I am absolutely excited to share with you that my poem “As One” is now a finalist for the Snow Leopard Conservancy’s “Art & Poetry” 2023 contest. I’ve always loved animals and have a close connection to them, and I am so blessed that they love me too – and wildlife conservation is truly one of my most loved works that I’ve been involved in. Throughout my life I’ve sheltered and rescued many, and I dream of having my own wildlife conservation organization and animal shelter some day. I’ve taken care of and temporarily opened my home to malnourished stray kittens, injured squirrels and baby swallows when their nest fell down during a storm. I’ve also had beautiful hands-on experiences with Siberian tigers, Arctic wolves, hawks, foxes and a hyena. I once even protected a mouse in the subway. Needless to say, I love animals.

Leopard in particular holds a very special in my heart, and I’ve had beautiful experiences with leopards and jaguars in my real life; and also, I am kind of similar to it – introspective, private, quiet, observant, sometimes perhaps a little elusive and mystical, yet deeply feeling, intuitive and connected to my senses, and very, very, cuddly. As many of the other leopards, the snow leopard too is endangered and I hope that no matter how little, I can do what I can to support them.

Photography by Suzi Eszterhas

The Snow Leopard Conservancy is a non-profit organization that was founded in 2000 by Dr Rodney Jackson, a leading expert on snow leopards (Panthera uncia) and their habitat. The conservancy works to engage and incorporate local communities in protecting snow leopards in Nepal, Mongolia, Bhutan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and India.

The Snow Leopard Conservancy works with local people to not only find a way for them to live harmoniously with snow leopards but also to become their guardians. They have many amazing projects in monitoring, conservation solutions, mitigation of human-predator conflict, health projects and improving access to veterinary resources in the high mountains; and in Nepal, with only 300-400 snow leopards in the wild, the organization has a great project to find peaceful ways of co-existence by transforming local attitudes of herders living with snow leopards.

Photography by Suzi Eszterhas

It’s a wild communion: Looking at the nature of our relationships with wildlife

We all live together on this earth, and with little ones and big ones, little creatures and wild bigger animals, we share everything, we are in wild communion. We share life, streets, breath, earth, storms and biology. We share our needs for food and water and shelter and nurturing. We share the longing to love, mate and build our homes, to give new life and to keep our little ones safe and warm and fed. We share in the fragility of life, in our living tangled in complexity, in our vulnerabilities to ailments, and in the tears when we’re in pain. We share a certain life, and a certain death. We share everything, constantly and continuously, every moment of the day and night, across the fabrics of time and the soils of lands. And in this shared earthly living, when we give our attention to it and we reach our hands towards it, we find our compassion and our empathy for wildlife.

Every animal has its own rhythm, presence, voice, silence, song, body, place. We are bound by our sameness and uniqueness, simultaneously. Everything in life is a relationship, and we can build a relationship to anything and everything if we pay attention to it. We can build intimacy even to a room with four walls if we spend enough time with it; and if we notice, truly notice, we’ll see how spirit flows through everything around us, is imbued in everything, all has its own language, and it is all somehow in union and interconnection. We can only love what we appreciate.

Photography by Steve Tracy

This is the wild communion – connections we make out of heart and all the other unspoken but deeply felt languages. And it is in this recognition that we move beyond simple compassion to a more essential kind of connection. In return to your kindness, the animal may not give you back a tangible gift, money nor stand up on its back legs to say thank you, merci boucoup or dankeschön; but you will receive something deeply meaningful through the way you are able to be generous and love those who do not give to you in turn in the way you want them to.

Whether wandering the sea shores or the deep forests, whether I meet eyes with a rabbit in the wild, or whether I’m smelling a rose beside the urban sidewalk amidst the concrete jungles, I have no difficulty feeling that which may not be feeling me the same. I have no difficulty desiring to help and kneel to help a creature that may not be able to thank me with words. I have no difficulty feeling the roots of our interconnection – it’s a sacred thing. It is a humble thing.

Photography by Suzi Eszterhas

If we cannot show love and compassion towards the small things, if we don’t show up for them when they need us and in the ways they need us, then we surely do not deserve the love and grace of the big things. Humanity needs to learn to love, and to love isn’t selective, isn’t selfish, and it isn’t only “when I feel like it or get something in turn”. Love is not just a feeling, or thoughts or dreams, it must be shaped and expressed through our lips, hands and gestures. Love is a verb.

And if we all come together, with love and with compassion, and with intentional actions, we’ll be together; and our children will not grow up not knowing what a snow leopard was. As the Native American proverb says, “We don’t inherit this earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children,” so may we not rob them of what’s theirs to see. Tomorrow depends on today.

Photography by Tashi Ghale

As One

Written by Lubomira Kourteva

Perhaps I am part animal part human
With a voice from a time before time beyond time
With a language perhaps not as well understood by all
But never quite fully unspoken

To some I am foreign, elusive, and quiet
But my quietness only speaks that I still exist
That I roam freely our earth
That I walk freely the intuitive landscapes where others rarely step

But am I not like you?
Paws are hands for they still give and take
And eyes are always eyes, spirit is imbued in everything
And we all walk our unique physical, emotional and spiritual wildlands
The outer and the inner ones

Emotions connect us
Movements connect us
And by your own hands’ love I may continue to be

May I continue to walk mountains, not bricks
May water be water true, not mirage
May meadows be colour alive, not glasslands

May you carry me in your intentions and conscious gestures
In our togetherness as we share
Our earth, this heaven beneath heavens

For even when our languages are different
We meet always
We connect always

We live together as one in our world
Part animal part human

Photography by Tashi Ghale

To learn more about the Snow Leopard Conservancy, and facts about the snow leopards, visit their official website, here.

You can check out all the amazing finalists for both art and poetry, here.

Cover photography: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

In-text photography: Each artist’s name is written under the photographs.

All rights of the art and photography in this post reserved by the artists and photographers.

With love & peace,

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