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  • Writer's pictureMj Pettengill

Beyond My Doorstep

Updated: Jun 11, 2021

Red Breasted Nuthatch - "Upside Down Bird" - MjP

For me, approaching the surrounding environment in which I live requires awareness, respect, and moral consideration. Those who know me have often heard me say or write, “Trees are my people.” I am not joking. 


One of the virtues of an authentic approach to all living things—land, plants, and animals—is to find clarity and patience. It is worthy of considering our potential relationships ethically, establishing a genuine connection. This practice of care, nurturing, and mutual respect allows us to participate in both harmony and balance. As a musician, I will say that they are similar. One does not exist without the other.


In my view, when we enter the outer world, we are indeed entering the inner world as well. How can that be?  You ask. 

Consider an early version of humans before they thought of themselves as separate from nature, when they were aware that like trees, animals, and plants, they, too, were nature. There was no separation, no obsession with controlling, taming, or manipulating nature. The consequences of this systematic, deadly annihilation and lack of vision are not a myth. Should we not awaken to our power and origins, we are penning our own tragic end. 

This is not political. It is not about climate change. It is not about any of the hot topics that divide people, rendering them thoughtless and over-emotional. So please don’t pick sides. It’s simple. This is about you. This is about whether or not you choose to see, care, feel, or comprehend that we share our planet. Like it or not, we are in it together.


Our ancestors’ awareness and alignment with all was a matter of survival. They did not have weather apps, GPS, Siri, and so on. Instead, they owned their place in the environment. They sensed weather changes, knew the seasons, the animals that came and went, the breeding cycles of fish, birds, and other creatures. The stars guided them. If they did not pay attention and literally inhabit their environment, they died. 

Their language was based on environmental ethics. Harming any life is the same as harming oneself. Hunting and gathering were born of necessity. With it came gratitude, efficiency, and practicality. These practices were often without waste or greed. Senseless destruction did not exist. It benefitted no one.


If people cease to care about what we call nature, they have cut off the source of their very existence. This is wired deeply in our DNA but has been buried and corrupted. If the morals and ethics of care have been lost, the absence affects all life, and all that would be consciously present. 

It has become the responsibility of those who comprehend the urgency of this matter—separation and throwing up of hands, or lining of pockets—to teach and establish an ethical and moral relationship with nature, essentially ourselves. Those who know should assume the role of educating those who have fallen from our common origins and reconnect. Reclaim your place. Through responsible, moral imagination and inspiration, this can be attained. Under no circumstances should we remain silent.


My favorite moment today was sharing space with a beautiful male red-breasted nuthatch. Many refer to the nuthatches as “upside-down” birds. I spend time outdoors every day. I have forged a strong bond with the world beyond my doorstep. It’s about knowing and trust. I am aware of change, distress, offerings, and gratitude. I am not going out in nature. I am nature. Knowing this is of great value, never to be lost or forgotten. It is where true healing begins.

Photo - Mj Pettengill


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