Merely a Strand (poem)


The Museum of Natural History tour
Was full of mystery and wonder that day
As the elementary school’s field trip
Was slowly ushered to each display.

The tour guide spoke about the beasts,
Stuffed and mounted behind the glass
And described the way they had lived
For the fascinated, wide-eyed class.

“This is an elephant,” the guide explained,
“It once roamed the African plains.
They went extinct because of poachers
Despite many conservation campaigns.”


The class then moved to the next window
Where a lion stood, regal and strong.
The guide said, “It’s hard to believe
But even he didn’t last very long.”


The class was awed but sadly silent.
Next, they saw a rhino on display.
“I don’t know how or why,” she said,
“But this giant was also taken away.”


The same was true of the giraffe,
The gorilla, the hyena, the bear,
The moose, the elk, the buffalo,
No animals were left anywhere.

The museum was more like a graveyard,
Its wonder was so mired in sorrow.
So many species poached to extinction
By men with no thought for tomorrow.

They finally came to the last display,
Figures of a woman, a child and a man.
The guide said, “This is what ruled here
Before our time on this planet began.”


“We sent scouts to find a new home for us
Because we devastated our planet, too.
They found this world, barely inhabitable,
With just enough resources to start anew.”

“We’re not really sure what happened here.
We know there was pestilence, famine and war.
But it’s a mystery why not one survived
When they once ruled from shore to shore.”

“There was an artist in their 15th century,
A man named Leonardo Da Vinci, who said,
‘All will be hunted down. All destroyed.’
What filled his heart with such dread?”


“We also discovered a poem, or prophecy,
By a man named Seattle, an Indian chief.
It seemed he saw his conquerer’s future
When he wrote it through tears of grief.”


“He asked, ‘What is man without the beasts?
And said all living things are connected
But there were too many who didn’t believe
So Seattle’s wise words were rejected.”

“He warned of ‘a great loneliness of spirit
From seeing nature not as friend but as rival.
And a world without other life forms marked
‘The end of living and beginning of survival.’ “


“He warned man did not weave the web of life.
In all its complexity, he was merely a strand.
By destroying the web, they destroyed themselves
Which is why not one was left upon this land.”

“We certainly would have met the same fate
Had we not discovered this new place to live.
So let us learn from our past, and from theirs,
And always take much less than we give.”

~ Mark Rickerby

“Nothing will be left. Nothing on the land. Nothing in the air. Nothing in the sea. All will be hunted down. All destroyed.” – Leonardo Da Vinci (1452 – 1519)

It’s Our Mess

I was in Hawaii a few years ago with my wife and woke up early. I walked along the manicured resort beach, then kept going. I had to climb over a fence and found it was there for a good reason – the beaches beyond it were BURIED in plastic garbage.


Definitely not a Kodak moment. Apparently, the powers that be in Hawaii only care about the beaches most people actually see. 

We’ve all heard about how the ocean and sea creatures have been buried by plastic, about whales washing up on beaches, their bellies filled with plastic bags and nets,


about seals getting plastic stuck around their necks and choking as they grow,


about birds dying from ingesting tiny, colorful plastic pieces they mistook for food.


There’s actually an “island” of plastic a few miles wide in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Think about that for a second. It was bad before, but the recent Japanese tsunami polluted the Pacific Ocean with not only thousands of tons of plastic garbage but radiation, too. The oceans are in trouble, and so are we. Some environmental groups say the media are not even reporting on the possible public health repercussions because a) they fear there would be panic in the streets and b) there’s nothing we can do about the radiation anyway. It can’t be picked out of the ocean like plastic bottles can.

My kids think I’m crazy because I clean up the beach every time we go, and pick up plastic trash when we’re out walking. I always tell them the problem is everyone waits for someone else to do it, so nobody does, and that they have to BE that “someone else.” I annoy them further by singing a lyric from a 1960’s song by a group called Ten Years After to them – “I’d like to change the world, but I don’t know what to do, so I’ll leave it up to you.” 

When I was a kid, I came across this poem. The wisdom of it stuck.


I came across this video last night about two surfers who are actually DOING something about the trash in our oceans. For every bracelet you buy, a pound of plastic trash is removed from the ocean. Supporting people like this is doing something, too. (I bought mine last night.) 

When my kids carelessly make a mess, I tell them, “It’s your mess. Clean it up.” The same is true of adults. This is our mess.

When they don’t treat each other kindly, I also tell my kids that loving someone requires more than just saying “I love you”, and that they need to show love in every word and action all day long. Most people (except the most spiritually and mentally vacant among us) love the ocean and the life it holds, too, but it’s our words and actions that really show it. 


Another big influence on me as a kid was John Denver, possibly the greatest ecologically-minded artists ever. He died while flying an experimental aircraft in 1997. The world sure could use him now. Here’s one of his songs. Some of the images posted by the creator of the video are difficult to look at, but the things that are hardest to see often inspire the most compassion.

To order a bracelet and remove a pound of trash from the ocean, go to