Thursday, October 2, 2014

Go For a Walk?

... by John Deignan

Henry David Thoreau had this to say about living: “We must heap up a great pile of doing for a small diameter of being.”  And don’t we all know it.  Our lifestyles carry significant overhead. We move tankers of oil from the other side of the planet.  We drink coffee and wear clothes that are made far away from Wilmington.  As far as species go, it takes a lot to keep us going, and our trajectory has proven Thoreau’s axiom several times over.  Amidst our doing and being, we are slowly coming to the realization that we live within very real physical constraints.

And we’re not the only ones.

The struggle to live within limits is a drama played out everywhere in our ecosystem.  All forms of plants and animals are locked in a struggle just to make it through the day, often against odds that make our circumstances pale by comparison.  It’s high drama out there in nature.  And the stage (aka: our backyard) is filled with characters that are nothing short of Shakespearean.  Blue jays that hoard almost beyond comprehension, kleptomaniacal fox squirrels who can’t stop their thieving, carnivorous plants, insects that communicate via chemical trails, and snakes that mate simultaneously with so many others of their kind that they form a large slithering ball. And the cast of our neighborhood actors goes on and on and on!

For those who want to learn more about these complex local plot lines of interdependence, I’ve put together a series of self-guided audio stations along the bike paths that run behind the hospital and behind the southeast neighborhood park.  Some of the material may be familiar, but hopefully there will be some stations that offer something new for you to think about while you are walking along.  You will soon be able to download the audio files from this website, and you will be able to identify the stations by the numbered birdhouses and plaques along the routes, which indicate which audio file to play at that location.

You can experience the natural world from many different angles.  You can observe it scientifically, you can see it through how you live your lifestyle, and you can even consider it through a philosophical or spiritual lens.  As such, some stations will speak about one particular aspect of nature, while others will be more general, and I've even put in a few nature poems for good measure.

While you and I could probably waste an entire afternoon debating what constitutes “wilderness,” I think we can all agree that we don’t need to venture to Alaska’s North Slope or Zion National Park to experience the natural world.  From the raccoons raiding our garbage cans to the monarch’s migrating south for the winter, our local environment offers you a lifetime of discovery and enjoyment.  Mortality, rebirth and everything in between can be found among the meadows and woodlands of our region.  All that is required to see the show is a little bit of patience, a little bit of imagination, and a lot of observation.