BIGHORN SHEEP and BEES

 

My sojourn in Minnesota has been a time to live a more contemplative life. I awaken as the dawn barely lifts the morning sky. I read or do some morning stretching and meditation. On my “busy” days, I go to the gym and lift weights and run on the elliptical for 1/2 hour.

The lion’s share of each day is spent sequestered in an overheated office, looking over a colorful courtyard of brick with orange and red ivy crawling up it’s girth. My best friends have become books. I examine the inside of my own brainpan.

I edit my Sabbath Keeping book, due in 2 months to the publisher. I read about the colonization of New Mexico, it’s Land and Land based people—my other project. It is part of my book on beekeeping and a friendship with Lorenzo. He is a “manito”, whose ancestral family arrived here in the 1700’s as settlers granted land from the Crown of Spain.He has a small organic farm in the South Valley where I put beehives this past year. His family intermingled with the Indigenous peoples early on. They became pastoral, land based people. After the Anglo’s came in the 1800’s, riding a wave of colonization that exploited the natural resources, cut down the forests, depleted the land with grazing, and trapped the rivers dry of beaver, the fragile desert watershed collapsed. Land based people suffered loss of land and dignity. Most of this is recorded in William deBuys, Enchantment and Exploitation: The Life and Hard Times of a New Mexico Mountain Range (New Mexico University Press, 2015)

You might wonder about the title. What do Bighorn Sheep have to do with bees? Spoiler alert. Wild sheep and bees are exquisitely locally based. They cannot be anything else by nature. They can teach us what it means to become more indigenous to the land we inhabit.

My recent favorite book by the late Ellen Meloy, Eating Stone: Imagination and the Loss of the Wild, explores the last wild roaming Bighorn Sheep colonies of the West which have collapsed numerous times from the colonization of their land. First it was the domestic sheep, grazing around the tiny strips of stone they have come to inhabit, infecting them with viruses that evolution had not equipped them for yet. Then it was the uranium mining, destroying the land and fouling the water. Today it is all of these plus human populations pushing in against their last stands of high country, feverish with drought. Their survival is carefully followed by wildlife biologists now, they roam with huge radio collars and big orange tags in their ears. Another kind of colonization.

At one point Meloy queries us, Why are we so immune to noticing or understanding the beauty of other life forms?  We have a hard time sharing our space, our land with creatures. We trap them, hunt them, destroy their habitat.

Unlike humans, who have a love affair with mobility and are able to constantly move from one landscape to another, there are life forms that will die if they are not allowed to be place based. They have evolved local. She writes that Bighorn sheep are “place faithful to the core…an unshakeable fidelity to the stone [they inhabit].” (138-140)

Bees are local too. Which is perhaps why they are crashing. Their habitat poisoned or stripped from them around the country. They cannot fly off to different landscapes to ply their trade(unless of course you count the migrating hives on semi-flatbeds, a form of forced labor). Like the Bighorn sheep, their fidelity is to their locality.

Meloy writes, ‘The truth is that we are starved “(138). For this kind of Indigenous way of being, our hearts and bodies long, but we do not know it. Today, as we see a wave of Indigenous people protesting the destruction of their homeland, water and soil, they are showing us the way back to this fidelity to place.

My chance to read about the layers of colonization of my chosen landscape of New Mexico have been eye opening, to say the least. It is a small act, but the first step in becoming more Indigenous to this landscape I call home.

The day of my spiritual awakening
was the day I saw and knew I saw
all things in God and God in all things.

—Mechtild of Magdeburg (c. 1212—c. 1282)

 

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