Mike Bastine seeks ways to reconnect with nature.
Bastine, a soft-spoken warrior for good-sense living in modern times, has been sharing these ways and means during monthly gatherings at Beaver Meadow Audubon Nature Center in North Java for the past year.
His father, a northern Quebec Algonquin, moved to Western New York, where Mike was born nearly 50 years ago. During those 50 years, Bastine has collected his observations and thoughts about the outdoors -- and mankind's place in it -- to the extent that he has developed presentations he believes "will help provide us guidance as well as sustenance from nature."
His final spring gathering drew just a half dozen at Beaver Meadow last Sunday, a pleasant, sunny day that Bastine and his attendees agreed would have been enjoyably spent outdoors -- rather than indoors talking about nature.
His gatherings have numbered as many as 80 people, but, he said, "I would prefer sizes of 25-30 to avoid a lecture-type atmosphere. I like it when people interact on discussion items, rather than just join as an audience member."
His messages are simple but require some deliberate self-examination as well as looks at nature and being outdoors. Bastine has spent time with the Seneca Nation of Indians, a part of the Iroquois Nations that span New York State, along with other Native American tribal groups from across North America.
His concern about mankind's place in the outdoors stems from long-standing North American Indian tribal prophecies that surfaced in the 1950s. He cites, in particular, Hopi Indian predictions of evil times arriving in the 1970s and '80s, with fears of devastation sometime at the start of this new century.
"Locally, these prophecies about nature seem accurate. Numbers of scavengers have increased tremendously in the past 20 years, such as turkey vultures, red-tailed hawks and coyotes along with an abundance of Canada geese."
Bastine sees this increase in species as a start of a major die off of life given in Hopi and other tribal prophecies. "Nature seems to respond and cull species numbers to keep its balance," he said.
Part of the problem has been an ongoing destruction of natural habitat so that animals are forced away from their forage, nesting and resting areas, a group effort. While mankind cannot stop all developmental progress, Bastine suggests that each individual needs to enter natural settings with a regard and a respect for natural creatures.
"If you were blindfolded and had something touch your hand, you would be happy to see a butterfly but jump at the sight of a wasp or bee. Those insects sense that love and fear," he said. His purpose is to have people connect with nature warmly, rather than with fear.
"Don't get me wrong. I've been stung many times, but that was always when I moved into their (bees and wasps) space without noticing their nest in a tree or in the ground."
His sharing of information keys on teaching people to help themselves. He emphasizes finding a comfort zone -- better health of mind and body -- for a renewal of life forces.
"The simple beauty of nature -- the sights, sounds and smells -- is a collective curative in itself. Just having trees in a neighborhood has a positive effect on overall life everywhere."
Although he contracted diabetes and found alternative treatments -- mainly dietary changes -- he cautions not to experiment with native medicinal plants and treatments unless well experienced. These native remedies may interact with prescription drugs. Check with a doctor and try alternative medicines separately from prescribed drugs.
"I'm not trying to put doctors out of business, I just want to develop a mindset to deal with major life changes," he said. "If I can avoid the use of insulin, I will change my eating habits to live a healthy life."
He did, but he suggests that patients taking any kind of prescribed drugs check with a doctor and not get on a regimen of taking two conflicting kinds of treatment.
"Treat your own body like one of your own kids. Feed it better food, breakfast to supper," he said.
He discounts magical powers. Instead, he favors feelings akin to William Wordsworth's line from "The world is too much with us:" "Little we see in Nature that is ours."
His wife, Pam, supports Mike's views. She did a video, "coming together," on trying to become aware of nature as a common ground for humans to learn and find out our future.
The Bastines consider these approaches not a scare but a signal to prepare for difficult times -- not just exercising for health -- we can foresee with closer looks and more directed thoughts about nature.
"We wouldn't live a day without nature but nature could exist without human beings indefinitely," he concluded.
Bastine's "Reconnecting with Nature" monthly gatherings at BMANC will resume in September.
For information about all Beaver Meadow Audubon Nature Center activities, call (585) 457-3228 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.