Celebrity or Ordinary Wildlife

Wakodahatchee Preserve, FLI have been working on a big photo e-book project that I hope to complete by the end of the month, Reports from the Wild. It expresses some things that are very important to me related to how we see nature. A chapter on the green heron, “Swamp Hunter,” made me think a bit about how we see and glorify nature.

The green heron is a simple swamp hunter, ordinary, common. You can find them throughout most of the U.S.  It is no wildlife celebrity like penguins, polar bears or whales (these animals could care less about being celebrities — we make them so). The green heron doesn’t care much about being a celebrity, but celebrity animals do get attention in our sometimes celebrity crazed culture.  Everybody knows about penguins, polar bears and whales, yet far fewer people know a green heron, even though they are far more likely to see one.

SC GH-03Now I am not going to pretend that the Bible tells us anything about green herons or celebrity wildlife.  I do think, however, the following passage is worth thinking about and meditating how it might resonate with nature.

“While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ “On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.'” Matthew 9:10-13

Of course this is a passage about Christ’s nature to be inclusive and to challenge the self-righteous. Yet, Christ is consistent on this message, about paying attention to those that need attention, not just those who are popular or powerful.  That can make us think about nature.  Green herons are just one species of so many around us that need our attention, just because they exist, just because they are part of God’s creation. Yet, notice how often the media plays up the celebrity wildlife, the celebrity nature.  It sells.  And it often misses connecting us with all of God’s Creation.

It is not the big names in wildlife, such as those penguins and so forth, that need “a doctor”, or our attention, but the little things that make nature work so well every day. Penguins, polar bears and whales are important, but they can become so dominant in the media that people start thinking that is what nature is, celebrities.  The small stuff, like green herons, are then unknown, often unappreciated, and a little bit of nature dies around us. We become less connected to God’s Creation, to God’s second book.

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— Rob