I feel sort of sad whenever I see a memorial to someone reading something like, “He loved his family” or “She was a devoted mother and daughter.” I mean no offense when I say this, but honestly, I hear those kinds of platitudes and think “yes, because… of course you did.” Being a functional part of a family is essentially a prerequisite for existence for most of the creatures in this world, and probably others as well. It is a bare minimum qualification and a really low bar in terms of achievement.
It is so fundamentally integral that we are totally pre-programmed and hard-wired to do it well. We come right out of the box as good family members. Creatures we consider too lowly for even our consideration are able to have and to care for families with ease and not a lot of thought, if any, about it. We can essentially do it well on autopilot, relying on nothing more than the chemical and biological processes which take place in our bodies specifically for this purpose. And since it is a requirement for our own survival we are totally self interested to do it. It’s selfish. It’s natural. It’s simple. Doing it well is mostly a matter of not going way out our way to screw it up or pervert our understanding of what constitutes our true self interest.
But truly loving someone else’s family? Or even just being a good neighbor? Now that’s an achievement. True or not, humans have supposed for a long time that this is what separates from the mere animals. There are entire religions encouraging us to make this one achievement the entire focus of our existence, at the expense of everything else (even, sometimes, our families!) Caring for strangers with no self interest is believed to be so painfully difficult it is likened to having your hands and feet nailed to a wooden cross and then left to rot in the burning sun while remaining joyful and unbothered about what’s happening and who is doing this to you.
So then how hard must it be to love a family of tiny, camouflaged, wild animals who aren’t even of your own kind, who impede your ability to recreate on the beach, and who want nothing at all to do with you? How hard is it to be a good neighbor to them? That’s actually really easy. Because we are also hard wired to recognize the astonishing beauty and fascinatingly intricate mystery of life in all of its manifestations. Especially when they are a key component of something you cherish: the beach.
I’ve said it before; I’ll say again: you can’t truly love the shore until you’ve come love and understand the piping plover.
The answer to the question “Why should I care about the piping plover?” is as simple as being a good member of a family. The fact we would even ask such a question at all is proof positive we have clouded and shrunk our hearts and minds, and have a long way to go before we realize that life is a much simpler gift full of far more joy than we sometimes imagine.
It’s always a beautiful day in the neighborhood. We’re just not always good neighbors.
Congratulations to Giantsbane & Myrtle and their new family. But Plover Park wasn’t built just for their family any more than the shore was made for just mine or yours.
We know they are going to be a great family. Will they be good… neighbors?
Stay tuned. Because there is never a dull moment in Todd Pover’s Plover Park. That’s for sure!