There is no exact edge. No point in these woods where deciduous forest turns to one dominated by conifers. Rather there are broad transitional zones where the woods contain both evergreens and hardwoods. It has long been my observation that these areas are used as travel corridors for many mammals. These areas are a blend of cone bearing trees that keep their foliage throughout the year and trees that hold dense leaved canopy in the warmer moths and shed their foliage as the weather gets cooler and the sun hugs the southern horizon.
These areas may offer a natural compromise; a homogenized concoction of nature’s best. It is the sterling agreement between plant communities that accommodates the ability of a natural ecosystem to succeed. There is no war between competing factions. A natural infusion of the right time, the right place, the right set of circumstances, and the right species seems to be a part of the equation that creates the perfect amalgamation and a unique ecosystem.
It occurs to me that we are taught from an early age that much of nature is based on the survival of the fittest. In truth this is a poor human interpretation of the natural world. The ecosystems that presently exist on this planet are widely varied and volatile. Each has evolved, over millions of years, by an unintended system of compromise that fits the varying climates of this great planet. From deserts to tropical rain forests, from the great blue seas to the highest peaks, and from equatorial regions to the polar ice caps natural ecosystems have developed that make each area rich and unique.
Whether you believe in evolution or divine intervention our present ecosystems are the product of both competition and compromise. While it is true that individual plants and plant communities competed with each other it is also true that over long periods of time these same plants adapted to the environments in which they tried to survive. In effect the plants (and plant communities) compromised, by changing, in order to carry on.
As I stand here, surrounded by the living forest full of birds singing, branches dancing in a gentle breeze, overhead foliage photosynthesizing, it occurs to me that our human interpretation of the natural world is so often misguided. We see in the world what is familiar to us rather than what actually occurs. Our intent is to control our environment so we see the planet as a fractured set of random events rather than the perfect orchestra playing a flawless symphony. In fact if there is one sour note that Gaia has played during this otherwise superlative concert it has been her experience with homo sapien.
We meddle with what we do not understand. Worse we think we know it all when we know nearly nothing. We believe all riddles can be solved with our perception of the three dimensional world when mathematics demonstrates there may be at least eleven different dimensions. It seems that we can’t help ourselves. We bounce around erratically like a pinball in a game machine. Sometimes we make the lights blink, alarms sound, and points are scored. More often the ball is drained into the belly of the machine bringing the game closer to the end.
As I stand here, alone with my thoughts, the silhouette of a white-tail doe and her fawn can be seen on a not so distant ridge. The doe stops and looks in my direction. She lifts her nose in the air. The wind blows towards me so she cannot catch my scent but she still moves her fawn in a westerly direction and they slip out of my site over the brim of the ridge. There is no question that she knew I was there amongst the hemlocks, oaks, maples, and white pine. It is doubtful she saw me at that distance. Perhaps it was simply a sixth sense she utilized that we humans find difficult to recognize. Perhaps she listened to what her unconscious told her. Perhaps we humans should do the same.
Written for www.wildramblings.com in August, 2011.