14 December 2008

I Would Rather Be Ashes Than Dust...A Eulogy

By request, here is the full text of the eulogy delivered by Sean at Kirsten's funeral. Please feel free to share it with anyone who may have missed the service. The family has endured this past week through support from so many friends and relatives. Your intentions, and your efforts are appreciated more than we could express. Thank you all.


I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.

I found this quote from Jack London on Kirsten’s website. It speaks to a place in all of us – a place of real strength and passion. It calls us to be present, and to act! It reminds us to keep the spark of life burning brightly. My sister, like my father before her, shined so brightly. They both possessed a powerful intellect that is unmatched in my experience. Kirsten’s burned with such intensity that it reached around the globe. But the flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long.

There is a natural period of grief we all must endure as we let go of a daughter, a sister, a friend. I personally have been crushed by waves of emotion all week as I sort through all she left behind. I appreciate the tears. They remind me how much Kirsten means to me. They keep me present, and force me to evaluate what is truly important in life. I do feel a sense of loss, but I’m not willing to indulge despair. Kirsten has already found peace. Now I must surrender to what is, and just let her go to find my own. I am not here to mourn the loss of Kirsten. I’m here to celebrate the blessing of her presence in of our lives.

I had the unique opportunity to join Kirsten at work one day on the beach in Florida. We had coffee, breakfast, and arrived on the beach well before dawn. We spent the day scouring a 10-mile beach of white sand looking for white eggs the size of a quarter. She could spot them from a moving ATV, while I could hardly see the small birds who gathered nearby, indicating their location. She was incredibly sensitive to her surroundings which allowed her to be of great service in her work.

More than any other animal, Kirsten fought to protect the turtle. To her, it represented the bridge between land and sea, relying on both for its survival. This sensitive creature, vulnerable to forces on both land and sea, was, to Kirsten, the canary in the global coal mine. Kirsten studied, traveled, educated the public, accepted awkward living conditions, and even broke laws to ensure this majestic creature’s survival.

Like the turtle, Kirsten was timid and fragile beneath her thick protective shell. The same sensitivity that helped her excel in her work also created much pain in her personal life. If there is any tragedy to be found in her life, it is this: she often failed to give herself the same unconditional love that so easily flowed through her work.

It seems to me that Kirsten was at home out in the world, easily thriving outside her shell. While away, she developed a power that she rarely displayed at home. In her travels, she seemed to grow larger. Through service she found her power. She simply shined when her work inspired her. Anyone that saw her at work saw the selfless efforts of a true custodian to Mother Earth. Her conservation work kept her spark burning, and when it was lit, she was immense. Peter witnessed this on a visit to Jekyll Island, GA. Mom saw it on Antigua. And I saw it full-force on our travels through Malaysia. When she was in her element, she attracted to her all kinds of unique life experiences. For example, she told me once that she received 6 marriage proposals in one day while working in Barbados. This is hard to believe at first, but having glimpsed her world once or twice, I’d believe almost anything.

Still, at home, she did come down to earth from time to time, and had a spontaneous, wacky sense of humor. She had a wonderfully endearing soft side that was perhaps best known by my sister Megh, and her family, Tom and Gabriel. When she wasn’t eating movie popcorn, she also made some world-class southwestern food. Before this week, I knew her mostly through family. As the responses come in from friends near and far, I’m delighted to see she had such far-reaching positive influence.

Just two weeks ago, we gathered to welcome my beautiful nephew, Sebastian to the family. Now here we are to bid farewell to Kirsten. Although the tone of these two events is vastly different, the circle of life is now complete. Birth and death are but two ends to a life, equal in value, and equal in joy. They cannot exist without each other. Death is the one certainty that we all face. We deny it at our own peril. Better to embrace the truth of our mortality, allow peace to find us here and now, and live without fear. For fear and worry only waste what life we are given.

Who’s to say that Kirsten’s was an untimely death? We are but players on the stage, and we lack the director’s broad perspective. Sure there are some questions left unanswered, but there are forces at work that exist beyond our control. Who knows what will unfold in time?

I believe every morning you wake up, you’ve been blessed with a gift. What you do with that gift is entirely in your hands. The fruits of our labors may never be seen. But that’s no reason to stop believing our highest ideal, and working to make it real. Whatever you feed will grow. Kirsten’s work in raising awareness planted so many seeds, which even now are nurtured through people reading her work, and contributions aimed at continuing it. Now, the torch, it seems, has been passed…

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” These words from Mahatma Gandhi were written at the end of every email I ever received from my sister. More than anyone I know, she embodied this message. At a young age, she found her passion, and had the courage to allow it to direct her life, often sacrificing personal comforts and worldly success to win small battles on a beach you never heard of. She will always remain to me an example of living your truth, and being the change you wish to see.

