Monday, January 18, 2010

a tribute to all things small...

A real test for the limits of one's empathic spectrum is whether a person can seriously care about the smallest creatures of the planet: the insects, the microorganisms, the creatures that fill in the cracks of creation - or rather, from perhaps a more enlightened point of view, hold the whole thing together.

There are two people in Kalamazoo who have devoted more time, care and attention to this spectrum of creation than anyone else I know. Those two people are sadly only one now. 

With the recent passing of Nancy Cutbirth Small, Kalamazoo lost a real champion of the creatures of the Earth, both plant and animal. Nancy and her husband Tom's passion and commitment to the restoration of wild spaces, particularly the yards in our community, and how it can restore biodiversity, is testament to a rare love of creation and all it's tenants. 

If you read Nancy's obituary, you'll understand she spared no compassion and concern for humans either. Nancy stood for peace and justice on behalf of the Iraqi people. 

My appreciation for Nancy and Tom's work with Wild Ones, and protecting wild spaces, evolved late in our relationship as friends, since I knew both of them years ago through the Whole Art Theater. We rediscovered each other after our passions for the wild had evolved along separate, parallel paths. As I was tracking down urban animals, in many cases the "charismatic megafauna", Tom and Nancy were kindling the fires of a landscaping revolution, celebrating and defending native plants and wildlife in our lawns and gardens. When we re-discovered each other as urban environmentalists, our complimentary passions resonated with each other.* It was Nancy and Tom's appreciation of the smaller spectrum of creation that really challenged my own view of the ecosystem and all it's component parts.

It was the passion and conviction in Nancy's voice (and that unmistakable laugh), when she spoke in defense of the wild, that always moved me, particularly the fire in her condemnation of selfish or senseless human endeavors. She defended the most defenseless beings in our community. And her defense didn't have to relate back to an animal or plants significance to our own well being. Nancy would defend a butterfly simply for it's right to exist. That is a true love of creation. 

If you knew Nancy and would like to honor her, I suggest either a donation to the Kalamazoo Chapter of Wild Ones, which she and Tom founded, or, if you're truly inspired, consider converting your lawn into a native prairie. In doing so, I'm sure a part of Nancy's spirit will be growing in your own yard.

*I was fortunate enough to collaborate with Nancy and Tom recently in documenting a presentation by Douglas Tallamy at the Kalamazoo Nature Center on native gardening. That video will be broadcast, and made available on DVD, very soon. Stay tuned.

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