.

“Snags are an important part of the environment,” I said. “What is a snag?” he said. “That’s the name for dead standing trees,” I replied, as I thought of another dead tree not too far away, that harbored a hawk in his high perch all winter not too long ago. Both tree and raptor stately and purposeful in their witness of austere season. I, along with them.

“Well, it’s not a good environment if that tree falls on somebody, I’m calling them to chop it down.” I wished him a good day, and in pain, moved on. If we don’t know what something is even called, if we don’t have a relationship with it, how can we venture to know what to do with it? I rest in the comfort of confidence that the assigned tree choppers will know where to lay the snag to rest, to become a nutritious part of the forest. In the meanwhile, I must continue to learn the names for things, and have deeper, more on-going relationships with them. On behalf of no one, and for everyone.

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