• Dana Webster

Newcomers

Updated: May 25


The other morning, just before 8:00 am, a full-grown coyote stood in our backyard, faced our house and let out an attention-getting howl. And then it barked for awhile, the whole time watching me watch it. I did not hear a reply from any of its pack. Is that because it was already daylight by this time? Did this coyote miss the Spring time change memo? Was the rest of the pack safely ensconced in the forest and wondering what the heck this one was doing?


Full disclosure: for someone who loves the natural world as much as I do, I am woefully ignorant of how it actually operates. Like, where do all the animals go in the winter time? How often do voles mate? Why don't robins eat seeds from our bird feeder? That kind of thing. Not a clue.


Throughout the day and night, we have all manner of critters gracing us with their presence:

  • red, black, brown and grey squirrels

  • chipmunks

  • a rabbit or two

  • a skunk

  • a fisher

  • a weasel

  • snakes

  • mice

  • voles

  • wild turkeys

  • too numerous to count bird species

  • deer, if we're lucky

  • coyotes

  • foxes

  • turtles

  • black bear that took out our beehives

  • opossum

  • raccoons that try to take out our compost bins

  • stray cats

  • the neighbours' dogs

  • the neighbours' poultry

  • insects (yuck)

... all of whom pay us no mind and just go about their business. In the early evening, I hear dozens (hundreds?) of frogs singing their mating calls from the various ponds in the area. I hear and see birds calling out to one another from this tree and that.


All of which is to say, Mother Nature just carries on, regardless of our very human propensity to get in her way.


It is humbling to remember that humans are the newcomers on Earth. Long before we arrived on the scene to, um, shake things up, planet Earth was doing just fine on its own. Symbiosis and balance were and are the name of the game. When it comes to experiential wisdom, we've got nothing on the rest of the living world. In overall terms, we are still in our infancy as a species. Luckily for us, we evolved to have opposable thumbs and, for some reason, we've gone in a whole other, unique, direction from the rest of the creatures. Makes you wonder.


Human beings have spent a considerable amount of time and energy bending Nature to our will. It's become an Us and Them type scenario. There's Us - one measly warring, envious, avaricious species vs Them - gazillions of vastly varied species who've managed to figure out how to co-exist to the benefit of all. How and why the heck did we come out on top?


I'm not a scientist so I come with no answers. Just curiosity. But what it looks like to me is that adaptability and a super-hero level of patience are Mother Nature's strongest qualities. She's playing the long game whereas we're on the get in, grab all you can, and get out trajectory. What's the saying? - “The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long.” (Lao Tzu) Given the nanosecond of time that we modern humans have inhabited Earth, coupled with the wholesale pillaging of its many resources, it feels like we might be that fast-burning light. There is no way whatsoever we survive as long as the rest of the critters. Many species have come and gone over the 4.5 billion years (!!) of Earth's existence. Not sure any of them were as bent on self-destruction as we are. If they couldn't make it by just getting along, how do we think we're going to?


Too much of a downer? I guess I'm in a mood. I blame it on the pandemic. The latest in a looooooong line of historical plagues that have wiped out millions of people over the eons. (Check out this Wikipedia page.) It's hard to know how much of a role human existence has played in the plethora of plagues (oh my, see what I did there?), i.e. without humans, would there even be pandemics? But it does take me back to what I said earlier about symbiosis and balance. One thing we know for sure is that the living planet will always, always bring itself back to a harmonious balance when faced with chaos and disruptive change. And it pretty much doesn't care who or what expires in the process.


It's definitely not too late to turn things around for ourselves and for the planet. Although, saying that, I suspect the planet is none too concerned about us. No matter what we throw at it, it finds a way to adapt and thrive. It's been doing that for a very, very long time with great success. We, on the other hand, have not. We could choose to put our collective ego aside to allow for the possibility that the planet just might know a thing or two about longevity and survival. We could humble ourselves at the feet of such well-earned wisdom. I think more and more this is happening. Some folks have long term thinking, some are able to see past their own noses to the greater world around us.


The thing is, if we just took the time to really observe Mother Nature in all her glory, we'd see that each and every one of us is part of something so big, so grand, so freakin' beautiful that we couldn't help but feel the love, the belonging, the connection, the being a part of. Because we are. Human beings are not separate from Nature; we are Nature. Just like that coyote, and the frogs, and the birds. We are one and the same. Imagine how far we could go if we hopped on the symbiosis bandwagon.


Swans on Allen's Lake, Mono, Ontario




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