I grew up in the 50s and 60s. My siblings and I spent every spare moment playing in nature. Our suburban back yard and the meadows, pastures, woods, creeks, oak trees and bramble patches of my childhood are as vivid in my memory as if it happened yesterday.
The moment our school bus dumped us out near our house, we would grab a snack then rush out to play until Mom called us in for dinner. After dinner, in good weather we would head back out until dark, when she would insist we come in and do our chores.
Mom taught me the names of all the wildflowers and how to tell the difference between a monocot and a dicot. I learned to value the habitats of hundreds of creatures that lived on the wooded hillsides and creek bottoms near our house.
Slug, salamander, carrion beetle, praying mantis, flying squirrel, cardinal, purple finch, deer, siskin, spring beauty, skunk cabbage, lady slippers, raccoon, possum, badger… their names roll off my mind’s tongue like poetry.
I would be bereft if our world contained even one less of the thousands of beings I grew to love as a child.
My husband, Tim Carney and I contribute to the Nature Conservancy every year because we believe in the work the conservancy is doing all over this world, especially in our home state of Montana. The Rocky Mountain Front is sacred to us and to the First Nation people. For me, the Front is probably the most spectacular landscape on earth, and it is certainly one of the most ecologically vital habitats for Earth’s creatures. I am thankful to the Conservancy for their work on behalf of the Front.
For 25 years, Tim and I have practiced Huichol shamanism. Integral to Huichol shamanism are daily meditations and seasonal ceremonies that celebrate the heart of Mother Earth … we believe that Nature is sacred; that every entity on earth has a spirit, is literally alive. Mountains and rivers. Stones. Trees. Black bears, wolves, salmon, pine bark beetles and earthworms. Every being deserves our respect.
Nature is inside us and we live in Nature. The idea that we humans (and everything) contain the dust of ancient stars …. this fits our beliefs perfectly. We are made up of all that surrounds us, all that has come before us. My mind, heart, legs and eyes contain molecules of that juniper tree, of the Yellowstone River, of the garden where I plant beans and corn. And, when I am finished with my body, ideas, breath … my atoms will go forward in time, transforming into other parts of Nature.
My beliefs inform my everyday life, so it makes sense to me to respect and love Nature — it is vital to the health of our world, to our species, to all of life.
When I take my daily walks, I think about stepping gently on my Mother. I think about walking instead of driving. I think about making my ecological footprint as small as possible. This is my meditation as much as praying each morning for healing for myself, family, community and the Earth.
I make my living as an artist. The core message I try to express with my art and photography is “connection.” Connection to Nature, to the heart of the Earth. If I can inspire one person to become more deeply connected to the natural world through my artwork, then I know I will have succeeded.
Both Tim and I have immense appreciation for the Nature Conservancy’s staff and ideals. The work is vitally important to quality of life — ours, yours, our descendants and all of Earth’s creatures. Please consider becoming a donor to the Conservancy and help protect Earth’s heart for future generations.
I originally wrote this article to share on the Nature Conservancy’s Stories site.