Here comes the wind, that harbinger of spring, shooting tumbleweeds across the field, painting the sky with dust devils, and driving long lines of visitors hell-bent (heck-bent?) on fun into Moab. Our sleepy winter has ended — not that it ever got really cold — and spring is here, ready or not.
In the greenhouse, this year’s seedlings are already clamoring for bigger quarters. They have no idea what’s in store for them outside, where sheets of red sand are being herded down-valley, natural scouring pads. The greenhouse is their last sanctuary. I think of nurseries the world over, the natural ones, like mangrove swamps, where young fish can grow in a protected environment before heading out to a dangerous sea.
Life is not for the fragile, here or there. But wait. Is it wise to just allow the small and the weak to perish? As humans, we strive to adjust the odds in our favor, modifying the environment to create space for those that could not flourish otherwise. Protecting the things we value. Things like premature infants, monarch butterflies, coral reefs, and older family members in nursing homes.
As human populations continue to increase, claiming more and more resources, including habitat, it becomes critical to conserve. To hold back on using every last crumb just because we can. If we don’t recognize the need to protect the handicapped, the vulnerable, the displaced, we will soon be living in a world without grace.
And it’s not just to enhance our lives that it behooves us to care about those who would not survive without help. Unless it is on the brink of extinction, it is beneficial for a species to include many variations on behavior: curious risk takers, scaredy-cat safety-seekers, and everything in between. A successful species is one that spreads its risk, covering the bases and trusting that, in a disaster, one of these strategies will work, and that individuals will pass on the instructions to the next generation.
I see such variations daily within the mixed flock at my bird feeding station. The ice-breakers, those courageous pioneers, driven by hunger or adventure, fly in first. They are rewarded by an open field of seed options. When it becomes clear that no danger threatens, others follow. As the space becomes more crowded, personalities emerge. Some birds fly in boldly, land in the middle of the seed pile — the land of milk and honey — but are so nervous that they dart off quickly, not scoring a single seed in their haste to return to safety.
Cautious outliers work the sidelines. Others never venture out of the bush until most birds are gone, creeping out to glean the leftovers. Every so often, a challenger blasts in and the sheer force of personality is enough to drive other birds off.
Sometimes two males will skirmish, rising up in a column, chirping and flapping at each other while below, their space is quickly filled by opportunistic movers. This is real-life diversity and you just never know when one of these skills might be needed.
Is there anything more delicious than light? The first rays of the sun in the morning, so welcome after a night of waiting? The last lambent swatches of Parriot Mesa after an overly bright day? The richly saturated colors of ordinary objects in the exciting light before a storm? Light makes color visible and color is a feast for the eyes and for the soul. One of the perks of getting older is the ability to just stop and savor the sweet small moments of beauty, recognizing happiness when we meet it; such light is a pair of warm wooly socks on cold morning toes.
Ting! There it goes again — that gratifying little chime that means someone is thinking of me. Our devices are supposed to help us, not dictate our day. Nowadays our attention is our most valuable possession and there are myriad claims on it: family, friends, work, and fun. So many distractions popping up to snare us, like the ads that slide onto our screens, the demographically targeted messages telling us what to think, how to spell, who’s tweeting what into the wind. What is the other in-demand commodity that we own? Time. Luckily, as adults, we are in charge of both, even if we sometimes do hand the reins over to Netflix.
Why does it take more time to think for ourselves and to remain open to continued thinking than to cruise thru our day on auto pilot? It’s an uncomfortable process and it requires energy. We open doors to gain understanding only to find that thinking means learning, and learning is demanding, ongoing, and messy — just when we thought we had things figured out, here comes another layer of complexity. But again, we are adults and it’s our job to figure this stuff out. So do we choose to value diversity even if it is time-consuming, attention-grabbing and sometimes very expensive? We make these choices every day with our devices, why not with our lives?
Here comes the wind again, this time bringing a cold spit of rain. The valley is socked in and I am happy, as any farmer would be, thinking of the La Sals, and storing this last tiny bit of winter chill in my soul for July.
ByBy Alice Drogin