Saturday, May 03, 2003

I may be bummed out about not having a job lined up, but I'm definitely happy about something else: I'm getting my body back. I've been back on my bike from time to time, and today Rick and I spent 3 hours hiking at the Kalamazoo Nature Center. The only remaining problem I have from my early-March surgery is some mild pain that may be related to a nerve injury during the procedure; fortunately, exercise makes it feel better rather than worse. I'm very much aware now that my body is the only one I'll ever get and that I need to make it last.

The bugs were great. Tiger swallowtails, green darners, and tiger beetles on the wing; the usual mama bumbles and honey bees, along with their mimics, buzzing away; a nice little geometrid moth hiding for the day buried in tree bark. The wildflowers are great too; blue-eyed Mary, marsh marigold, white trillium, at least three or four violet species, spring beauty, rue anemone, and blue cohosh. Also saw some turtles, a barn owl, and two way cool water snakes. As for the bad bugs: Reached behind my ear a few minutes ago and retrieved a tick that had undoubtedly been looking for a place to attach since our afternoon walk. THAT one took a swim, as Bill Cosby used to say, "straight down the sewie hole".

I love nature centers, but I often worry that we're spending too much effort, as a culture, on turning nature into a museum exhibit at the same time that we're threatening it on a large scale. Our nature center, for example, is impeccably maintained in the places where maintenance is necessary, and wonderfully wild in the places where wilderness is the whole point. But, all of this comes with two trade-offs. One is an admission fee that would be hefty for a blue-collar family. The other is a location a bit off the beaten path, where families or individuals lacking cars (or good bicycles and riding skills) would have trouble with access. Nature centers have their places, but I'm afraid we rely on them too much to preserve wildlife. Even as a blue-collar kid in the 1960s, I had a big back yard where I could let the bugs and flowers introduce me to science. I'm sure that the natural world has also stimulated many intellects towards the arts and other humanities. Add that to the importance of natural ecosystems to the maintenance of human life on this planet, and we're kidding ourselves if we think that we can cram all of nature into a few exhibits, even though those exhibits may be excellent.

On the book list: Holldobler's and Wilson's The Ants. I've meant to read it for the last decade. Now's my chance. I am completely blown away by the Hymenoptera. They [buzzin'] rule!

(R.I.P., Old Man of the Mountain ....)


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