Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Explore Wildlife with Watson


Last updated 11/9/2023 at 2:18pm

Anyone who regularly checks into Borrego’s Facebook – Borrego 92004 – is familiar with Julian Watson’s video posts of animals as they stop by a watering hole during their nightly escapades. There’s Bob the bobcat, scratching his back on his favorite tree posts.

There are coyote’s scratching fleas; families doing what coyotes do – with babies wrestling and playing. Watson’s videos introduce followers to kit foxes, rabbits, road runners, birds bathing, owls hunting and other raptors. All are filmed in their natural state, as they gather at a number of watering ponds on Watson’s 12-acre Borrego ranch.

Who is Julian Watson? And why does he share the images of desert critters that wander through his property with Facebook followers?

“I am learning to be more observant of the wildlife on my ranch. I also watch the videos taken by six cameras I have spread out over two acres on the property. The most popular site for observing is a small natural pond.

“By sharing the videos, I am hoping to create interest in the local critters; to encourage people to get over fears, prejudices, and to enjoy spending more time in nature, be it with wildlife, or trees, or rivers. Being close to nature, and spending time outdoors, alone with wildlife, we begin to realize our similarities, and connections,” Watson explained, adding that “just as we learn to love our pets and believe they have souls, by being exposed to wildlife, we begin to overcome views that deprive many domestic and wild animals of souls and force them into a single purpose: to serve the needs of humankind.”

Borrego Springs, he claimed, is ideal for this purpose and “for pursuing a more authentic life and relationship with our environment.

“I mean, there’s no chance to get personal and close with nature in an urban environment,” Watson surmised, adding that he believes, being indifferent or without connections to the natural world, is one of the reason’s today’s world is so soulless and lacking a spiritual grounding.

“I regard my property as a safe place for wild things. I provide water, but otherwise don’t interfere – except by removing rattlesnakes for everyone’s safety.

According to Watson, it took him two years to clear the entire 12 acres, including two acres reserved for the cameras. He moved to the US from the United Kingdom in 1996, and continues his career in fashion there, representing hair and makeup artists. He is a large man, with a big open personality; and appeared like a working, outdoorsman, and dresses as such.

Could say, Julian has his own down-sized Walden Pond experiences; And like Henry David Thoreau, Watson has a curiosity and desire to have a two-way conversation with nature. “It begins,” suggested Watson, “by returning to a more simple life, spent outdoors, being in tune with nature, and recognizing not just our interdependence on the natural world, but finding our roots, and reviving the ancient indigenous wisdom of how to live authentically and in harmony with earth’s living organisms.

“As a child I fell in love with a book about the magic of animals, and at this point in our lives, my wife and I decided to pursue that magic, as well as answering the question of what it means to live in harmony with nature.”

Sharing the nightly visitations is just his way of sharing his mission and inviting followers to also get to know the personalities of creatures that haunt the night better by watching and studying them, just as he does.

And according to Watson, the purpose of the nightly show is more than entertainment. “I want people to know how similar the non-human world is to the world we call “human.” By becoming familiar with the wilderness and its creatures, we learn not to fear it, but to develop compassion, love and respect for the wild inhabitants of planet earth.”

He added that the wild path teaches that the earth is also a living thing… self-regulating, and balancing something called the natural order – organizing its constituent’s fate and futures for harmony and balance in the absence of human interference and abuse.

“When we are free from fear and ignorance and Eurocentric religious and cultural barriers that have prevented us from recognizing our interconnections with the natural world, and with all living things, we are able to find the path to living a spiritual and more authentic life.”

He believes society’s emphasis on the material world has made too many blind to the real world; and led humans to the place where a majority can randomly destroy the earth; and allow other species to become extinct, with almost no pain or concern.

“It’s not about being a monk, or isolating one from the realities of today’s life, but transcending them,” Watson believes. “We have teachers and guides in both spiritual, and indigenous worldviews that everything is alive, and related as relatives, interdependent, and as family.

“In a place with serious water shortages, this means, even sacrificing water allotments to ensure the native environment also has access to this life-giving resource.

“Indigenous practices didn’t place the human species above or of more value than the non-human environment. Just as there is spiritual worldview there is a scientific worldview -- a quantum physics’ world – one of the most elevated and relatively obscure sciences known to the average person, where everything from rocks, to turtles to humans, a the most basic level, are all alive and equal in the forms of atoms/particles.

“To be spiritual does not require a working knowledge of science or living in the past, but simply being open to connections, communicating in nature’s languages, and striving to live in harmony with the environment,” Watson suggested.

Looking for the answer to the angst of the modern world, Watson and his wife, Pheg, purposefully seek and experiment with nature through their teacher.

“Learning about nature goes far beyond books or studies, it is a never-ending field trip full of surprises and meaning. Indigenous people were eco-friendly. Got a rat problem? Get a cat,” not rat poison.

