Pardon the delays in posting; it’s been a little hectic around here. And with omicron stealing the headlines, sometimes it feels like we’re all in an uncomfortable remake of “Groundhog Day” with local Bill Murray. All the more reason to get outside and find something amazing to focus on.
New Year’s Eve seemed like a good time to reflect on some of our most joyous moments behind the camera in 2021, and wish you peace and joy in 2022.
Do Animals Experience Joy?
I’ve pondered this a bit, because I think it’s impossible to watch otters play on the banks or dolphins play in the waves and NOT believe that they are completely joyful. One winter afternoon a few weeks ago, we met some neighbors down at the beach to assess the erosion damage from a king tide, so we had all sorts of equipment: drones, zoom lenses, phones, etc. Before we got to the worst of the damage, there was a huge splash right offshore. Past some large rollers (unusual on our placid beach) was a pod of dolphins, surfing in to shore, riding the waves with joyous abandon. Once they got close, they swung around and did it again. And again. At the end of the video below, you’ll see the drone footage move over our little pod on the beach, cheering with elation in spite of ourselves.
And then they were gone, flashing out to sea, their great resilient pewter bodies spraying off dazzles of light, pure and endless light. (Madeleine L’Engle, A Ring of Endless Light)
Two quick bits about this one– I had a hard drive mishap and can’t edit this easily~ there is iphone footage in the middle attributed to me that should credit Bill Sullivan: I took the footage with the zoom lens. And there is no voiceover because, really, what could I say that wouldn’t diminish the amazing experience.
More Explorations of Joy
I had fun doing a deep dive on the question of animal joy, even when my joyful dog leapt repeatedly into the air trying to entice me to stop reading and go exploring. Charles Darwin explored this question in his The Expressions of the Emotions in Man and Animals. (I’ll admit to a certain squeamishness to his experiments and some sleepiness with his dry language, but it’s interesting if we think about how long ago it was written and the way science was perceived at that time). Carl Safina (2015) explored this question in detail, particularly with elephants in Beyond Words, What Animals Think and Feel. (Yes, elephants feel joy!). His latest book is on my “to read” shelf: it’s called Becoming Wild: How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty, and Achieve Peace. For fun, I’ve illustrated some elephant joy with photos from a trip to Botswana in 2011.
Wishing you a Peaceful and Joyful New Year
This is the movie text from the top video:
As we look at the end of 2021 and some of our favorite nature moments, we’re just still so grateful for the amazing moments that nature brings us and the chance to share them with friends. From magic moments on a quiet pond, to spirited songs of enthusiasm in the forest, to choreographed synchrony on the water, to intricate structures along the roadside, we’ve loved witnessing the daily miracles that take place all the time, if we get out there to look. Here’s wishing you the happiest of New Years, friends to ride the waves with and shelter from the winds, and folks who have your back. Here’s to some quiet moments of peace in 2022 punctuated by the kind of joy that takes your breath away.