Musings about nature
I was having a conversation the other day about all the rain we’ve had lately and, in response to another person’s complaints, I noted how much easier it was for me now than during the summertime drought a few years back, when we had to water our trees with a hose every evening and got a shocking water bill.
I am so impressed how efficiently a short thunderstorm can quickly water an entire neighborhood, all at no charge!
But then our lawn care person told me that our trees and lawns have had more than enough water lately, and the additional rain was “not doing them any good.”
It doesn’t seem to have hurt the kudzu growing on most of our rear neighbor’s trees, however. That plant has flourished so well that it has managed to reach and start to envelop one of our oak trees nearest the back fence.
I find that a powerful example of the plant world’s will to live (along with the wide variety of weeds that invariably fill any blank spots in our front flower beds over a matter of days following a weeding). Opportunists just won’t be deterred.
Of course, there are many reasons people compare human beings to plants; among them is the effect of injury and aging.
The other night during dinner, my wife and I heard a loud crash and turned our heads to the window to see a limb from another of our oak trees had fallen into a different neighbor’s yard, crashing through our vinyl fence on the way. Fortunately, no person (and no other object, living or otherwise) was harmed.
We were later told that last winter’s ice storms appeared to have weakened that branch (and others, perhaps?), leading to the eventual damage. And that was one of our healthier trees, at least as far as we know.
My wife and I have found Mother Nature’s backyard gifts to be bountiful, but sometimes costly. We have been nursing another oak through many years of something called bacterial leaf scorch disease as well as chestnut borers and ambrosia beetles.
We’re talking a tree more than 75 feet tall (and probably as many years old), and it’s being undermined by bugs you can hardly see.
Towards the opposite end of the size scale, I have been privileged to see, and be impressed by, other vignettes of tiny nature in recent weeks.
I was walking slowly by some low trees when I saw something that stopped me in my tracks. A thin, squiggly green worm maybe half an inch long appeared to be suspended in space right at my eye level on the side of the trail. It was clearly in some kind of distress, as it was squinching up and straightening out over and over again.
At first, I thought it might be caught somehow in a spider web that I couldn’t see. But as I looked more closely, I realized the little fella was apparently climbing up a thread he himself had spun, which seemed to be attached to a limb a couple of feet above him.
My assumption was that he (she?) had spun a thread to lower itself from a higher branch to what it hoped was a lower one or perhaps the ground, but when it had reached nothing solid after a long descent, decided to climb back up its own ladder to where it started.
I hung around for the next 15 minutes or so, watching him do exactly that. When some young people came walking by, I pointed out the scene to them and they also ogled for awhile at the intense effort and magical appearance of the suspended worm.
Turns out, these are apparently fairly common silk-spinning worms, “oak leafrollers,” that feed on leaves and eventually spin cocoons and turn into moths.
This next observation may be something you’ve noticed too. After one of those summer downpours followed by the sun coming out, take a stroll along a forest path or maybe just look closely at some of the plants and trees in your yard or neighborhood.
Water droplets collect on the waterproof surface of many leaves, and when the sun hits them just right, there appear to be diamonds galore sparkling everywhere.
Well, maybe diamonds are the wrong analogy, as the drops are round or oval and totally smooth. But they shine and glitter and refract multicolored light just like the most impressive jewels.
On a recent occasion, I pointed this phenomenon out to some youngsters, and one of them blew on the leaves as hard as she could, spraying diamond-water droplets everywhere and giggling uncontrollably.
I imagined Mother Nature was looking down, smiling back at her.
If you enjoy such musings about nature, I invite you to share some of yours by sending us a letter to the editor.