I was going to invite my readers to go hiking down the trail with me, but then I remembered that I can't seem to upload longer clips any more, so I settled for a full turn that allows a view in every direction. This is the five acre plot of land that could become Bow's island someday. It is full of rich vegetation and is well on its way to becoming wooded, but it is still just a savanna at the moment. Perfect for chimpanzees.
|Bow on the blooming dogwood tree in 2005|
One of the things I used to ask myself, and still do sometimes, is how would the trees and shrubs and flowers in my pasture survive the onslaught of the destructive forces that Bow would unleash. I used to limit Bow's time in the backyard, because I worried that if I left him to play unchecked, he would destroy the dogwood tree. He used to break off branches as if... well, as if they grew on trees! And I kept thinking: "We only have one dogwood tree. Who knows how long it took to grow to this size! I can't let Bow destroy it. We're not rich."
|My Maternal Grandparents, Sarah & Isaac Minkowitz|
|Sword (right) and a friend in walking down the path in the pasture in 2005|
|Bow and I 2005|
|Mulberries growing on a tree in our pasture yesterday (June 2015)|
What would happen to all the new trees in the pasture if Bow lived there? Would he denude the land and leave it sandy and bare, the way the fertile Middle East became a desert once agriculture was practiced there for a while? Would he create a new Dust Bowl where he lived, the way the American farmers did in the Great Depression because they were growing too much wheat to sell to Europe? Just maybe, by cutting down some of the trees, Bow would actually be making a valuable contribution to his ecosystem. He would be ensuring that the savanna would not turn into a forest. Because it's not supposed to be a forest, it turns out. It's supposed to be only moderately wooded. There should be tall grasses growing and waving in the breeze. Who knows, maybe even poison ivy!
|Milkweed growing freely in a field of poison ivy|
|A Great Spangeled Fritillary Butterfly enjoying the milkweed|
|The Idle Monarch Butterfy never sits on the Milkweed Flower|
Source: The Elusive Monarch Butterfly
|A honey bee on a milkweed flower|
And then it struck me: maybe the Monarch butterfly is just like Bow! Maybe it's supposed to keep the milkweed population in check. Maybe destroying milkweed plants is the Monarch's job. Ask not what your ecosystem can do for you, ask what you can do for your ecosystem! What if we are each designed to do whatever it is we do best? And what if destruction is just as important as creation in the cycle of life?
|Bow lounging around this morning while it rains outside|
When Bow was little, I used to have these arguments with my interns about whether Bow was creative or destructive. We would give him a toy, and he would tear it apart, and the interns, always politically correct, would say: "Maybe he's not destroying. Maybe he's creating something new." But he didn't build something new out of the ashes of the old thing. He pounded it till it was pulverized! He smashed it to smithereens!
|A Painting I created to Taunt Vegetarians|
And maybe that's not always such a bad thing. Maybe we are not all supposed to be creative. Maybe we are not all supposed to conserve every little thing in our environment, like packrats. Maybe forest fires and locusts and plagues and chimpanzees serve a purpose, too! Maybe if we just let things sort themselves out, it will all work out for the best.
We are surrounded by conservationists who are vegetarian. But if they really want to conserve nature, why don't they acknowledge the part that one creature preying on another plays in the natural cycle of life? Why do they sound like farmers when they tell us we should plant trees to save the animals and milkweed to conserve butterflies -- and why won't they ever just leave well enough alone? They make taking care of trees and butterflies and wildlife sound like welfare work. Like we are supposed to feel sorry for the wildlife and plant trees to assuage our guilt. But in paradise there is no guilt. There is only pleasure and internal compulsion to make everything work. And with no central planner.
Late yesterday afternoon, I came across an odd looking turtle. At first I thought it must be very young, because it seemed somehow unformed.
I could not understand what was so odd about it. It seemed as if someone had forgotten to fashion part of its face. All I could think of was some lines of Omar Khayyam as translated by Fitzgerald:
And strange to tell, among that Earthen Lot
Some could articulate, while others not
And suddenly one more impatient cried:
"Who is the Potter, pray, and who the Pot?"
On one side of its face it seemed perfectly normal.
But if you looked at the other side closely, you could see there was nothing where the eye should be.
How did this happen? How could the turtle survive when it could not see anything from one side?
My friend Pam says this is a male who is about thirty years old. From the domed, pyramid-like rear of the shell, she deduced the turtle may have been kept in an aquarium as a pet for some portion of its life. I felt a little sorry for it, so I went to get it some food, but by the time I returned it was gone. Even with its disability, the turtle was not looking for a handout.
Creatures in nature are as tenacious and stubborn as a Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly clinging to a milkweed flower in the wind. They know what they are supposed to do, even though they never consider how it fits into the great scheme of things. I was told as a child that I should not pick the flowers, because what if everybody did that? But maybe we're not supposed to consider what would happen if everybody did what we do -- because not everybody does! Not everybody is a turtle. Not everybody is a flower. Some creatures are born to build, and others are made to destroy. And it all comes out all right in the end, if you let it.
Conservationists are so busy worrying about species losing their habitats, that they sometimes forget to ask what the species contribute to the ecosystem they depend on. If we really believed in natural balance, though, we would not be too quick to intervene.
I had been so preoccupied with the milkweed plants in the field all day yesterday, that I almost forgot to check whether the yucca had bloomed. So it was past sundown when I finally went to see. Sure, enough, it had, and already there were bugs crawling all over the flower. Should I do something about that? No, I don't think so. I think I will let it sort itself out.