On vacation in Costa Rica recently, I walked the city of San José one morning and visited a famous museum of pre-Colombian civilization — back when indigenous tribes lived in harmony with nature and as a vital part of it.
Loosely translated (my Spanish is marginal, at best), a sign posted at the entrance to the museum states that it “was built in recognition of the interactions that we have with all other things and with the world. This process is complex, integral and nonlinear. It is the way that we have lived since before we were born.”
Now, these lands belonging to indigenous tribes, especially in Central and South America, are under pressure from agriculture and development. Thus a way of life in harmony with Nature is disappearing. Sometimes I want to just toss everything and go live in the jungle with them. A bit extreme, but these people understand and live their lives by this thing, these concepts, these connections and relationships that we “civilized” people struggle so hard to grasp, explain, teach.
In Costa Rica, the saying is, “If you kill something, you have to eat it.” This includes that six-inch tarantula I found living peacefully under the bathroom sink, or the random cucaracha scurrying across the kitchen counter at night. These people understand that all creatures are valuable, even essential, to the web of life, to the total ecosystem that sustains all life on this planet. It’s a delicate balance where every action has an impact on everything else. I’m not saying we should invite tarantulas to come live with us, but if one does, show her out kindly. She deserves to live too.
In the very first issue of Salish Magazine, there’s a simplistic diagram of just a few of the connection pathways among just a few creatures that can be found in and around the Salish Sea. Imagine for a moment adding birds and plants and other land and sea creatures to this diagram. Then add another layer about the water cycle and how the atmosphere itself affects and is affected by everything it touches. Close your eyes and imagine how the trade winds bring fresh oxygen from the South American jungles as a result of sunlight falling on jungle plants. If you can imagine this, perhaps you can imagine what the indigenous tribes of all the Americas understood — that all creatures, all cycles, all actions, and reactions are indelibly connected and impact everything else on this planet. A fragile system, in a delicate balance.
At Salish Magazine, our goal is to inspire people to understand, respect and live in harmony with Nature, to nurture and sustain Her, to respect all living things and to appreciate each creature’s vital role in its local ecosystem, and how each ecosystem is connected to all others around the world — by winds, by currents, by migrations. Tread lightly. There is no Planet B.
(Originally published in Salish Magazine, December 2019)