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August 26, 2020

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Summer of 2020

The summer of 2020 has been pretty bleak. The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed many of us to the brink. Despair of businesses struggling or closed, workers without jobs, school openings uncertain. Many people are deeply depressed — even those who are fortunate enough to have been spared illness or the loss of loved ones to the virus. This depression has enveloped our thoughts and makes it almost impossible to be hopeful about the future. To be honest, I have not been able to sit at the computer long enough to type even a few pages for months. The days that lie ahead are nearly too threatening to allow me to care.

Dan O'Brien BisonIt is difficult to do much of anything in a group, so my greatest source of solace is to get outside alone and walk. In this I am joined, at least in spirit, by hundreds of thousands of similarly troubled people. The number of new birders and animal watchers that have come out of this bleakness is a shaft of light. New gardeners and botanists are some of the only encouraging signs I notice. Sales of “back-to-the-land” books are up and Chicagoans are getting in line (in proper social distant fashion) to see a couple of piping plovers on one of Lake Michigan’s beaches is incredible.

GoldfinchesBut I wonder: Am I the only nature-walker out there who feels a heightened sadness even in the presence of goldfinches mobbing a feeder, a pair of red-tailed hawks on a distant ash tree snag, a coyote standing within a herd of buffalo, or a six-inch brook trout rising from a cold stream to a fly? Do other people understand that all the of the national division associated with mask wearing, voting by mail, school shutdowns, foreign computer hackers, trade sanctions, and the presidential candidacy of Kanye West are diversions of attention from the real fatal crisis of our time? Certainly, I am not the only one who sees that this foolish, selfish ignorance threatens the very existence of those goldfinches, the red-tails, the ash tree, the coyote, the buffalo, the brook trout, the cold stream and indeed all of us?

Sunrise through smokeIt is tempting to believe that this summer of 2020 is a make-or-break time for this country. But what’s being touted as true crises are, in fact, diversions. What threatens this great country is not politics. It is our inability to cast off the curse of shortsightedness, take a good look at what is happening to our earth, and realize that the existential threat we face is a result of our pettiness and greed.    

Photo credit: Jill O'Brien 


Comments

Leslie Littell

August 26, 2020

Too true! Too much blathering for the sake of sound and not enough listening and reason.

Two Dog

August 26, 2020

Just maybe the world is better off without us? I am certain is was before and could be again. I know this is a gloomy outlook to some but what would those Goldfinches , Red Tails, coyotes, Bison or Brook Trout think? I know without asking.
I do what I can to prolong my time and protect their time. The rest is up to others, I pray they are watching and listening as the Green Heron stalks another frog and the Sun rises to another hazy sky.

Tina Rath

August 26, 2020

Dan, I cannot agree with you more. I am currently sitting in the middle of the largest ring of forest fires on record here in California. For days we minimized our ability to be outside because of the toxic brown air. These fires were caused by lightning storms due to the climate crises. The hurricanes now pressing down in the Gulf states are that side of the country’s climate crises caused calamity. If we as a country can’t get behind wearing masks for the health and safety of our friends, family and fellow citizens, how the heck are we going to be able to deal with the climate crises? This is a reckoning and one I am not sure we will rise up to solve.

Jeff Van Den Berg

August 26, 2020

Too much hate is taking a huge toll on all people and the environment. People cooped up in urban areas seem to be spewing the most hate and destruction. Take a trip to a rural area and get back to our roots. Find peace for yourself and your fellow human beings.

Diane

August 26, 2020

The heaviness we feel in our hearts is far deeper than the political shenanigans that clammor for our attention.

Cynthia Gooch

August 26, 2020

Would love to spend more time outside right now. However, in the city of Phoenix, today may be the 50th day of 110º+ weather. I will have to wait a bit to go outside here. We could drive north, but it’s iffy about what’s “open” there, and right now, the schedule doesn’t permit much time out of the city. I appreciate all the nature posts from you and others…

Marilyn

August 26, 2020

No, you are not alone. I thank God for my home with a treed yard and small woods behind. When I sit contemplating nature, I do feel better, not so overwhelmed by the sad state of our country. We are so fortunate to have found your ranch for wonderful bison to nourish us and your words to encourage thinking. Thanks

Bill Day

August 26, 2020

Dan, I could not have said it better, if you would have given me days to think about this. You just can’t fix stupid. As you know, we live in the North Gworgia mountains and it is a toss-up between Georgia and Florida as to who has the dumbest governor. To many people, in our part of the world are taking their lead from the current administration an could give a damm about their neighbor. Stay safe partner.

bill

Liz Aicher

August 26, 2020

Sad, but true. Our earth is dying, and it’s our fault. It makes me weep. In sorrow and frustration. Is no one else paying attention?!

