September & October 2017: Preparing for Winter – by Hobie Hare

Whitebark pine trees on Mt. Washburn; Diane Renkin; August 2015;

In nature, wildlife seems to know when it’s time to step up the pace, to take action and prepare for what’s to come. If one thing’s not in abundance in a particular season or year, something else is. Grizzly bears roam far and wide in search of sustenance in Greater Yellowstone and other still-wild places when summer and fall seeds from whitebark pine trees are scarce.

It’s hard to believe that grizzlies, in good whitebark pine years, can get up to 20 percent of their proteins and carbohydrates from these seeds, and up to 30 percent of their needed fats. Grizzlies are also adept at raiding caches of whitebark pine nuts stashed by squirrels, so squirrels create multiple caches, as some end up feeding Ursos arctos horriblis instead.

The chickadee weighs next to nothing and lives in cold, harsh climates year-round, in places such as Yellowstone. I remember waiting for Old Faithful to erupt on numerous sub-zero mornings, and in the stillness and silence of anticipation, noticing small groups of chickadees emerging from nearby conifers. These birds seem to have a back-up plan: stashing caches of seeds between cracks and gaps in the bark of trees throughout their range. On stormy winter days when little food’s to be found, they have reliable places to get what they need.

Sometimes people remark that birds, squirrels, and other animals are natural hoarders, that their motivations perhaps are driven by avoiding scarcity.

Undoubtedly, they’re preparing for what’s to come. They’re taking action. They’re making sure they have enough going into the winter, and they’re allowing for contingencies.

They’re likely not losing sleep over things, either. They wake up each morning and do what needs to be done, and they’re flexible and adaptable depending on what they’re experiencing from moment to moment. Yet birds, squirrels, grizzlies, and other animals don’t seem to take everything available and leave nothing for others.

In the human world, hoarding and stock-piling inevitably lead to clutter, which, like kudzu, restricts our mobility and suffocates our capacity to seize present opportunities. It also leads to increasing paralysis and separation. spiraling into cycles of greed, lack, distrust, fear, and conflict.

Do we really need 64-roll toilet paper packages from a big box store on hand in our already-overstocked homes? Do we really have to exhaust fossil and non-renewable fuels instead of embracing abundant, if not infinite, supplies of solar and wind power?

Stockpiling, hoarding, and other actions stemming from fear-based, scarcity mindsets have real-life consequences for all of us and for future generations. Consider how this impacts the fate of grizzly bears in the US Northern Rockies.

Today, in sparse whitebark pine-seed years, grizzlies are way more likely to encounter an abundance of subdivisions in what were once rural valleys they roamed in search of food to fatten themselves for long winters. They are now more likely to find an abundance of garbage, gardens, fruit trees, pet food, and occasionally even pets and livestock as potential food sources. These habitats, which once provided an insurance policy or back-up option in poor food years are now gauntlets of death and conflict for bears, for other wide-ranging wildlife, and for their human neighbors.

It’s fine and desirable to have and enjoy an abundant life, no matter where our feet are, and.nature shows us how to do this in myriad ways. But creating and sustaining true abundance requires fairness, compassion, humility, and vigilance. It requires that someone’s or something’s right to thrive is not diminished or destroyed in the process. Something wild and irreplaceable disappears when we neglect that, when we lose sight that we all belong. Future generations are robbed and looted when we act out of fear, scarcity, distrust, and separation.

Grizzly bears are what make the backcountry of Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho vastly different from other places in the Western US. There’s something powerful and palpable knowing you’re in a place where you’re potentially part of the food chain.

Practicing self-restraint seems daunting, if not impossible, for our 24/7, everything-now culture. Yet doing so protects and allows grizzlies and other wild creatures room to thrive, not just survive. I dream that one day they will expand their range once again in the Lower 48 states, and that, as humans, we’ll have become more tolerant neighbors.

There’s infinite, incalculable wisdom in being better stewards of this planet we all share and in restoring and healing the natural world in places where we can do so. It seems like the only sane path moving forward for all of us—grizzlies included—to thrive.

A grizzly bear stands with her cubs in Yellowstone National Park. Florian Schulz photo, on view in Yellowstone to Yukon: Freedom to Roam, organized by the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle, Wash., on display at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody through Aug. 7.

If we follow a more self-centered and fearful path instead, decreasing numbers of people may still experience abundance for a while. Yet they too will eventually feel impoverished, longing for that wild, wise, and loving part of our humanity that died out with the destruction of our last wild places.

 

POSTSCRIPT

With each seasonal change, Hobie Hare finds his way to Dunrovin Ranch to sit on the “porch swing” with SuzAnne to celebrate nature’s annual cycle. Hobie has a way of letting you close your eyes and follow his voice to that special natural space where your soul is replenished – no matter where your feet are. It is a gift that Hobie has to share, this ability to follow sounds, conjure the sights, and ask our minds to take us to nature to receive its many healing benefits, even when our entire body cannot there. It works and it is such a blessing.

Be sure to check our DaysAtDunrovin calendar for Hobie next visit. He also hosts a forum on the DaysAtDunrovin web site where he would love to hear from you!

You can connect personally with Hobie by visiting his web site at YourLifeNature where you will find meditation tapes and nature photographs to help build a nature connection into your daily life.

 

 

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