Kirsten squeezed a lot of life into her short years.
She will be missed.

Thank you all for coming to celebrate her memory.

12 December 2008

memorial contributions for Kirsten

while we have mentioned various foundations and websites regarding memorial contributions in Kirsten's name, we would like to suggest a specific conservation fund that has just been established by the Department of Interior's Gulf Islands National Seashore. this is the conservation group that Kirsten has worked with most recently and was very close to her heart.

please follow the link below to get specific information regarding the newly established foundation.


thank you all for your support. let's send this link around the world and let it have the impact that Kirsten was making herself.

special thanks to DJ and Mark for getting this together so quickly and publishing the information.

-dahlen family

11 December 2008

kirsten's memorial service update

the funeral will be held saturday, december 13 at st. catherine of siena church. doors will open to visit family at 10am, followed by mass at 11:00. burial will be private.

St. Catherine of Siena
2501 Centerville Rd
Wilmington, DE 19808
(302) 633-4901

thank you all for reaching out and sharing how kirsten has touched your lives. your support in this is much appreciated. contacting such a large number of people is a colossal task. please spread the word to anyone you think may have been missed.

10 December 2008

farewell to my sister, the turtlegirl

kirsten touched the lives of so many people. through her teaching, her writing, and her life, she made friends worldwide. by posting here, i hope to get the word out to as many of you as possible in a timely manner. as the drama of her death unfolds, and the arrangements are made, i will keep this page up to date. please be patient. i know there are loads of questions, and i'll try to address as many as i can.

first, the facts:
kirsten dahlen was found dead in our mother's home in delaware on the afternoon of tuesday, december 9. she had been in the area about 2 weeks, originally coming to attend my nephew, sebastian's, baptism. she had been in her usual spirits and health during most of this visit, not complaining of any disease apart from insomnia in her last 2 nights. she spent the last day of her life asleep, which we all assumed was the rest she needed. when i came to wake her, she had passed away. the cause of her death remains somewhat unclear, but is apparent that she died in her sleep, and i believe in peace. there is a general agreement that her history of eating disorders may have caused a weakening, and eventual failure in her heart. what actually triggered her death is still a mystery right now, and perhaps will stay so. time may reveal more, but this won't change the reality of her passing.

the target date for funeral services is saturday, december 13. the location will be saint catherine of siena church in wilmington, delaware.

kirsten carried such a bright torch in her environmental conservation work. she worked tirelessly to protect animals and habitats threatened by change. for this, she was my hero. to anyone interested in honoring her memory, i suggest supporting local environmental efforts, teaching a child about the treasures of nature, or simply going outdoors and celebrating the moment in whatever way you see fit. be the change. i hope to have something more complete to post, including ways to donate and contribute in her memory, in the coming week as the dust settles.

again, please be patient. i'll post details as they arrive.
our family is doing as well as we can given the situation, and we are humbled and grateful for the love and caring we've received already from those who knew kirsten.

so many emotions move during such a time... so many questions. in the end i find solace in the fact that kirsten is now resting in peace.


30 November 2008

One More Family Photo

I promise the next post will be about turtles, but I had to post one from Sebastian's baptism for my family to see... It may be a long time before all the aunts and uncles are in the same country again!

26 November 2008

Meeting Sebastian

I don't normally post family stuff on this blog, but I have to post some photos of my newest nephew, Sebastian. I finally met him on Tuesday, and he's already seven months old. The fact that he lives in Sweden makes it harder to stop in for a visit!

Isn't he adorable? I'll have to get a photo of him in his turtle clothes :)

He seems pretty enamored with his Uncle Gustav (Helene's brother), who will soon be his godfather as well.

Gabe is enjoying the visit as well -- check out the wild rastafari hat he got at Disney last month.

And, of course, the four siblings. We're all actually in the same country! We'll get better pictures on Saturday when we're all not sleep deprived from our various journeys.

24 November 2008

Clam Creek, Jekyll Island

As you may have heard, the traveling turtle girl is traveling these days :)

I had a long drive back to Delaware, and made it even longer by driving to the Georgia coast before heading north. I wanted to see the new Georgia Sea Turtle Center, and visit one of my favorite spots in the USA -- Clam Creek.

