Find 20 minutes this evening or this weekend and visit this website.
Bear 71 is web-based interactive documentary about a bear that lived and died in Canada’s Banff National Park.
And it’s told from the bear’s point of view.
I’ve included a few screen grabs here, but you really need to dive in. You’ll see footage of bears and elk and ravens. And because Bear 71 was tracked by a radio tag, you’ll be able to follow this bear’s journey.
What makes this documentary so effective is not just its focus on one bear’s journey, but it’s effective use of first-person point of view. You get inside the bear’s head. You understand what she can smell and see and the challenges she faces in dealing with people and highways and railways.
Bear 71 was created by Leanne Allison and Jeremy Mendes and co-created and produced by the National Film Board of Canada.
Having just returned from the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference, I’m newly inspired not only in terms of my own writing but by the magnificence of the natural world and the ways in which we can appreciate and nurture it. Spending the week on the water, with deer roaming past our cabins every day, I found it impossible not to think about nature and animals.
Early in the week, poet Ashley Capps gave a wonderful craft lecture on empathy. Among other works, she read Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Fish” and offered a juxtapoesis — a slide show of images that resemble each other, from a magnified sweat gland that evoked a head of lettuce to the face of a terrified girl next to a calf in a kill chute. Ashley made important connections that highlight the necessity to see ourselves in others and to be empathetic in our lives and in our writing.
I especially enjoyed Ashley’s reading a few nights later, during which she read not only her beautiful poems but an essay she’d recently published with Our Hen House, as a response to OHH’s New York Times call for essays on “why it’s ethical to eat meat.” As Ashley writes in her essay, “In any discussion concerning the ethics of eating animals, it feels important to begin by pointing out a frequently overlooked distinction: that harming and killing animals from necessity is not morally equivalent to harming and killing animals for pleasure…It’s important to realize that, with a few exceptions, when humans kill other animals for food, we’re not doing what animals do in nature. When animals kill other animals for food, they do as they must, in order to survive; they have no choice in the matter. Many humans, on the other hand, do have a choice…”
Most compelling and true was Ashley’s conclusion: “Finally, to harm animals for pleasure is also, ultimately, to harm ourselves. Constantly acting in opposition to our own core values deforms our hearts — and it diminishes our integrity, and hinders our emotional and moral growth….What can it mean for caring people to regularly reject compassionate choices that cost them next to nothing, and to instead embrace unnecessary violence that costs its victims, literally, everything?”
For more of her amazing poetry, as well as her writing about animals and compassion, visit Ashley’s website as well as her blog.
I loved reading this article on Ashland artist Dana Feagin, Animal Artists Who Give Back, an inspiring look at an artist who is using her talents to help animals. Dana not only paints adorable portraits of the animals who have been rescued and are up for adoption at Jacksonville, Oregon’s Sanctuary One; she also donates a portion of the proceeds from her work to the sanctuary, which not only cares for animals but also provides educational opportunities for anyone who wants to learn more about how to live harmoniously with animals and nature.
Dana’s work is one of many examples of the ways in which helping animals and the environment can come in many forms. At the Cynthia King Dance Studio in Brooklyn, New York, the children’s repertory includes dances about animals and nature, aiming to foster an appreciation and respect through the art and discipline of dance. (Cynthia King is also earning kudos for her cruelty-free vegan ballet slippers, which have been embraced by such celebrities as Natalie Portman and Emily Deschanel.)
One of the more heartbreaking — but very important — examples of artists championing animals is award-winning photographer Taiwanese photographer Tou Yun-fei, whose portraits of shelter dogs about to be euthanized highlights the importance of adoption and why we need to rescue animals, not buy them. And photographer Diana Bezanski is yet another photographer who has decided to donate her photography services to animal shelters to raise awareness about the plight of shelter animals (check out some of her gorgeous photos here).
Ashland Creek Press itself was founded with a mission of opening reader’s minds to issues of animal protection and the environment — and while first and foremost we aim to publish excellent books, we hope that one of the “side effects” of reading them is to inspire a greater appreciation for the planet and all its creatures and how to keep it all healthy.
I love the blog at Our Hen House — Art of the Animal — which focuses on, among other topics, the many ways that people all over the world use their own unique gifts and talents to create positive change. And don’t miss their fabulous podcasts, featuring news, reviews, and interviews with many of these amazing people.