We’re just another species

By Caitlin Kelly


This is an amazing backlit mural at our local Tarrytown commuter train station, by Holly Sears. I love it!
This amazing backlit mural is at our local Tarrytown commuter train station, by artist Holly Sears. It is filled with all sorts of creatures in unlikely juxtapositions

I assume many of you have already seen this amazing video of a seal climbing onto a surfboard in England?

If not, spare 2:04 minutes of your life for a lovely, charming reminder of something we often forget — we’re just another species.

I’m writing this on our top-floor balcony, listening to the wind in the trees and the buzzing of passing bumblebees. Birds twitter. One recent evening, at 2:40 a.m. we bolted awake to the howling of a pack of coyotes.


Tired of feeling trapped by sexist, misogynist assholes!


But we live 25 miles north of New York City, able to see the city’s skyscrapers from our street, not some Montana ranch!

Our planters are bursting with flowers and our woods are filled with deer, raccoon, squirrels, chipmunks.

I fear for our planet when so many children and teens are suffering from nature deficit disorder, because you can’t fight for legislation and other protective behaviors if “nature” remains something you’ve only seen or heard mediated through a glass screen.

You have to feel it, taste it, touch it, know it. We all need intimate, consistent, ongoing connections to the natural world, not just simulacra or a packaged bit of it in plastic at the grocery store.

I’m grateful for having spent my childhood and teen summers in the wild of northern Ontario at summer camp and on multi-day canoe trips. I love a loon call, the peel of a birch tree, the striations of granite.

We are still, as homo sapiens, only one of millions of other species in our world, some furry, some feathered, some scaled, some noisy and some mostly (to our ears anyway) silent.


A few years ago, a red-tailed hawk landed on our 6th floor balcony railing, which is only 12 feet wide. He stared at me silently, and I felt like prey. Having written about raptors, I know they can see for many miles. I wondered what he saw when he gazed into my eyes.

We don’t have any pets, so any encounter with a (non-threatening!) animal or bird is a real joy for me — especially horses and dogs; I’m the person who always stops to say hello and pat other people’s dogs (with permission.)

My young friend Molly recently fell off an elephant into the Mekong River.

I don’t envy the fall, or her ruined camera and lens, but elephants are my favorite animals of all. I rode on one myself in Thailand, sitting on his neck, and dreamed of a second career as a mahout.

Here’s a review of a spectacular new book, of photographs of the earth.

Do you (and your kids and/or grandkids) spend much time in natural surroundings?


20 thoughts on “We’re just another species

  1. yes, with my kids and now, grandkids, every chance we get – we go to the lakes, the woods, the river, the trails. i feel so lucky that my school is located on beautiful acreage too, and i am able to teach my class in a natural setting on a regular basis. there is nothing like it.

    1. I bet your students, in years to come, will have amazing memories of those classes. Long after I’ve forgotten what I learned in a stuffy classroom under fluorescent lights, I easily recall details of nature.

  2. Not often, though when I was younger I went to the conservatory a lot. I’m not a big nature guy. But if I ever get enough money, I’d like to buy a home surrounded by nature. My mom lives near a very wooded area, and I have a friend whose house is surrounded by natural woods. I very much would love to live in a home like that someday.

  3. Hi Caitlin,
    We have a lot of wild life here in Mississauga. It can be very entertaining watching the animals. Unfortunately there are some skunks near by and we try not to disturb them.
    I love elephants too. I think they know they are funny looking. They share many of our feelings.

      1. Every once in awhile there is a nocturnal battle and the skunk lets off. It happened right under our bedroom window. We couldn’t close the window because the stink was already inside. What a dilemma. The smell was so intense that it was like something was burning. We had to leave the room and move elsewhere for the night. Nature does have its moments!

  4. Wow, what a cool experience to see a hawk so close! I have always been fascinated by them, so beautiful and powerful. And elephants are my absolute favorite, it is definitely on my bucket list to visit Thailand and ride them. How lucky you are! I grew up in Seattle with forests and mountains and wildlife all around us, so I think love for nature will always be a part of me. Living in Texas now I miss all the rich green and the quiet beauty and the life. This is a great thought provoking post, thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks!

      I try to find nature wherever I go…I love the flora and fauna of the Southwest…AZ and NM are the places I know a bit about. I have a fantastic memory — from spring 2002 — when I traveled some of Texas to research my book about women and guns, of fields of bluebonnets near Fredericksburg. Gorgeous!

  5. Nice piece. I grew up with lots of nature as well, mostly in northern and mid-Michigan. The Great Lakes are awe-inspiring and we have so many lakes all over you are never far from water. Something about woods, hikes, wildflowers, water slapping on the shore…or ice skating and corss country skiing, and so on…bliss. My children and their kids seem to have plenty of outdoor experiences, so perhaps they are also fortunate.But nature is everywhere, even in city spaces as oyu well know–this certainly demomnstrates its power, resilience and creativity. Our lives would so lack wonderment without nature teaching and stunning us. (The book you shared the link to looks amazing.)

  6. When I lived in the city, my bargain with myself was that I had to be near something green. Or blue. So I was never far from Lincoln Park or Lake Michigan. Those land-locked concrete jungle types always amaze me. I can handle it for awhile, but green is necessary for me. Just something I’ve always known.

    1. We live 25 miles north of Manhattan and can see the city skyline (?!) from our street. People love to mock us for living “upstate” — but the minute city folk see our river view and all the trees, they sigh deeply and their shoulders drop. Green, they say…I forgot about green.

      I spent most of my life living downtown in major cities. I remember it well.

      1. I feel really lucky…the burbs are boring as hell (esp without kids) but I am easily into NYC and parked within 40 mins. Not many places offer that combination as easily; I grew up in sprawling Toronto so this is a nice mix of the two for me.

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