Linda Clark

August 26, 2020

Ah, if hate could only be ascribed to certain area. Alas, it is widespread in this country right now and I can tell you, trust me, rural areas have their sad share. What rural areas do have, though, that urban areas have too little of, as, Jeff Van Den Berg correctly states, is a more ready access to the natural world. That can be a solace if it is recognized as such for sure. Like Dan, though, I fear that this country’s love affair with short-sighted gain makes that less and less likely every day. We are still too prone to “pave paradise and put up a parking lot.”

Steve

August 26, 2020

A very real post, be strong don’t let negativity bring you down.All of us who admire what you’ve done need you… I’ve worked 50 years,am 66 years old. It took me this long to realize I can make a difference…,,

Chuck Beatty

August 26, 2020

To misquote the Cowboy Junkies: Our country did not change, we have been revealed.

The only thing keeping me sane is my morning 2-mile swim in Lake Erie and the hope that a bald eagle will fly over.

Peace to you Dan.

Julianne Geleynse

August 26, 2020

Beautifully said Dan. Almost finished with your book Buffalo for the broken heart and am inspired at your ability to see beyond the dollar and work with the land and not against it.

Julianne Geleynse

August 26, 2020

Beautifully said Dan. Almost finished with your book Buffalo for the broken heart and am inspired at your ability to see beyond the dollar and work with the land and not against it.

Immer

August 26, 2020

Dearest Dan ,yes the future is dull, but but we have to look at birds flowers bisons and in our heart to have the strength to go on in our faith
Love to you
Claude the Swiss girl

M Sarki

August 26, 2020

Your fine novels and memoirs are what has sustained me during this crisis. I am so fortunate to have discovered your work. It is all connected. And you need to keep putting words on the page. It is more important now than ever.

Cynthia Baker Burns

August 26, 2020

Please keep writing. It’s a joy to read even if the message is troubling. Your voice is needed.

Gail

August 26, 2020

It’s sad to see you hurting, but having read your memoirs about bison raising, I’m encouraged to think you again will find solutions in your corner of the world. Most of us only get to affect our own corners, and hope we can elect representatives who will guard the greater expanses. Don’t despair— take a hike! Wander the open spaces, listen to the breeze, smell the grass, contemplate the perfection of a dandelion, watch a hawk, hum, and return home soothed. Peace.

Sue R Carey

August 26, 2020

I have enjoyed your posts as well. And my first order of meat was totally satisfying. I live in a beautiful area of Pennsylvania With lots of access to nature and wildlife. We do our best to preserve the ranches and farms ; the overload of apartment buildings and offices here in Chester County have greatly increased my sadness. I thank God for living in a community that has preserved the land and is an Audubon sanctuary. I am headed back to Colorado for a while where I will be saddened to see destruction from fires, though not as rampant as California.
I love your writing and hope you continue. I met you last year and am so pleased to,know you and your work. Keep the faith. There are many who share your vision. Thank you for that.
Sue

Cheves Leland

August 26, 2020

Thank you for being you and all you do and have done for the world. I hope it helps you to know that your posts help all of us who feel as weary as you, tired of having to fight for what is right and of feeling we aren’t heard. you are heard and you do do make a difference, to us and to the world, maybe most obviously to your land and the Great Plains, but your words are seeping out, borne by wind and water and lifting us up. Thank you.

Debra Gordon-Hellman in AL

August 26, 2020

You are not alone! These are also my biggest concerns echoed by numerous commenters. Sadly, hope is fleeting, ebbing and flowing like the oily waves. A new administration would help, but I am convinced that bigger changes than Biden-Harris would muster are needed to possibly keep our boat from sinking. Thank you so much for sharing what’s in your heart and mind.

BLAKE O'QUINN

August 26, 2020

Dan, you bring us a critical question of balance in this life. our heart knows what is right, but we know a mind can easily be led astray, change direction in an instant. little wonder we distrust much. how do we convince a mind which negates the heart its truth? do they also enjoy the peace you wrap yourself within? do they understand your distress in this?

and yet, it seems those holding power refuse to listen, as if they are entrusted with truth as well. must the entire world disconnect from what powers them to get their attention? it seems so. they run headlong for the cliff! should we act as brazen in opposition?

we all must continue in confidence our principled ways. we continue to communicate with those contrary to the natural world, just as we continue to feed our heart what it must have to survive. we continue to work to replace what separates each of us from one another. hearts whispering truths to minds.

this continues to be a process for us, much like a gurgling stream running its course. but sometimes we must alter the course for good. does water know fear?

you are an amazing writer! thank you, Dan, for your heartfelt words.

Holly S.