It's not at all like Pensacola, but it's still gorgeous.

The entrance, with the graceful Spanish moss-draped live oaks is enchanting.

The pictures don't do it justice; it's like driving through a deeply-shaded tunnel, which is incredibly welcome in the heat of a summers day!

There are egret models here as well.

Some beach-combers commented on how co-operative the birds were as they watched me snap away. Of course, the abscence of an ATV may have helped!

Of course, eventually s/he had enough and flew to a nearby marsh.

Maybe it was just lunchtime!

You know you're in Georgia when the shrimp boats stack up, arriving from a bountiful trip to sea. Georgia is fantastic shrimp territory, and the captains are great about using TEDS and rescuing turtles!

We call the beach here either boneyard, graveyard or driftwood beach. Driftwood isn't really appropriate as most of these trees have fallen from the maritime forest as the island erodes at the north end.

The trees initially die from salt water flooding, then fall once the underlaying beach erodes beneath their roots. It's an amazing place to play at low tide -- at high tide, they are nearly covered with water!

You can see some of the tiny drainage/erosion channels here, though it's likely just a few sand grains traveling down this path.

I'll post more on the Georgia Turtle Center in a separate post.

22 November 2008

Farewell to Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida

It was my final day on the beaches of Gulf Islands National Seashore. I was disappointed that it was so windy and cold - it made the birds rather shy as they sought warmth in the frigid weather.

I did get a few shots, but I had to work for them! This crawl isn't a turtle crawl - it's a turtle girl crawl... It was the only way to get a photo with the skittish birds.

They seemed to fly at the drop of a hat today. They really needed some warm sunshine.

I have so enjoyed my time here, and will miss the gorgeous gulf greatly, but I know there are fantastic adventures ahead. Thanks so much for following my blog to see how the beach is doing.

Things will change drastically in the next year as road work continues -- the road to Fort Pickens should be finished by April!

20 November 2008

Glaucous Gull at Fort Pickens

It was a gorgeous day for a bird survey at Fort Pickens today, though the birds are very skittish with all the road equipment!

There was one unusual gull on the north shore that Bob and Lucy Duncan have confirmed for me -- I never trust my own identification...

It's coloring is so unusual compared to our more prevalent laughing, ring billed and herring gulls. I'm still waiting for the flocks of Bonapartes to arrive!

18 November 2008

It's Freezing on the Beach!!!

I know I've been bad about posting lately, but that's because it's been too cold for photos and I want to save the text posts for my trip to Delaware next week...

I did get out to the beach today at Perdido and it was COLD! I let Cathy take a photo of me in my three jackets, sweatshirt and three pairs of pants. I could hardly move, but it was still too cold for my taste. And yes, Mom, I wore a hat (well two hoods and a balaclava and ear muffs). Delaware will be tough!

There were very few birds, and I didn't take any photos of them, though I did catch Cathy, a park VIP who finally admits it was 'a bit chilly'. Check out her chilly outfit -- I'd hate to see what she wears when she thinks it's cold!

The wind was the real culprit on the beach, so we stopped from time to time to catch our breath, and Cathy searched for shells.

There were great contrasts in size,

of both shells and crab claws,

and color.

It may not have been on my 'to do' list, but it was still fun! Now I just need to thaw out a bit :)

13 November 2008

Seasonal Birds

People say there are no seasons in Florida. I think it's that the seasonal cues are a little different from what people are used to.

All the osprey have fledged and fly around,

chasing fish...

Great blue herons, young and old, spend more time in the sunlight,

Redheads, mergansers, scaups, scoters, Canada geese, and other fowl join the fun.

The unmistakable buffleheads fly in.

The flocks of dunlin join the fray. See, there are seasons -- the chicks are grown, the turtles are all hatched, the wind blows a little more briskly and fall IS here!

Fog, Light and Mirrors

The day started out shrouded in heavy fog. It felt as if I were walking in the clouds as I walked around Perdido Key (that's another story... I got the ATV very stuck in the mud).

The sun came out in fits and starts, promising a sunny day then dipping back behind it's gauzy veil.

Around 10 am, the sun finally took a firm stand, lighting the water, the beach and the sky.

It was worth waiting for! After our wintery October, it was nice to be warm again!

International Coastal Clean-Up!

The 2008 Coastal Clean-Up on Santa Rosa Island was a great success, but we can work together to make everyday a Coastal Clean-up Day... Help us keep our beaches beautiful!

For details on the 2009 coastal clean-up efforts in Pensacola or in your area, or other ways you can help, click here.

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