My favorite pastime, besides reading and writing, is nature-watching. I can sit for hours outside, under a tree, watching the natural world hustle and bustle along, doing it's own thing. I have been fortunate over the years to have witnessed many of Mother Nature's miracles, not the least of which were seeing a butterfly emerge from a cocoon, watching birds building nests, and seeing tiny baby amphibians, both fish and frogs, come into the world. I have watched bees doing their all-important jobs, parents watching over offspring, and trees going through the cycles of the seasons with the artistry of a John Singer Sargent (as in this beautiful sample of his work below):
What has struck me over and over again as I've witnessed these beautiful moments is this: How do the birds know how to build a nest? How do the baby fish know know to swim as soon as they are born? How does the caterpillar know how to make a cocoon? How do the trees know when it's time to raid God's color palette before dropping their leaves to the ground for winter? The answer, I have come to learn, is that they are born knowing. Call it instinct, call it heredity, call it DNA passed from generation to generation, it all boils down to the same thing: they are born knowing.
So what about we humans? Since we are a part of this glorious and brilliantly designed world, what are we born knowing? In fact, after old Adam and Even left the Garden of Eden to go out and fend for themselves, how did they, and the generations that followed, know how to live? My Native American friends taught me that humans were smart back then and watched the animals, then did what they did. They watched how birds made nests that could withstand storms and built their long houses and huts. They watched what the animals ate, saw that they thrived, and did the same. They watched birds and squirrels dropping seeds and nuts only to have them take root and grow, and learned to garden ... and they watched the love and devotion of animal parents towards their offspring, and they did the same as well.
Personally, while I believe most of that to be true, there are two things I think we humans were born knowing. First, I think the whole "fight or flight" method of survival was planted in us like a seed - I think one look at a T-Rex or a saber-tooth tiger was enough to have that one kick in! Second, and even more important, I think we were born knowing how to love and be loved. I think we have an instinctual knowledge of what it feels like to be held, to be nurtured, and to be loved. I also think that we still have a long way to go until we can mirror our animal relatives who can love without self-doubt and notions of unworthiness. Just watch how a pair of bald eagles, both Mom and Dad, take turns sitting on the nest, feeding their young, and watching over them. Or, see how an entire pack of wolves take responsibility for the safety and upbringing of the little ones (a perfect example of "it takes a village to raise a child).
For now, I have a front-row seat at a performance of starlings as they sweep across the sky in one of their aerial ballets known as murmurations, each bird turning, diving and rising at exactly the same time as if it were rehearsed by Martha Graham or George Balanchine! How do they know how to do that? God only knows!
And so it is.