August 26, 2020

Courage and strength to you and your family. Please keep writing as much as you can, it is such a comfort to hear the voice of a sound and intelligent mind. Seven years ago, a friend gave me a copy of “Buffalo for the Broken Heart”, and reading it was an important part of some changes I have since made toward a healthier life. For your writing, your dedication to the earth, our encouragement, and your goodness, you have my heartfelt thanks.

Doug Page

August 26, 2020

Hello Dan. I feel what you feel. Or, maybe, I no longer feel. I wish I had an insight to share, but I don’t. I do walk in silence with you. To borrow from Dire Straits – “Brothers in Arms”. Take care, Good Sir. Doug in Derecho Iowa

Rob Etter

August 26, 2020

“Bless the Beasts and the Children, for they have no voice, they have no choice.” I think of this challenge every day, many times a day, as I read of starving children globally, including our own country, and watch as animals, fish, foliage and other living things suffer unnecessarily, out of the order of life and natural procreation. We, the purported most advanced species known, are falling short of our mandate and our ability to protect and cohabit this beautiful world. It is up to each one of us to speak up, act, demonstrate humanity at its finest, and allow our vision to reflect not a smoky sunset, but a beautiful world that we must fight to preserve. My gratitude to Wild Idea for keeping their corner of our world so beautiful and natural. Thank you, Dan, family and staff for all you do and all you share. If we could clone you, life would indeed be full of hope.

Chris and Kim

August 26, 2020

Well written Dan!! Sadly, the masses are being caught up in the over hyped sensationalism of the instant gratification media. Fewer and fewer seem to filter their sources, research facts or have a quest for furthering their knowledge.
But not to despair! There are still plenty out here that choose to make a difference in the world not only for themselves, but for the world they leave their children and grandchildren. And that is a noble legacy. Keep up the great work and look to your own grandchildren to see how you are making that difference.

Beth Kinder

August 26, 2020

Isabelle Tree’s memoir WILDING gave me some hope. For all of us experiencing profound environmental grief, it may be some small comfort to remember the biology of the earth is not ours. Our human thinking is terribly flawed. Our cumulative actions and ignorance have terrifying, heartbreaking consequences. However, we are a brief blip in the earth’s history. With or without us, the earth will survive.

Barbara Tabbert

August 26, 2020

Thank you Dan for expressing my thoughts so well. Here in Iowa, we are recovering from the August 10 straight line wind that blew through Grinnell and destroyed many of our beautiful old trees, tore roofs off houses, flattened gardens, and did a good deal of other damage. We were without power for eight days. Now California is burning and a serious hurricane is bearing down on the gulf coast. Yet people continue to deny climate change—the biggest crisis we face. Time is running out and meanwhile we fight over relatively inconsequential things that should not even be issues. It is a bleak and frightening time.I fear for my children’s future.

Jeff Van Den Berg

August 27, 2020

Linda Clark: Thank you for clarifying my comments so eloquently. This is what discussion is about. Appreciate your intelligence and insight.

Ron Sidener

August 27, 2020

Dan, I have really enjoyed reading your books and observing ranch development from afar. You give hope to those of us who do not confuse the notion of dominion with that of stewardship. Take heart that your admirers recognize and appreciate that you and your family are making a positive impact for us all.

Jane

August 27, 2020

I encourage all of us to take back our power. We can’t be complacent any more, because this is most likely our only time to get it right. Vote, fight for what is dear, help others, focus on seven generations into our future. Yes, it seems bleak at times, but our parents, grandparents, faced what seemed insurmountable too. Find hope in doing what is moral and ethical. Make some good trouble.

Jane

August 27, 2020

I encourage all of us to take back our power. We can’t be complacent any more, because this is most likely our only time to get it right. Vote, fight for what is dear, help others, focus on seven generations into our future. Yes, it seems bleak at times, but our parents, grandparents, faced what seemed insurmountable too. Find hope in doing what is moral and ethical. Make some good trouble.

bob jackson

August 27, 2020

As said in the movie, No Country for Old Men…“…Ain’t all waiting on you. That’s vanity”. I guess I’ve had enough of what “they say” "star’ ink in this and other countries. But in the end each of us is the same as all others. We just keep moving forward with life…like all others before and after us. To think otherwise, that we are more important, or have a better “calling” … compromises our ability to be and do “good”. Then again, what is “good”. Everyone thinks they are good….. and if for a moment they, or others, think they aren’t …. all they have to do is “repent, repent”. (Future by Leonard Cohen). If I resist having my life made into a movie that is my “life” to go forward with. If Dan doesn’t want to write anymore then he still has the identity for himself. Vanity just ends with “a legend in his own mind”. Clint Eastwood quote

Gordo Cooper

August 27, 2020

I agree for the most part, and I think we all need to help each other as much as we can. However this seems more like a diary/journal entry and less of an article…. My point is what exactly do you accomplish by putting this info out into the world? I guess I was expecting some sort of actionable advice at the end because I received an email solely about this article. Peace.

