©2020 C. Henry Martens
My wife and I went for a walk this morning. Not an uncommon occurrence. We usually try to go for a morning walk in good weather unless we have a hike planned for the day. Most of the time we go down to the local livestock auction to look at the animals. I have a thing for cows, I admit it. If I believed in spirit animals, mine would have to be a cow. Well, more properly a bull since I am unavoidably male.
Anyhow, we were walking down to the auction to commune with the cows.
I’d dropped a piece of wood off at a neighbor’s to see if I could attract some bees that were burrowing into a rise in some bare earth along our walking path. A good gardener told me that I could attract some odd little hole-boring bees to my garden if I’d drill some holes in a stump or big chunk of wood, so I’d drilled holes in the wood with the hope the burrowing bees would take the hint.
As we were looking at the wood on our walk, trying to hope some bees into having taken up residence, a huge beetle suddenly flew past. I have no idea what kind, but this beetle was a monster for around here. My wife and I noticed the bug at the same time and excitedly pointed it out to each other.
I could see it was reddish brown and that its front legs were pushed forward and its back legs folded back to streamline the beetle’s aerodynamics, but it was flying too fast to get a really good look, so I followed it with my eyes, hoping it would land. The bug cruised higher and eventually flew far enough that it was out of sight.
But it got me thinking about how few things we see of nature lately. I mean… we really miss a lot.
And I’m not really talking about how we humans tend to stick within small territories, or similar habitats to our own. How we live 90% of our time either in the house or work environment, in buildings most of the time. Even when we travel, we tend to stick close to showers and refrigerators and television screens… which are all housed most often inside buildings.
My wife and I began talking a long time ago about how less often we see wildlife on our walks. THAT… is the missing I am talking about. The stuff that has disappeared or become rare.
A beetle flying by.
As children we saw all kinds of things. Ponds so full of tadpoles that it seemed we could almost walk across on their backs. Bugs gathering under the porch light, so thick that you couldn’t open the door. Fox and pheasant and turtles and nests full of open mouths.
It isn’t that we don’t see them. After all, we are hikers. It is that they are so rare as to become unusual. And many people… I would have to say most… never get out enough to notice that
So, I wonder about how people don’t notice, how they could be informed, and what their reactions would be if they understood how few animals there are in the world compared to fifty years ago.
My wife and I got back from our walk, and communing with livestock, and decided a small glass of margaritas at nine in the morning, a sit under the Koolaroo, and some Steely Dan at low volume as we watched the hummingbirds was in order.
Of course, a couple of the feeders needed filling. We don’t fill them full because old water isn’t good for the birds (just as we don’t put dye in the water). After my wife went to do the refills, a little black-chin hummingbird arrived, looked a little confused to find his feeder missing, and stuck his nose up against one of the tiny red Christmas lights we leave up all year.
I couldn’t help sympathizing with his confusion.