Reflection 320: Wild Once More

September 17, 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin.     [Including 12 photos.]

OK, so wildness is in me, waiting to be projected onto sensory patterns I’m not used to. That is, my expectations are wild, or wide of the mark. Wildness is in my rough fit to the world of patterns I meet in everyday life. To me, they seem wild.

Like flies on the carcass of a dead snowshoe hare.

P1020704 96-dead-hareI’ve seen lots of dead animals on the island where I have been taking these pictures: voles, red squirrels, porcupines, harbor seal pups, loons, ring-billed gulls, Canada geese, ruffed grouse, great blue herons, red-breasted mergansers, among others. Death is a big part of the natural scene. Anything having the scent of death always seems wild. Unruly. Untamed. Unnatural, even though it’s the most natural thing on Earth.

As dead trees—snags—are natural.

P1020475 96-snag-2 P1020653 96-snag-1A pileated woodpecker made those holes looking for carpenter ants at the heart of a dead tree. That’s how it made its living, eating insects to keep it undead for another day. We all benefit from other creatures’ deaths. So wildness has an upside and a downside. It depends on which side of the engagement you are located as predator or prey.

P1020733 96-red-pine-bark

I love the look of red pine bark, which is the dead outer skin of a living tree. When laid down, those now flaking layers protected the flow of sap up and down, roots to leaves and back again. Then a new layer was added beneath them, and they were no longer useful in their original sense, but took on a wild new function as habitat for lichens, insects, birds, and tree huggers, so stayed useful in new ways.

As remnant shells of sea creatures are useful as habitat for gleaners and scavengers. And dead trees remain useful to the fungi that grow on them.

P1020767 96-mussels P1020755 96-bracket-3P1020798 96-bracket-2 P1020862 96-bracket New life from old, that is the motto of fungi, who make a living by recycling moisture and nutrients in the soil. And come to think about it, is also true of even the “lowest” of plants, lichens, and algae in recycling radiant energy from the sun.

P1020670 96-fungi-2

P1020919 96-lichen-1 P1020539 96-cranberry

One question I asked when photographing Indian pipes was, Who pollinates these pale stalks rising from damp soil? I got my answer later on when the white flowers turned upward toward the sky—or at least one possible answer.

P1020454 96-IndPipe-waspWhile I was focused on the Indian pipe in the foreground, a yellow jacket landed on the one in the background. Several yellow jackets, in fact, flew around me as I was crouched down taking pictures of their flowers. They let me finish, and I kept a respectful distance after that.

Wherever the torch of life is passed—from hares to flies, dead trees to bracket fungi, flowers to wasps—wildness is there in our inner awareness of the creative urge of nature itself. Wildness is the leading edge of life’s forward thrust as witnessed by those who are truly engaged. It is all around us all of the time if we but give ourselves to it, making it experientially, bioenergetically, phenomenologically, ours.

As natural beings ourselves, we find what we reach for in ways we never imagined. Y’rs as ever, –Steve from Planet Earth.

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