Artistic Response: Mercy and the Degradation of Earth
Mary Bilderback rsm (Americas)
If it should turn out that we have mishandled our own lives as several civilizations before us have done, it seems a pity that we should involve the violet and the tree frog in our departure. — Loren Eiseley
Warnings of climate disruption continue to escalate. We’re losing whole species all over the planet and disturbing the lifestyles of others. Among our endangered and exotic kin are orphan salamanders endemic to cool Colombian forests; glass frogs and screeching frogs; fairy shrimp and rainbow snakes; Sumatran elephants; the vaquitas in the California Gulf; and the giant quiver tree of southern Africa.
We may have seen the last of the merry shadow damsel; and the pink velvet worm; and the starry sturgeon with her galactic tattoos is dimmed by overfishing. The peacock tarantula with his sapphire belly struts and frets his final hour upon the continent of India.
Here at the local level in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey we see natural patterns changing in the short span of our own lifetimes. We find seagulls in our parking lots and pigeons on our beaches. The lady slipper orchids and the bog asphodels need protection in these pine lands where the white-tailed deer population explodes. And we worry for the frosted elfin and the Pine Barrens tree frog; and the corn snakes and the bog turtles; and the long and short-eared owls, the stubby-tailed bobcats. And who isn’t planting milkweed this year, amidst their heirloom tomatoes, for our beloved monarch butterflies?
We put up bird feeders early one spring to catch a closer look at our avian others —Mary Bilderback rsm
Spanish translation by the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. Traducción al español por las Hermanas de la Misericordia de las Américas
This lyric essay was first published in Global Sisters Report, 22 April 2019
Mary Bilderback is a Sister of Mercy of the Americas, and has taught biology with the help of many poems at Georgian Court University in Lakewood, New Jersey, for more than 25 years . She continues to wonder how life can ever possibly hope to explain itself. She writes to pay attention.
‘In 2012, Aine O’Connor, rsm and I were privileged to travel to the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to sign the Universal Declaration for the Rights of Mother Earth, on behalf of the Sisters of Mercy. I can still feel our proud and hope-filled pen on that document. But the ink is still wet.’
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