In an age when technology and daily
responsibilities occupy most of our lives, spring is a good time to steal a
moment to experience our communities remaining natural treasures. Obviously, an
opportunity for a wilderness trek has long since disappeared in most of the
commonwealth. We do, however, cling to wooded pockets of public and private
land, streams holding wild fish, farms of various sizes, and yards both large
and small, which when used intelligently, can make an immense contribution to
wildlife habitat. That being said, there is no secret our demand for
developable land continues at a torrid pace. Decisions made today will
profoundly affect the areas quality of life, and in many ways, define who we
are at heart. Private land owners, public land agencies, hunters, anti-hunters,
farmers, developers, and the general public must strive to see beyond monetary
concerns and prioritize their land use to benefit the ecology of these areas.
There is much we have to learn and much we have to lose.
Go it alone, take a friend, or
your whole family. Set aside a day, or perhaps several this spring. Explore an
accessible outdoor area near to you. Pay attention. No, I mean, really pay
attention! Look close. Forget the bills. Forget the hectic schedule. Look
close, really close. The wild mysteries you uncover by doing so may ignite a
life-long love affair with the natural world as they have for me. Observe the migratory
geese.They speckle cirrus clouds. Let your mind record and store their audible
song of longing and feel the feverish pitch. Then, imagine the sky without
Walk along a sparkling stream
swollen with winter melt. The subtle babbling will invite and convince you to
linger. Hear the soothing, hypnotic rhythm of the cold, crisp determined flow.
Delight in a streambed patchwork of earth tone pebbles, polished by years of
wash. Contemplate those years. Contemplate their absence. This place holds many
wonders. Perhaps you will encounter a graceful native brook trout in the
crystalline shallows performing a dance for prey. Many of our small waterways
still support them. You will be witness to his astounding ability, despite
color beyond perfection, to fuse craftily in the contour of the current. His
well-being is not guaranteed. Man shall rule over the creatures of the earth.
It is up to us what meaning rule will take. Imagine him gone. When leaving this
place, resist the temptation to pan for gold. You will find only memories. The
wealth and wonder is held within the power to simply let it be. Can we command
such power? I, for one, hope so.
Within your midst, budding trees of
many varieties will break their winter dormancy. Energy storehouses no larger
than a fingernail have endured the most hostile weather of the year. They are
no worse for wear. Now is their moment to shine. Within weeks, these little
miraculous gems will multiply in size by some thirty times, completely change
their physical form, and gather life giving sun to help nourish the timber. In
turn, the forest will help provide clean air to breathe, building materials our
lifestyle depends upon, and immeasurable beauty throughout the remaining year.
It all begins with that little bud. Hold one in your hand this spring. Examine
it, and the tree, very well. Careful observation will undoubtedly create as
many questions as answers. This is good. These questions, when answered, will
create an endearing adoration and reverence for wild things. This reverence
will promote conservation.
Witness also, within the songbirds
voice, an increased fortitude and urgency. Intricately woven nests will now be
taking shape. These works of fine instinctive art are created with avian
dexterity and coordination rivaling our finest industrial achievements. They
are outwardly fragile and inherently tenacious. This is a rare combination of
qualities. Should you happen upon one this spring, delight yourself by studying
the special texture and rich craftsmanship. Picture the begging brood,
eventually taking flight from this cozy cup. Will they have the benefit of safe
and prosperous habitat as did their parents? Only we can decide. Ponder their
non-existence. It can very easily happen. The consequences of this loss would
leave us that much poorer.
Enter the whitetail deer. Ever
present in our community, no wild animal has provided more recreational
pleasure to so many people. Whether acting as crafty game for hunters, being
photographed, or simply having their beauty admired, they conjure up memories
for most of us. These memories are commonly passed through generations of
families to weld special bonds. Iíve watched hundreds of wonderfully filmed
wildlife shows depicting adult deer and their young. Iíve also spent countless
hours hunting and observing their interesting lives. Somehow, these well done
programs are no competition for the actual unplanned meeting in the forest.
There is a hidden element here. Sensory overload struggles to regain
equilibrium. Your heart may skip a beat. Here is my case in point. It was late
spring, birthing time for fawns. My wife and I were returning from a nice
wooded walk. I loped along in semi-slumber. The sights, sounds, and smells of
spring had lured me to another place. Suddenly, directly under foot, the
pulsating fronds of grass parted and revealed a very young whitetail. The whole
encounter would last but a fleetly minute. Yet, the indelible scene remains.
The fawn speedily burst into a defensive standing position. Then our eyes locked.
Neither of us could believe our blunder. In these few seconds of shaken
surprise, my mind recorded lucid pictures. They have never disappeared. No
impression ever taken from television has done the same. I distinctly remember
those vibrant, dark, eyes so filled with life, transmitting emotions ranging
from curiosity to absolute fear. They shimmered in the sun like jewels, moist,
and perfectly lashed. Ears of supple pink lining and soft, three- tone hair,
scanned the surroundings and took notes for future use. There was unspoken
communication . It was not Morse code, but something much more primitive. It
quickened my pulse. A connection unaffected by
the passage of time and change was bonded to my being. Initial shock
faded to forced decision. The fawns normal line of defense, laying motionless
and scent free, had failed. It was no longer an option. The dash was on.
However, a thick stand of yellow birch lay in wait to foil the getaway scheme.
I watched in awe as the birch were flawlessly negotiated with little effort.
This was Olympic class running achieved at the ripe old age of three weeks,
with barely, if any practice. The distance between us widened. Now hidden, a
bleating cry erupted from the briars beyond. For now, safety had been won. The
doe, lurking somewhere near, would precisely pin-point the worrisome call and
without fail, locate the fawn when danger was positively passed.
I could spend the rest of my life
describing events which transpire and interesting things to study in the
outdoors. For every one there would be thousands more. My greatest wish is, for
us as a community, to begin to realize the importance of outdoor conservation.
I hope, in some small way, I have encouraged people to look beyond the doorstep
and form a strong alliance with the natural world. Perhaps together we can
lesson the degradation to the strongholds of undeveloped properties. I liken
the loss of wild places and the consequences to a game of chess. The kings are
only kings because there are queens, bishops, knights, and pawns. In other
words, diversity defines identity. Identity depends on diversity. What shall
our identity be? Do we want a chessboard world of only kings. If so, who would
we be? A highly regarded Native American once warned, ďWhen white man
eliminates all the wild places, he will suffer of lost spirit and a great
saddening of the soul.Ē This spring, get out and look closely. It just may be
what youíve been missing.
In future articles we will explore
some things we all can do to give the environment a helping hand. Whether you
own thousands of acres of land or barely any, there are contributions to make
which, when combined with others efforts, will go a long way in securing a
future for wildlife ands its habitat. Itís likely not all will agree with my ideas.
Thatís all right. Our purpose with this article is to encourage thought and
action, not to be infallible.
In closing, Iíll leave you with a final thought of a somewhat more technical nature.
Anatomically, our eyes are structured to analyze and differentiate between many
colors we see in everyday life. By scientific methods, one of these colors has
been determined to be the most pleasing and gentle to the eye. For most of the
year this color dominates our wild places. Yes, the color green. What a coincidence!
David T. Koons
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