An essay on the enjoyment of the natural world around us.
Sometimes the cares of the world seem to close in on us and we lose our direction and our sense of purpose. World events are disturbing; people are dying, we are polluting our environment and our government often seems to be as lost as we are. On one hand, politicians tell us that they have all the solutions to our problems. We just have to raise taxes and they will use these resources to cure the ills of the world. On the other hand, there are the doomsayers that only see the clouds and tell us that everything is going to hell in a hand-basket regardless of what we do.
A little solitude is good for the soul. It is good that we have scenic wild places reserved as parks and national forests so that we can go into these natural settings and allow our spirits to be regenerated. The peace and quiet and the slower pace in this natural setting lowers our blood pressure, slows down heartburn due to the generation of stomach acid and sets us on an even keel again.
I love to hunt, fish, bike and kayak; but sometimes it does a body good just to find a quiet place in the woods to sit down and observe. The tiny interconnected things in nature are miraculous and we can see all kinds of symbiotic relationships that should make us wonder why we humans have such a hard time fitting into the scheme of things. Everything in nature has a purpose. Bees pollinate plants, termites eat woody debris, trees and other plants process carbon dioxide and create oxygen and the high winds prune the dead limbs from the trees. It is all interconnected.
Take some time to observe and appreciate nature and let the beauty and wonder of it have the profound effect on your life that it has on mine.
Consider the lowly honeybee. He lives in a remarkably organized society. Every bee knows its’ role and carries out his duties. The workers produce wax from special gland and build the comb using a complicated, but very functional octagonal shape. The cells are slanted upward to hold the nectar gathered from flowers until evaporation condenses it to the proper condition and then the bees cap the cells with wax.
The workers care for the queen, whose only responsibility is to lay eggs to produce future generations. Should the queen die, the workers can select a larva and feed it “royal jelly” which causes it to become a new queen. The queen is larger than the workers and drones (male bees), and only mates once, and continues to produce fertilized eggs throughout her life.
The drones only role is to fertilize the queen and in the winter, the excess drones are pushed out of the hive by worker bees to die. They cannot gather nectar like the workers since they have modified mouth parts and live on the honey that the workers gather.
Without honeybees to pollinate plants, our agricultural success would be greatly reduced. The abundance and quality of our fruits and vegetables would be diminished. It is estimated that bee pollination adds about 14 billion dollars annually to improved crop yield and quality. They pollinate about 130 agricultural crops in the US.
Ants are also prolific workers and collect and “farm” certain kinds of aphids and eat the “honeydew” nectar that they produce. They bring leaf parts into the burrow for the aphids to eat and facilitate the production of the nectar. Ants forage far from their nests in the ground and leave trails of pheromones that they can detect to find their way out and back from long distances.
Pigeons and many other birds have a mysterious ability of orientation. Homing pigeons can be taken hundreds of miles from home to a place that they have never been. When they are released, they will circle a few times and then strike off in a straight line for home, sometimes beating their owners home.
Nature holds many mysteries. How can the salmon that goes to sea as a small fingerling find the way back to spawn after several years of living at sea? What signals the beginning of migration for the migratory species and how do they find their way? How does the mother bird in the nest know that she must turn each egg over at least once each day, or it will not develop into a chick?
We need some mysteries in our life. We need to know that there are some things that we as humans can’t explain. There is a mysterious power that controls these things. We call it God’s plan. Some just call it “nature”, “mother nature”, instinct, etc.
I am just thankful for these little mysteries that I can observe and realize that I am just a small part of the symbiotic relationship of all the creatures on this planet. If I walk down some woodland path and see you sitting on a stump with your chin in your hand, looking at an anthill; I’ll know that you also appreciate these little things that add so much to our lives.