Sing with song sparrows, dance with bumblebees

Sing with song sparrows, dance with bumblebees

We can’t avoid adult responsibility to address sadness, neither can we permit sadness to consume us

By Robert M. Macrae

With so much sadness: COVID-19, Portapique, Snowbirds, misogyny, hatred, racism, violence and murder, we can’t be faulted for momentary escapes to savor a sunrise, wander the garden, sing with a song sparrow, or dance with bumblebees. While we can’t avoid adult responsibility to address sadness, neither can we permit sadness to consume us. We require strength to resist sadness from overwhelming us as we battle its causes.

Strength for me comes from Nature. Song sparrows have been singing and bumblebees have been dancing blissfully indifferent to our personal and social malaises. The universe is vast. We’re miniscule. Life has been evolving for three billion years. If fortunate, we sparkle then fade in an immeasurably brief flicker. Surely, within such sputtering transience, we’re entitled to a teaspoon or two of harmless joy.

Spring is a season of joy, rebirth, renewal, a season to strengthen mind and soul. Days lengthen. The landscape warms. It morphs from lifeless brown to fecund green. In waves, blossoms brighten vistas and fatten pollinators. It’s no coincidence that Easter, a celebration of rebirth and hope arising from sadness, is encrusted with pagan symbols of fertility and festivity. Easter is fixed in early spring: the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox rather than as logic suggests, a definite date to commemorate a hateful, racist, violent murder.

I studied mycology as a part of a major in phytopathology or plant disease. Although my career has evolved, my interest in fungi persists. I’m frequently invited to present talks or lead walks to search for edible fungi. Spring and fall are the best seasons to forage. This spring, wandering alone, I collected baskets of morels, pounds of oyster mushrooms, Lazarus mushrooms (able to rise from apparent death), meadow mushrooms, puffballs, and the train wrecker, a relative of Japan’s fabled shiitake.

A friend recently shared images of mushroom people by Heinz Geifus, an early 20th century German illustrator. Geifus created cartoons of common mushrooms personified to parody humans. It’s clear from his art that Geifus loved Nature and loathed pretension.

Geifus led me to Fritz Baumgarten, another early 20th century German illustrator and disciple of Nature. Baumgarten was incredibly prolific. He illustrated and authored hundreds of children’s storybooks. Many are still in print, translated into multiple languages, published globally. Today we’d describe Baumgarten as ground-zero for a viral pandemic in children’s literature.

Baumgarten created the popular gnome character clad in over-sized shoes, flood pants, hooded jacket, red pointed cap, rosy cheeks, white beard, pin-point eyes and elfin grin. More importantly and more subtly, Baumgarten redefined our relationship with Nature. Prior to Baumgarten, children’s stories describe Nature as a dark, dangerous place: home to murderous wolfs that eats grandma and cannibalistic witches drooling over Hansel and Gretel. Our fairy tales have portrayed Nature in mortifying detail for centuries. These tales, passed orally from generation to generation, eventually compiled by the Brothers Grimm, shaped our attitudes towards Nature.

We once steeped our children at an early, highly impressionable age with a deep fear of Nature, of deceitfully vicious, wicked animals, poisonous mushrooms, something to be conquered and controlled without remorse. Such early lessons became manifest in subsequent adult environmentally destructive behavior. Subconsciously, children assimilated the lesson that it’s morally just to destroy Nature before Nature devours us.

In contrast, children raised on Baumgarten recognize his gnomes as metaphors for us. In Baumgarten’s books, children learn that we can be caring stewards of Nature. We can protect insects, birds and our animal relatives. We can live sustainably in mushroom houses. In harmony with Nature, we can sing with song sparrows and dance with bumblebees. Every spring, we can enjoy a teaspoon or two of harmless joy as we celebrate our connection with Nature in its endless cycle of birth, death, rebirth, and renewal.

Baumgarten’s art is revolutionary. It reverses the historic paradigm: it’s no longer man versus Nature, but humanity, men and women united in equal non-abusive partnerships, learning to toil and live a simple life, peacefully and joyfully with Nature. Baumgarten’s message, derided by those who cling to the historic “fear, conquer and destroy Nature” paradigm, is the message we must embrace to vanquish greed, misogyny, hatred, racism, violence, and murder.

Robert M. Macrae is an Environmental Technology Instructor at Selkirk College, in Castlegar, B.C.

Just Posted

Okanagan Lake (File photo)
Thompson-Okanagan ready to welcome back tourists

The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association expects this summer to be a busy one

Dynamic drives and pitiful putting helped even the score

Another Ladies’ Night has come and gone. This season is passing by… Continue reading

Tim Schewe
Drivesmart column: Traffic cop humour

He demands to know what sort of device had been used to measure his speed

(L-r) Cody Lee with six-year-old daughter Paisley, and Joshua Burleigh with his seven-year-old son Noah are extremely thankfull to Heffley Creek residents and First Responders for the help they received after their canoe capsized in rapids on the North Thompson River on Sunday, June 13. (Facebook photo)(L-r) Cody Lee with six-year-old daughter Paisley, and Joshua Burleigh with his seven-year-old son Noah are extremely thankfull to Heffley Creek residents and First Responders for the help they received after their canoe capsized in rapids on the North Thompson River on Sunday, June 13. (Facebook photo)
North Thompson River canoe trip almost ends in disaster

‘Only way I managed to get us to shore was the thought of not letting my boy drown’

A for sale sign is shown in by new homes in Beckwith, Ont., just outside Ottawa, on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Thompson-Okanagan population grew despite COVID-19: report

The Chartered Professional Accountants of BC said there are 8,462 new residents in the region

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Phil McLachlan/(Black Press Media
Man shot at Kamloops shopping centre

The man is believed to be in stable condition

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Most Read