Monday, June 07, 2010

Limitless Beauty

It's always been my intent to share nature at her very best. On occasion I have photographed a dead animal only when I thought such an image might be used to achieve some greater good for the benefit of other critters, but I seldom post them on my blog. Some who love and respect nature are so repulsed by the photographs of oil covered birds (and other animals) that they can't look at them.

I know there are certain things I do not need to see or experience to sense its emotional potency, but sometimes we need to take our collective medicine in order to gain proper understanding which will hopefully motivate us to action. Even so, the damage in the gulf is so huge it's difficult to even wrap our minds around it. If this heartbreaking fiasco doesn't serve as a catalyst to reduce our addiction to oil, then nothing ever will. What will it say about our legacy as a species if we fail to become better stewards of the Earth?

"Who ever sees dead birds in anything like the huge numbers stipulated by the certainty of the death of all birds? A dead bird is an incongruity, more startling than the unexpected live bird, sure evidence to the human mind that something has gone wrong. Birds do their dying off somewhere, behind things, under things, never on the wing."

-- Lewis Thomas, Death in the Open

Nature offers her limitless beauty and generosity. You can find such places no further than a local conservancy or natural area, perhaps your own backyard. Where we still allow the wild to be wild, the processes of nature unfold as they have for millions of years; in any given day we're witnessing a minuscule part of this grand story.

There is significance to be discovered even in what seems like insignificant parcels of time. Careful observation during a casual stroll through a prairie or a quiet walk through the woods will reveal living treasure. From the diminutive to the extraordinary, our experiences in nature leave us with cherished memories and lessons that resonate with us for the remainder of our lives; this is how we come to love and respect nature.

It's early June and already Chicory is starting to bloom along roadsides and bike trails. Despite the fact that it's an introduced invasive wildflower, I still find it rather attractive in color and shape. Yesterday I watched squadrons of Red-Spotted Purple Butterflies (subspecies of the White Admiral) darting around damp gravel in search of the perfect spot to extract a bit of moisture. Personally, I don't think there's another butterfly species found in Wisconsin that rivals it.

© 2010 Mike McDowell


  1. I saw one of those butterflies on the way to the Eagle Heights gardens. I was brought up short by one of those "wait, I know you but can't remember your name" moments but neglected to look it up when I got home. Thanks for reminding me. (And sharing the beauty!)