For the past 18 years at the Olympia Procession of the Species, we animals have been silent witness to the joyful exuberance of our human counterparts. So very many of you—of all ages—have come together in playful abundance, animating the Community Studios, up to your elbows in multi-colored batik dyes, glue-gooey paper mache, chicken wire and rice paper, paints and glitter, creating us so that you can BE us. You have studied our bodies—what we look like, how we walk, swim, flutter and fly, slither, plod, stalk and tunnel. Some of you have taken the time to look into the many problems we have encountered as we attempt to share our planetary home with you. You have created a safe haven where we can join with you to celebrate Earth Day on the very streets of Olympia, Washington. Your drums announce our beating hearts and honor our joy at being alive on this, our only blue-green pearl-of-a-home.
And now we come to tell you “Thank you!” Our gratitude for your excellent enthusiasm, your sparkling creativity, and your joyful embrace of life, brings grace into our lives. We carry Eli Sterling, our Procession Papa—the one who thought up this whole wonderful adventure—up high on our round, sticky, spiky, slick and sometimes nonexistent shoulders! We speak, too, for that which give us life–our sweet wet liquid homes, the broken-down nutritious rocks that hold our smallest cousins, our green sisters and brothers that suck in our carbon and breathe back sweet oxygen into our airy space, and the leader of the Procession—our fiery star who lights our way and sustains us every day.
We have come, each year, in silence, for that is the way of the Procession. We do not toot our own horns. We do not ask to be put on pedestals. We do not say “Look at me! Bow before me! Worship me!” That is not our way. We come to remind you that we, like you, are temporary travelers on this rocky, watery home. We come to remind you that the true measure of life is in the Being of it. Not in its name, not in its celebrity, not in what it has accomplished, even. We come to remind you to join us in sincerely loving this home, this life we all share.
So, while the Procession itself allows no printed words, which has kept it, for so long, immune to the commercial world, we have been honored this year with a Questionnaire, asking us if there is anything WE would like to say! So we of the species asked our humans—the Procession participants—if they would be so kind as to write down our answers and toss them into a colorful box left strategically placed at both studios.
That Critter Questionnaire asked questions such as these:
What is the name humans call you?
Why is it important to you to be in the Procession of the Species?
How’s your life on Mother Earth going for you these days?
What are you celebrating this year?
Anything you would like humans to know, change or do to make your life easier?
And these were our answers:
“First, my Questionnaire answer. Your human word for me is ‘robin.’ I sing this year for Rachael Carson, and for so many in my whole family of songbirds who have been silenced by your pesticides. I celebrate their missing songs. Wake Up! Our songs are asking you to Wake Up! And if you listen closely, you will also hear us say ‘Cheer Up! Cheer Up! For it is your burdened heart that blinds you to the beauty all around you.”
“I am called ‘wolf.’ I come to the Procession to show humans that animals really do matter. I celebrate endangered species because I am one myself, which makes life for us not so good right now. I mostly live out in the middle of nowhere and yet still some humans hate us. I’m hoping you will stop killing us just because you believe that silly story about the ‘big, bad, wolf!’ We love our mates for life. Can you say the same?”
“Humans like to call me ‘dragonfly,’ maybe because I look a little like a dragon (although I am much smaller and less ferocious)! I wanted to join the revelers this year because I celebrate the fact that we dragonflies are still around, after hundreds of millions of your earth-years, and we are able to live all over the place—from cold and snowy to hot and dry places. You need to know that while we are still very prevalent, there aren’t as many of us as there used to be. Your pesticides are destroying our habitats. And that is sad because we can be your pesticides! We eat mosquitos and small annoying flies. We don’t bother you. In fact, we will fly away if you get too close. When we thrive, you need fewer chemicals—and this is healthier for all species!”
“My fancy name is ‘chromodoris annae.’ Sometimes I am ‘nudibranch.’ But I like ‘sea slug’ best, although none of the names humans call me measure up to the colorful beauty that is mine! Just wait ’till you see me slip-sliding down the street, celebrating the beauty of this world. It will be a joyful event…and yet…I am saddened as I watch the living space in my favorite home, my coral reefs, shrink and die. Stop, humans, I say! Stop using trawling nets that disrupt the sea floor!”
“I’m known as ‘elephant,’ although I do not know why. I am happy to be in the Procession of the Species this year so that I can show people that there is more to life than just video games and television. Way more. You really need to get a life. And not only that, some of you need to get over your obsession with our tusks. I mean really, those crazy poachers want to hunt us down and kill us just so they can have some dollar bills in their hands? Just so somebody else can make piano keys and jewelry?”
“Humans call me ‘scorpion.’ I know I can give you quite a sting. But really, all I want is to feel like I belong to a powerful, creative and positive collective—and when I join my
Procession community, that is how I feel. It is an incredible and dynamic dance with humans, music and creative work toward good and loving goals. Mostly I would like humans to commit to treating each other better. That would help my world come back to a more natural and gentle balance.”
“‘Lion’. ‘Big cat.’ ‘King of Beasts.’ My power scares most humans half to death. Yet here I come, dancing down the street in the best community event on the planet! Celebrating hope, I am. Hope for a saner world. Hope that humans will stop burning down my forest so that they can raise their beef. Tasty as they are, they don’t belong in my forest!”
” ‘Slug.’ You all just call me ‘slug.’ And mostly I don’t get much appreciation from you folks. I live a slow life. Really slow. But tasty! Please keep on planting lettuce. Yep, more lettuce, I say. I vote for more lettuce…and way less salt.”
“I am known as ‘deer.’ I move along the edges of the city, through the gardens and parks, as silently and carefully as I can, cautious and carefree. On Procession Day, I can dance in the streets and celebrate the full majesty of life under the wide open sky. Procession Day is a day when the balance between humans and other animals is restored, when we fall into right proportion and generous relationships of honor and delight, humility and pride. As for my life here on Earth, it’s increasingly difficult for me to find places away from humans—my meadows and woods are being swallowed by subdivisions and strip malls. So, my human cousins, please hold yourselves with humility, and live your lives awake to the joy of this green Earth.”
So there you have it. Thanks for asking us what we see, feel and think! We hope you learned a thing or two. And we hope you will pass the word: Love this life and take care of it—all of it!