Standing in the white powdery cover of Alley Pond’s meadow alone, something moves me to savor the ability to observe distant patterns of angry steel-gray clouds touching a plaster-sculpted earth. This life sustainer with its own pattern of land and water is seemingly suspended in time by the winter’s severity.
How beautiful the meadow remains with its crop of summer plants now staged in winter’s brown hues. The swaying beige grasses replete with intricate patterns holding small seeds, the stiff brittle goldenrods with heads covered with minute downy seeds and the tall erect reeds with plumes of seeds bring me back to the present.
Wherever you look, a profusion of plants bent and broken by a season’s devices emerge from the snow carrying promises when spring arrives. In the distance, leafless trees as bare as ballet dancers appear, reveal a form and movement set to the timing of a constant breeze.
The snow covers like a blanket, insulating the sleeping plants and animals and hides all our recent environmental transgressions. I gaze at a winter scene covering the harmful man-made changes, and timelessness overwhelms me at this moment. The solitude of the moment ignores time, but can I? How many before held and savored these moments? How many following after will continue to have this opportunity?
Could this moment in my time have been shared with others of an almost forgotten way of life? I think of the spiritual native Americans surviving on the sometimes meager earth’s provisions. These early conservationists, who nevertheless cherished their Mother Earth, accepted her fates of time and season and were grateful for her beauty. Their existence melded into the order of nature. Nothing environmentally dangerous or damaging remains from their time.
I hear a crow in the distance, perhaps a signal, and my mind contemplates the vision of the tidal creek I just past and its incessant movement. It symbolizes for me the waves of newcomers to our shores. The settlers’ lifestyles and ideals included “taming” the land: cut the trees, plow the land, dam up the streams, raise your cattle, mark your boundary and dispose of the “uncivilized” native American. A title paper now declares, “This is mine.”
A new ethic reigns: greed and waste. It is right to take, burn, plunder and build. The land with its living things suffers. So what? There is more of it for the taking. Their mentality avoids the finite laws of nature. They shun the lessons and examples of an earth-bound existence for the dangerous materialism of a “now,” “in,” “fast-paced,” insensitive lifestyle. Thanks to some park preservationists, this meadow survives for now.
Suddenly, I am startled by the approach of a person. Most people in the city consider winter a play and stay-at-home, keep-warm time. He waves and our eyes and hearts meet.
Walking back together silently, our tracks are the only human ones we see, but many rabbit, bird, fox, raccoon and mouse tracks are evident and reveal other purposes and stories for them, although they remain unseen.
Sitting back home and reflecting on the walk’s encounters makes me sad as I dream about nature. As co-residents of this earth, sharing intimate moments with other living things is indescribable except to those who have also felt these emotions.
For isn’t that the point of our existence, to admire, love and protect this miraculous planet and all its creatures in all seasons?
Dr. Aline Euler
Curriculum and Grant Developer
Alley Pond Environmental Center