Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Some Perspective from Eric Clough

When was the last time you met someone who really made you pause and re-set your perspective? It must have happened at least once when you fell in love, right? Many times I remember meeting individuals who I knew were special. I remember one man, named Barry. I was youngster, probably 18 or 20. I met Barry working at a small printing press company. He was older with a mostly gray beard, wire rim glasses, and a ludicrously friendly smile. His face and whole demeanor radiated a yogi-like serenity. I knew he had something to offer me. I was drawn to him. I needed his sense of strength and peace. The truth is, I never got to know Barry very well. I didn’t need to though. I learned enough about him to know that, in fact, he was a student of transcendental meditation. Barry re-set who I was with only a few brief moments in his presence once or twice a week. My job at the printing press didn’t last very long but ever since that day, almost 30 years ago now, I recall his presence when I need a calming influence. It is marvelous how plastic we can be as human beings – how easily influenced we can be.

In October 2008, at the USFWS National Conservation Training Center, I met 39 human beings that completed a grant application to Audubon for what is called the TogetherGreen Conservation Leadership Fellowship. Like myself, I don’t believe any of the other fellows had more than a vague idea of what was coming. We all knew we would get $10,000 dollars for what was called a Conservation Action Project but I really don’t think any of us knew we would be stopped in our tracks, paused, re-set, and influenced the way were. It has been fantastic. Humbling and inspirational. So I wrote this poem.

Green springs the bracken from the sodden coastal hillside
Ocean tempest beaches heavy swells upon the rocks
Humanity comes to watch the epiphany
Watching days move in and out
Away from grasping hands
It happens so quickly

My children grown
My parents passed away
The rains have come and gone again
Grains of sand litter the salty agate beaches
New friends bloom into the soil of my stuttered life
New family is born into the web of our human struggling

Now I think of the fellows I have met. You never would have guessed at such diversity all carefully aimed at the same broad target. Conservation leadership, sustainability, diversity. Ah, diversity. Again, I don’t think any of us 2008 TG Fellows were quite prepared for what came to us in the name of diversity. I know it reached deep into me. How lucky I was to be introduced to Iantha Gant-Wright and Angela Park. Our discussions of privelege humble my heady thoughts of accomplishments – there are so many others who do so much more with so much less. The diverstity sessions in particular humbled and inspired me at the same time. So I wrote this poem.

Gulls and their curvaceous wings beat the wind slicing and arcing
Pelicans lumber over the surface gulping their baggy beaks
Pinnipeds bark against injustice in the world
We simply can’t keep track of the time
Birthing and dying again and again
Passing the tides and the skies

And yet the magic continues
Cycles and time evolving over eons
There are no worries time can not erase
Memories of those we love and those we hate
Those we fear and those who fear what they do not love
From our place now we can only go forward into a future that we own

And while I have the floor it is my time to say thank you to you all. Though our time together has been brief and connected by high altitude slip stream travel across the continent, I want you to know that you have re-set me. You and the Audubon staff that forged and coordinated this rather unlikely alliance with corporate Toyota. Yes, corporate Toyota deserves great thanks as well for funding this multi-year conservation leadership effort. I am not one to be easily won over by global powerhouses like Toyota but surely they do deserve recognition for their generous financial support of these deeply personal and important causes we dedicate ourselves to. Thank you to Anne Ferguand Judy and the rest of the Audubon staff – I wish you the best of success with your remaining fellowship classes. You and the fellows and Toyota are accomplish 40 feats of personal and community benificence every year. And so I wrote this poem…

Seething and striving for greater and greater hieghts of achievement
Pressing ourselves diligently ahead of the sunset in front of us
Stomping boots crushing the little things beneath
Diatomacious plankton tossing about the sea
Smallness building Cetacean greatness
Together we green the seas

Together we green our home
We bring urban creeks back to life
Brownfields converted to avian productivity
Community gardens, solar power, rain water barrels
Power for the disenfranchised, justice to the trampled on
All this and so much more from the fellows and leaders and followers


Amy said...

Eric! That is fantastic! I'm still amazed at all of our connections.

Anne UF said...

Eric, I love this! I hope to visit the "ocean tempest beaches" of Oregon now that I'm on the West Coast.

Anonymous said...

Eric -- well said. You found another way to express what happened in WV and DC. We were all re-set! Thanks for putting this in words for us all.

Yvette Little said...

Wow - what a wonderful and special recognition! I am part of the TG Fellows class following you in 2009. You said it so well.... we have all been re-set! I am so amazed and in awe of being brought together with these wonderful people, teachers and leaders! Bravo for your special way to express it! Thank you...

Molly said...

smallness building Cetacean greatness! i love it.

Marcelo said...

Beautiful, Eric, Beautiful