On Birds & Icons

I'm not sure when I became an Audubon acolyte, but I think my years of obsessing over prints, plates, original text, and the ideology of naturalism and conservation easily qualifies me as one. The ideology often feels as threatened as the vanishing species, habitats, and landscapes themselves, and I feel utterly helpless, especially in this political climate. So I write obsessively, crafting analogies between strange species of N. American birds and the complex interpersonal and social relationships that define our world. Social monogamy is what birds practice, and though I've long been fascinated by the sound and theory of it, the practice probably isn't our best human option...but I think it's where we're headed. 

So I'm returning to Edward Abbey in the midst of my/our crisis, looking for old wisdoms that can spawn new motivations and trajectories. He seemed to lean towards anarchy, and inarguably, he leaned into nature, privileging our connection to it above all else.

Even after an entire morning of NPR, nothing has sounded as true to me as these statements:

"Anarchism is founded on the observation that since few men are wise enough to rule themselves, even fewer are wise enough to rule others."

"Our 'neoconservatives' are neither new nor conservative, but old as Bablyon and evil as Hell."

"Civilization is a youth with a molotov cocktail in his hand. Culture is the Soviet tank or L.A. cop that guns him down."

And finally, his philosophical cornerstone, and the only one that's truly applicable by a writer or an artist:

"The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders."

There are days when I'd like to exercise my right to make a molotov cocktail, but then I'm left with the question of "who do I throw it at?" For now, I think I'll keep fighting those urges and, instead, spend my time defending what I can on paper and in the pulpit of the classroom. 


Rosemarie Dombrowski