“I feel somewhere in time, man’s ego took over, and set the human species above and a part from nature. As the alpha species, however, as we have seen with the climate crisis, humans driven by ego and acquisition, haven’t the tools to make it right,” Watson suggested.

So, what’s the answer? Following many great philosophers and spiritual thinkers, Watson decided to let nature lead; set aside his ego; and begin a new synergy with the planet.

In his book, “Becoming Fully Human,” indigenous education expert Gregory Cajete is quoted as saying: “The Indigenous goal of living a good life is sometimes referred to Native American people as striving to always think the highest thought.

“Thinking the highest thought means thinking of one’s self, one’s community, and one’s environment richly, essentially a spiritual mindset in which one thinks in the highest, most respectful, and most compassionate way, thus systematically influencing the actions of both individuals and the community. It is a way to perpetuate a good life, a respectful life and spiritual life and a dynamic wholeness. “

Currently, Cajete, is a Professor of Native American Studies and Language, Literacy and Sociocultural Studies at the University of New Mexico. In Native Science, Dr. Cajete “tells the story” of Indigenous science as a way of understanding, experiencing, and feeling the natural world. He points to parallels and differences between the Indigenous science and Western science paradigms, with special emphasis on environmental/ecological studies.

“In the Indigenous view, we human observers are in no way separate from the world and its creatures and forces. Because all creatures and forces are related and thus bear responsibility to and for one another, all are co-creators. Five centuries ago, Europeans arrived on the American continent, but they did not listen to the people who had lived for millennia in spiritual and physical harmony with this land. In a time of global environmental degradation, the science and worldview of the continent’s First Peoples offer perspectives that can help us work toward solutions.”

Like Watson, Dr. Cajete, wonders, “How do we help people shift from this dominant worldview to instead always thinking the highest thought?” Or to put it more simply, how do humans recover from living for their egos and a sense of omnipotence to the art of living in balance and harmony with the Earth?

Dr. Cajete’s recommendations begin with, “Finding a sit spot outside in the natural world where you go back to over and over, so the animals get used to you, especially if you’re in a wild space. You will start to notice more and more and your senses will open up. Being present to the world in the now is fundamental.”

According to environmentalists, it’s more important now than ever in an age of massive oil spills, destructive drilling methods, extreme weather, and climate change misinformation campaigns to be present in the world. Thoreau also understood that times of crises are also times of great opportunity. He wrote, “Not till we are lost, in other words, not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.”

Animal advocates have also managed to tap into common, shared values, successfully encouraging more and more people to reexamine what living their values really looks like, especially values of respect, empathy, imagination, cooperation, adaptability, and compassion for all living beings.

For example, animals are an integral part of food systems. Earthworms aerate soil, providing pathways for water and nutrients, while insects such as bees and butterflies contribute as pollinators. Birds and bats help by keeping destructive pests at bay.

But more importantly, it’s a way of living, of seeing the world, that can only be learned by observing and integrating oneself with nature. Watson believes he is helping others become familiar and wise to the ways of the non-human world, and seeing it as an extension of living in the world.

People hold split perspectives or beliefs on whether anything matters more than humankind and its needs. However, today, if nothing else, the climate crisis, for those who pay attention, is delivering the lesson that everything on the Earth is alive and part of a self-regulating system. A system that man has messed with for his own purposes and to his own demise.

More than religion, probably more than the climate crisis, science has changed the world view of man versus the environment to just a matter of atoms changing forms with other atoms. All that live, relative to the study of quantum physics, seems to suggest everything, rocks, trees, oysters, pigs and humans are all atoms from the same origins, combining and separating and appearing in the same space.

This, according to Watson, along with the scientific evidence and growing schools of thought, is that the Earth itself is a living, self-contained, self-regulating organism.

First described by James Lovelock in 1979, the Gaia Principle describes the Earth as a single, living organism, with all its biological, geological, chemical and hydrological processes acting in concert, to regulate the planet and ensure its survival through an exquisite array of feedback loops. The Gaia hypothesis, also known as Gaia theory or Gaia principle, proposes that all organisms and their inorganic surroundings on Earth are closely integrated to form a single and self-regulating complex system, maintaining the conditions for life on the planet.

The belief that the Earth is a living organism, has gained momentum among scientists over the past decade. And, then there’s the irony, that earth, as a living organism, is dying at the hands of the very organisms it evolved.

There are scientists from the indigenous people to quantum physicists and environmental advocates, all agreeing that living in harmony with the Earth begins with recognizing everything on the planet is alive and interconnected. Watson is on a mission to share that truth, as well as the path to get there, by sharing videos of Borrego’s wild places and creatures. He hopes that compassion, connection, and communication with all life forms – harmony -- can begin with being present at night in the Borrego Desert with the land’s native, wild inhabitants.