November Shimmer

November Shimmer

November Shimmer

The air was still, the light was soft and diffuse, the trail beckoned. I haven’t always been a fan of fall but Illinois does it really really well. The ticks and mosquitoes have gone away, mercifully, and the temperatures have moderated. There is a lovely lavender cast to the sky which makes the fall foliage pop.

In this particular woodland there are some hills to climb which I appreciate, both for the exercise and for the vistas. I’ll be bringing you more, soon, I hope. These sisters are maple saplings. I’m a little ambivalent about maples, to be honest. They would love to replace our oak-hickory forests, which are maybe not as pretty but which provide valuable food and shelter for a great number of creatures. In my mind, maples belong along the Eastern corridor. But one thing nature has tried to teach me is that life is all about change. So, I look for the meaning in these shifting forests.  There is a question many don’t want to consider…maybe the ecosystems we work so hard to protect were not meant to be held in amber.  Over the course of nearly 3 decades I’ve participated in restoration work, mostly as a volunteer. As the years passed I noticed that the list of invasives grows every year, land managers grow ever more stressed out, and herbicide use has increased tremendously. I’ve never been a fan of using chemicals on the land, but I was told that it was the only way to control invasive trees and garden escapees that are overrunning our natural areas. I went along with this, reluctantly, for awhile. Until I began to notice that it doesn’t even work. So I’ve been asking the question~what if we don’t do that anymore?  Yes, I suppose some species will be lost but maybe they won’t. Or maybe a new balance will establish itself, if we stop getting in there and trying to control it.

I dunno. I’d love to see some studies on it. I am starting to see some books appear on the library shelves, other people asking the same question. What a relief it would be if our preserves could go back to being a place to relax and stop being battlegrounds. Who knows, maybe other aspects of life on this planet would also find a natural balance if we would all stop trying to control everything. Isn’t that what religious extremism of all stripes is, the desire to tell the other guy how to behave?

Of course, my mind immediately tosses up “yeah, buts” at me. What about the stand of trees I saw this week with a dense carpet of reed canary grass growing under the trees, choking out all else? I don’t know. I do know that throwing chemicals and either/or mentality at it hasn’t worked. What do you think? Does anybody have any experience in this idea of helping new species live in harmony with existing ecosystems?