We took a winters’ day walk among the trees in the woodlands behind our house in Heritage Harbor. It’s enlightening what can be seen when looked for. The woods are very appealing and there is lots of plant life there. Trees of course, but a whole lot more. We found Christmas ferns and bright green mosses and holly seedlings dwelling within. There is also a fair amount of non-native periwinkle groundcover that the deer won’t eat. Oh, and also the fungi. We found some real fine examples of jumbo mushroom fungi growing on the fallen wood. We think of the many unseen fungi, on the roots of the plants that are the Internet of the woodland. But that‘s another story.
There are few formal trails into the woodlands of our community. We found one worn path along the shoreline of the lake and also some vehicle access paths around the catch basin manholes, but other than that not any access that is inviting. But we went in anyway.
We take for granted this woods that we are now immersed in. It gives us more than we know. The surrounding woodlands contribute much to our well-being. When we embrace the woodlands around our community both the woods and our souls derive benefits. Walking respectfully among the trees reconnects us with nature and makes us whole again.
The hike can be challenging. There are steep ravines and slippery slopes. There are deep gashes in the earth caused by water run-off. When water from our streets, roofs and lawns is channeled and concentrated and discharged through pipes, it emerges with the force of fast moving water in large quantities. These gushers chew away at the sides of the ravines widening and deepening them. It’s funny, kinda, that a large portion of this problem could be solved if every downspout had a rain barrel. This is a simple solution to erosion and pollution. Rain barrels are a most practical and cost effective way to do our part.
When walking the woodland you might be struck by the lack of animal life and signs. You have to listen carefully and observe. If there are mammals about then they are weary and quiet. Animals tend to avoid humans because we are often loud and hostile towards them.
They say animals need just three things, food, shelter and water; we would add a fourth, quiet. When we listen in the woods we become more aware of the sounds that humans make. The sound of tires on the highway and the sound of lawn mowers and other internal combustion engines and the most frightening sound of all, to the woodland dwellers, is the sound of a grinder eating a tree.
So, walking around we hope that there are animals about and not just foxes and raccoons and opossums, and squirrels and chipmunks and deer but also the smaller animals. We want the butterflies and the caterpillars and the beetles and the bees that pollinate the plants and feed the birds and one another. And further down in the ground the fungi are transmitting messages, and the microbes are converting organic matter into a form the plants can absorb. This interaction of the animals and plants is an ecosystem. It is the symmetry of nature. It is the miracle of ecology.
A lot can be heard and seen and thought about as we walk in the woods. When we interact with other life forms, we come to understand them better and they us. It is prudent to remember that as a society, we only value what we appreciate and when we lost touch with nature, millennia ago, the ecology got messed up. When we reconnect with and nurture our woodlands we will naturally manage this asset properly.
The earth is a spaceship and we, along with all the plants and animals, are the crew. It is in our own best interest to clean and restore our ship so that it continues to carry us safely on our journey through the cosmos.
The Minimalist Gardener