Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Steve Irwin

Steve Irwin, The Crocodile Hunter, was a remarkable human being. May his example serve as a shining light to which we may all aspire. I first saw his show The Crocodile Hunter on American TV when I was 13 or 14 and still have the VHS tape that I recorded all the episodes on. I grew up with Steveo and saw far more of him than I did most of my relatives. It's still so hard to wrap my mind around the fact that he was killed. My relationship with him is still the same - he still stops by every once in a while on the TV to educate me about wildlife. How can he be gone?

Steve dedicated his life to wildlife. He lived and breathed conservation. He understood that to save what we have on this planet, he'd have to put on a show. Most prosperous countries have produced prosperous, complacent people. We don't get off our asses for much until an act of terrorism or war reminds us that we all have a bigger part to play in the world - or rather, for most, that we do have a part to play. We often waste away, lamenting that "society" and the infamous "they" have not done anything to make the world a better place. A frightening number of people don't seem to realize that they are part of society and that their pronoun references are wrong. I must make a change. We must make a change.

Steve understood that asking us to make a move to better ourselves through preserving the wild of the planet was asking too much. So instead he put on a show to entertain - to catch us off-guard when we're doing what we do best and sitting in front of the TV. He understood that the greatest tool one can have is education. His viewers were tricked into learning about the animals they watched on-screen (many waiting, just waiting for something wild to happen, like a snakebite) while they were entertained. I'm sure many were just casual viewers of his show but there were others who understood and were moved by his message. I, obviously, was one of those viewers.

Steve and I were and are kindred spirits. I grew up roaming the mountains, learning to track and observing the local wildlife. My spirituality is akin to the Native American world view and when you grow up spending so much time out of doors, you'd have to be an idiot not to see how intricately connected all life is. I used to lie on my stomach, looking at the sand as closely as I could until the grains became boulders and the insects and plants sprouting from them appeared as their own forest. I watched the landscape change after a rain, studied the water-carved ravines and wondered at the coyote scat making the ferns grow greener. I held my palm up to mountain lion tracks and rode my horse in the twilight, spine to spine, my human scents hidden by those of my mare, observing the life of the dusk, unhindered by the taint of my species. We are all connected in the great spider's web of life and to deny this is a betrayal of one's severe ignorance. We must not forsake who we innately are: members of the ecosystem. I have the benefit of being raised by biologists and, for as long as I can remember, have respected all animals. The knowledge that Steve possessed was hard-earned and practical. The respect he sought to achieve for the harrowing wildlife tragically must be earned.

For reasons beyond my fathoming, people all over the Western world are afraid of spiders. I can understand being more timid in Australia where the majority of the 10 deadliest spiders to mankind reside, but in North America there are only a few species. Aside from those species, what on earth is a spider going to do to you? Or a lizard or a snake? Most just squash an insect and ask questions later, if they have the presence of mind to ask at all. They end a life to make theirs more convenient. More complacent. What ever happened to "only kill to eat or to keep from being eaten?" My wandering point here is that, as Steve Iriwn so adamantly sought to instill, we must respect all life. And respect often begins with education.

Steveo often succeeded in to encouraging others to respect all life through his unending enthusiasm. His greatest beauty and gift to all was his passion. The man was enthusiastic about everything. I don't see how he lived day to day with such joyful fire ever burning within. He was so full of love and excitement that it was infectious. He was a wonderful, loving father, husband, friend, and a gift to us all. He is still a gift to us all. I hesitate to say that he is dead, for though I have shed many tears over his passing, I know that he is still with us. His spirit continues in the hearts of all who love with passion and strive to make this world a better place.

May we all learn from his example. May we all live each day in love with the beauty of the world around us with the surety that each individual can make it a better place.

Crickey, I miss you, Steveo, but you have left your mark on my heart and it shall forever guide me. I know you are out roaming the bush somewhere, your brown eyes ever-smiling. May you be at peace, my friend. True blue.

And don't forget... CROCS RULE!

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