I have been roaming around with little possessions. I have left things behind, physically but also mentally, sometimes these are personal things, and it was a nice surprise when a friend brought me some old photo albums I had totally forgotten. One in particular brought back good memories from the desert Southwest, where I lived for about 15 years. In this particular photo album were photo’s from the time my mother came to visit us and we took some trips around the state. 

The land of New Mexico imbues an interesting and peculiar human history. Foremost the long history of indigenous peoples, an ongoing cultural tradition that despite environmental and societal challenges can sustain themselves in this challenging, but awe-inspiring land. Monumental architectural sites are conspicuous testimony to this incredible history. I have been fortunate to learn some lessons from people today and learn about the more subtle stories embedded in the land. 

The peculiar, recent history of Los Alamos, a settlement and laboratory of more recent immigrants, the site where the atomic bomb was developed and still is shrouded in secrecy concerning the research that is conducted. White Sands, a beautiful, otherworldly landscape of white gypsum dunes, dotted with yucca. It is also the location, Trinity, of the first atomic test. Getting closer to more peculiar, Roswell. We visited the UFO museum, which is dedicated to the purported crash of a UFO near Roswell in 1947. Although the story has been debunked, the Object being part of a secret military mission, Project Mogul, the incident started its own life of the landing of extra-terrestrials. On view at the museum is replica of the  ET being that was sighted during the time of the incident. Interestingly, this being looks much like us, just smaller, and sort of embryonic stage. This has always baffled me. Why on Earth, would ET life look the similar to us? And why do we portray it as somehow inferior state, smaller, less intelligent maybe? We hope?

And that is a whole other ballgame. Is it fear, ignorance, arrogance, that we believe we are the most intelligent beings roaming planet Earth, but when confronted with the possibility of life beyond our daily realm of existence, we tend to control it by imagining it as smaller, dumber, inferior. I don’t want to generalize, but many of us project it not only on aliens, we do it to our conspecifics, we conquer by justifying inferiority of others, even to control all other creatures that share our world, or so we believe.  It keeps our fears in check. 

I like to imagine the world beyond us. New Mexico is an interesting place. The wisdom embedded in the land of centuries of human stewardship of these lands, knowledge that I am fortunate to have been given a glimpse of. On the other hand, the recklessness of detonating the first nuclear device, the consequences of which are horrific for life. The desert sand, largely made of silica, melted as a consequence of the explosion and then became a mildly radioactive light green glass, that was named trinitite. Artifacts; transformation of matter on a large scale. 

“The lighting effects beggared description. The whole country was lighted by a searing light with the intensity many times that of the midday sun. It was golden, purple, violet, gray, and blue. It lighted every peak, crevasse and ridge of the nearby mountain range with a clarity and beauty that cannot be described but must be seen to be imagined …”

I am now in Friesland, the so-called temperate zone and life seems to ripple gently onwards. And maybe it is here that I start to ask more mundane questions. I’m talking about the blackbird. 

“It must be seen to be imagined.” The blackbird is a common bird in northern Europe, with their black or brownish coat, yellow ring around the eyes, their visual appeal is not extraordinary, but wait until you hear them sing. So, we can travel to the moon and beyond, detonate nuclear devices to terminate life on Earth on a large scale, yet we are still in the dark  about what this little bird is communicating. What is the meaning of their message. Apparently, the blackbird, born with a specific singing capability further learns singing from his/her parents, and is a keen observer of the environment and able to incorporate and respond to the sounds in their specific surroundings. Even more interesting is the focus on creating a unique voice, setting the individual apart from the other community members. How cool is that!. 

So I wonder, why go through all this trouble of creating unique songs, if your message is simple? Especially the ability to incorporate contextual information, does this not indicate a way of commenting on and communicating the changes that occur in your home-range? A complicated dialogue, discussing many life questions and possible how to adapt to changes?  

We already know that changing birds symphonies are early warning signs of environmental change, better indicators than for instance satellite imagery. Isn’t it time we started to pay better attention to what these animals (and other creatures) are showing us. Apparently, they listen to us, and I am not sure they like what they hear. 

They are small, a lot smaller than the Roswell alien, but maybe size is not a good measure of intelligence.