Sunday, January 19, 2014

Be A Witness

Nature lovers are experiencing a near winter-Nirvana of  Snowy Owls sightings this year.  The good news has been spread far and wide --and by all means go forth-- and sear the memory of Snowy Owls into your brain.  Commit it to your memory, as these events may not happen again for another 70 years or so.  Or maybe never.

The Snowy Owl's winter visit to Ohio
Most years, Snowy Owl sightings in Ohio are rare. This winter has produced numbers for the record books.

Summer scene on Lake Erie sand bar.
If you admire birds and nature in other forms, please, go forth and fill your heart and soul with nature. Then prepare to be a witness.  Spend this summer luxuriating in those common sightings:  gulls on Lake Erie, great egrets fishing in clean waters.  Our lives are filled with everyday miracles that we take for granted.

Yellow Trout-lily blossoming in mid-Ohio woodland 
Plan your botanical field trips, whether they be across the state, across the county or as near as your local park or nature preserve.  Enjoy the dew sparkling on the spring ephemerals, for like the dew, flowers are soon here- and then gone. If you are one of the fortunate few who have seen the native orchids in southern Ohio, or the rarest of "daisies" in all our land: burn it into your memory bank. 

Monarch Butterfly 
For we know not when the time will come that our common and under appreciated forms of nature will no longer be common.  For years, we considered the monarch as child's play: easily seen and known to all.  But now, we lovers of lepidoptera fear the end of the migrating Monarchs. Last I read, the full number of the wintering flight in Mexico could be contained on a few acres.

If theirs is to be the fate of the passenger pigeons, we will be the ones called upon to retell the glory days of our childhood, when Monarchs were found in every field and ditch.

People in Beijing, China gather to see "sunrise" displayed on a jumbo tron screen.
See this photo and article at World Time
In a world where air pollution is so bad, sunrises are now broadcast on screens, toxic blue-green algae threatens Ohio waters and drought conditions are about to change agriculture as we know it in the U.S.A.  It is not just polar bears (and snowy owls) that will be impacted in the coming years.

John Muir spoke of a "love of wild nature in everybody."  E.O.Wilson similarly tells of "biophylia" or the human tendency to affiliate with life and natural processes.  If you have read this far, certainly you can relate. 

Those of us who love nature, may be called as witnesses.  There are children growing up in a world where they can no longer see a sunrise.  Children in Appalachian Ohio see their streams in shades of orange- the effect of mining run-off.  It is not just West Virginia with environmental problems.

If you love nature, it is time to "own it." Take time to admire natural beauty in whatever form you choose, but also make time to speak out, write a letter, or sign a petition.  Ultimately, if those of us who love nature do not speak up now, we will be called as witnesses to our children and grandchildren. 

This was once a beautiful world, with clear waters, blue skies and butterflies...



  1. When I worked for NRCS, it was sometimes hard to convince people that there were water quality problems. They had grown up accepting brown as a natural stream water color. The idea of clear water after a rain was foreign to them.

  2. Thank you, Cheryl, for this very beautiful and very powerful essay.

  3. Thank you, to both Steve and Lisa. The support from naturalists of your caliber is most uplifting. You both have done much to understand and promote nature in your own ways.

    We must only persevere and encourage others to speak up as well. Soon we shall have a full choir.

  4. The world has indeed become a scary place. We have quite a bit of milkweed in our gardens and have tried to do our part to become a "Monarch Way Station." We had two Black Swallowtail caterpillars feasting and growing and a number of Skippers, but less than ten Monarchs were spotted all season this year.
    Enjoy everything that lives among us while you can...