Jane Baile

August 27, 2020

Thank you Dan once again for sharing these thoughts, sad as they may be. And once again, thoughts so well expressed. I regret so much not coming to see you in September with another group from Grenoble. My absence last year was due to personal health problems, fortunately not serious, but this year the entire world is facing such serious health issues and adding to that the economic crises, and American racial conflicts, political divisions and now my home state Louisiana being hit hard by Hurricane Laura. Thank you for getting behind your computer again to keep getting your message out, refocusing on the greatest threat to all of us.
(We’ve rescheduled our trip for September 2021….fingers crossed.)

Bill Hager

August 27, 2020

Dan,

When this pandemic started it was late winter up in Idaho. The crazier things got the more I noticed things were pretty normal in the woods away from human technology and news channels.

Being an outdoors guy it was easy to find my daily dose of normal in the woods..What I found out there was more of my self.

I’ve since made the move to a small ranch where I have an unlimited honey do list and my daily chores are entirely focused on managing my trees, grass and fixing fence. I have little time for watching tv so I don’t..

My hope is that we all find more of ourselves in nature and intern recognize we are all part of one family.

Bill

Pat Wood

August 27, 2020

Keep fighting the good fight. Those are the words you gifted to me in a short personal note written in response to a despairing letter I’d written you over a decade ago. Please do keep fighting the good fight. Above, Two Dog wrote eloquently = I do what I can to prolong my time to protect their time (the lives of all that live on this earth). This morning I work up thinking that I don’t want my presence now to bring about the deaths of the life around me, The glimmer of hope I feel now is found in the thoughtful, heartfelt responses to your writing: there are a lot of us “out here” doing the best we can to let you – support you and those around you – do the best you can. Prayers in the air sent your way.

Keith A. Lewis

August 27, 2020

Dan:

Yes, I too am saddened, frustrated and worried about the future, but we have to continue trying to save the planet. I’m roughly the same age as you. Somehow, we have to maintain a level of optimism sufficient to pass to the next generation. After all, they’re the ones that will have to maintain this planet into the future. The great thing that youth can provide is a Can-Do attitude and we need to nurture that.
You and Jill have created a remarkable model for the future—a way to preserve an ecosystem through a humane harvest that also pays its way in life. Moreover, you’ve raised a family that shares your values and they’re raising kids that also appear to share those values. There’s reason for hope—and we need that to summon the necessary action.
I also understand your frustration about the shortsightedness of the population with regard to the dangers facing this planet. But I’ve also come to realize that leadership—positive leadership—will probably come only from a small number of people willing to tackle the formidable tasks. As a ship’s engineer with an interest in ecology, I realize that the future of humanity depends on the machinery of nature. Having lived through a collision and a disastrous fire (two separate incidents) and other seagoing events, I can truly say that there’s something very satisfying about saving a sinking ship.
Regards from Keith, Block Island, R.I.

Steven Sides

August 27, 2020

Dan

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, angst, and depression. I feel them as many of us do. Clearly, this country has suffered dearly from short sightedness for most all of its history. There are certainly bright spots. Wild Idea buffalo is one, but there are so many others as well. Young people forging new realities with food, with environmental conservation, climate change, and on and on. Sometimes these bright spots seem to get lost in the melee. Clearly we are awash in distractions but I also believe that we are in a make or break moment of reckoning in this country. These distractions as you call them, seem to me to be simply manifestations of our short sidedness. To me, it is not that voting for a new direction in this National election will solve the myriad of problems we must reckon with. The make or break to me is whether we choose hope. If we have hope, we have a chance to break away from our short sightedness.

Jim Willard

August 28, 2020

Thank you for your thoughts, Dan. These are difficult times for those of us who care about tomorrow. I write a regular
newspaper column and a newsletter. I recently printed John Donne’s “Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions” and share the
last few lines here: “Each man’s death diminishes me, For I am involved in mankind. Therefore, send not to know For whom the bell tolls, It tolls for thee.”

Vernon Cross

August 31, 2020

Hi Dan. . .you voice a yearning heart. It is right to do so. Here in NH summer breezes blow through the sun dappling trees after one big day’s rain. Yet, when the big picture gets too anxiety inducing to ponder, I have to go even larger to a place where we will need each other like few can still recall, or narrow my gaze to the garden in the yard, and marvel at all the creatures helping me with the harvest. Brazos hombre. Compa mayor. Maestro.

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