The Snowies Are Coming

It’s that time of year: The Snowies are coming. And how will we receive them, these fellow beings departing diminishing resources? Will we welcome them with awe, love, respect—allow ourselves to become bewitched by the spells cast by those piercing yellow eyes? Or will we crowd them to take photos, trespass upon their deserved security, thwart their attempts towards the base needs of food and shelter? As Western humans, have we become so disengaged from our own pursuit of such things that it’s become difficult to sympathize with survival’s energy expenditures by those not us?

In Braiding Sweetgrass, which I’m currently reading, Robin Wall Kimmerer describes the concept of Honorable Harvest. She writes, “If we are fully awake, a moral question arises as we extinguish the other lives around us on behalf of our own…how do we consume in a way that does justice to the lives that we take?” Though generally, we are not extinguishing Snowies’ lives, I find it easy to imagine expanding Honorable Harvest concepts to the way we interact with Snowies: “Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so that you may take care of them. Introduce yourself. Be accountable as the one who comes asking…Ask permission before taking. Abide by the answer. Take only that which is given. Use it respectfully. Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken. Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever.”

What if this was our code of conduct for enjoying Snowies, photographing Snowies, sharing Snowies (and in particular, *not* sharing their exact locations) on social media? How fortunate we are to share space with a piece of the arctic, a being who summers in places that most of us will never see—who rides ice floes in pursuit of seaducks some winters. They’re not just another resource to be exploited for human benefit. The Snowies are coming. Let us think about how we might receive them honorably, and to encourage others to receive them honorably too.

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