Sometimes nature is messy. The nesting bluebirds that my neighbor lovingly supplied with dried mealy worms and fresh water abandoned their eggs, most likely because a week-long heat wave left them boiled. Despite the presence of a large dog in my backyard, each spring another brood of rabbit kits is deposited under the pine tree, doomed to an early end.
At other times, nature is wonderfully neat. Consider the monarch butterfly who intuitively knows to lay its eggs on milkweed leaves. Monarch caterpillars will only eat milkweed, and by ingesting its toxic leaves become themselves toxic, reducing the risk of predation. A fallen tree, food for fungi, beetles, spiders, and other decomposers, will one day nourish the forest floor in the form of rich, crumbly soil.
Not surprisingly, a search of nature quotes reveals that even great thinkers are in disagreement over nature’s role as hero or villain. Nature advocates wax poetic about flowers and sunshine; Aristotle claimed that “in all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” Nature’s detractors cite death, doom, and destruction, Italian writer Ugo Betti intoning, “There is no forgiveness in nature.”
I myself am more in line with Vincent Van Gogh, who wrote, “When I have a terrible need of—shall I say the word—religion…. Then I go out and paint the stars.” Perhaps we will find no answers there—at least not ones within our realm of understanding—but oh, what a view.
by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator