Monday, October 15, 2012

Changes in the Prairie Over Time

I've been visiting our local prairie preserve for a couple of years now and the summer of 2012 was different. It was a summer of drought, and when I visited this summer, the changes were noticeable.
Prairie April
Springbrook Prairie in April 2012
In our Tallgrass Prairie biome, the grasses should have been at least up to my chest and the majority of them were at my knees.  Certain areas that weren't burned have tall stands from last year next to the short ones of this year.  There are no credit cards in nature, so if the heat and drought were too much for one season, the grasses go dormant and wait for the following season.  Unlike our economic system, there is no unlimited growth in nature.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Taking a 100 Year Nap

Sometimes it is fun to go on creative thought experiments, like what would happen to your home if you took a nap for 100 years and woke to see what it would look like without adding the human energy and capital necessary to maintain it. One day in late summer, I did just that as I sat on the driveway in my front yard watching my kids ride their bikes up and down the street.

I live in a wood frame, two-story single-family home in a downtown area of a suburb outside of Chicago. The siding is cedar and the base in the front is clad with limestone. To the east our home is a large walnut tree that hangs over our house unless it is trimmed back. At the north-west corner is another large elm tree. Both are approximately 100 years old. So, if I were to sleep for 100 years old - what would my home look like? What parts would nature reclaim and what parts would remain recognizable?

Prior to settlement, my home was a part of a larger swath of oak woodland adjacent to a tallgrass prairie, so I can imagine that through drought cycles inherent in our climate, this type of vegetation will gradually overcome some of the introduced landscaping plants so prevalent in our neighborhood.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Deeply Listening to Nature

For this iSite, I was to work on improving my listening ability - but not in listening to other humans (though that could always use some work).  I was to listen to the creatures around me on a particular place in time, defer judgement, set aside distractions, and be present.  In this instance, in the woods while camping in British Columbia.
Wildlife Tree
I started out thinking about my stomach moving and the scratch of my pen as I wrote in my journal.  I heard waves crashing at an adjacent shore and birds honking and tweeting all around me.  I began to stare at a "wildlife spire," otherwise known as the stump of a 4' diameter Douglas Fir which had become a colony of life for moss, lichen, insects, micorbes, etc.  I thought about how the destruction of one life led to life for countless others smaller than the original.  I thought of Shiva, the Hindu God of destruction that is also the bringer of life and saw the beauty in its decay.  Life is opportunistic.  It grabs resources when it can.  And Life finds a way.