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  • Writer's pictureJean Linville

Ragtag Groups & Common Goals

Photo by Robyn Rhudy Earlier this week, while still traveling and enjoying the summerlike warmth of Florida, I happened upon ​​an interesting sight along the edge of a small pond that I often walk along when I am there. In the past, I have spotted a solitary great blue heron or egret that would allow me to watch as it hunted in the shallows, but my most recent visit was quite different. Almost immediately upon arriving, I noticed the movements of a small group of birds at the edge of the pond, similar to those captured in the photo to the left. This ragtag gathering was composed of a tricolored heron, a white ibis and a showy and a great egret. Grouped closely together, they were moving silently in and out of the shallow water, counter-clockwise around the edge of the pond. As I stopped to watch them rhythmically moving and stabbing their beaks into the water, I noticed that there was yet another participant in this well choreographed "dance". About five feet away from the edge of the pond and the group of tall, lanky birds was a cormorant that was moving at the same pace as the other birds. I was intrigued. Here was a disparate group of birds, who are often known for vying over fishing or nesting territories all seeming to get along just fine. In fact, the longer I observed them, it became apparent that the actions of each of these birds was done to aid the entire group in obtaining food. The cormorant’s movements sent small fish closer to shore where they were quickly snatched up by the heron, ibis and egrets. Then the “shore” birds would rise up into the air and land several yards away sending fish scurrying for deeper water where the cormorant had already dove to and was waiting for them. This sequence played out over and over as I stood quietly by. This “fishing team” seemed to have worked out a very effective way of working together towards a common goal. I was captivated.

​​As crazy as it may sound, the following evening I was reminded of the scene that played out along the pond as I watched the broadcast of my all-time favorite holiday show, Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. I honestly don’t think I have ever missed an episode since it first aired in 1964. Really! In fact, I think I have this inherent need to watch it each year most likely because it was imprinted on me at such a young age. But I digress. As I was watching Rudolph, Hermey and Yukon Cornelius and his group of rather unusual sled dogs battle the Abominable Snowman, I thought of the birds around the pond. Here was another ragtag group, this time made up of a reindeer, an elf, a prospector and several different breeds of dogs, who were also working together towards a common goal. As many times as I had watched this show, I had never considered this particular aspect of the story. Perhaps, I had always been distracted by worrying about the fate of everyone on the Island of Misfit Toys.

For me, the take away of these two incredibly different experiences was this, for a variety of reasons we tend to gravitate to folks that are pretty much like us. Yes, with a group of like-minded individuals you can accomplish a lot, but perhaps the only way to overcome some of the big threats like starvation, an Abominable Snowman or lets say sustainability and climate change is for us to form our own ragtag group, one that is more like that of Rudolph’s and the egret's. In her recent article, Gods Among Us, in Orion Terry Tempest Williams states, "We must look to each other to find enduring ways to honor, respect, and protect the life that surrounds us.” Further on, she goes on to say, “My belief in nature is the nature of my faith as a human being humbled before the gods we live among...I do not view this communion with other species as acts of idolatry or witchcraft or momentary madness, but rather the practice of good manners among neighbors where peace is maintained through mutual respect and consideration. We learn from one another. Without manners, violence enters the room. Without decency of imagination, narcissism leads.” If you would like to read her entire article, click on the image to the left.

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