The Wrack and Ruin of Nature

Amazingly, there’s been a lot of nature writing in our local paper, the Hartford Courant lately.

I don’t mean the great columns about the nature trails that appear most every Sunday and are written by Peter Marteka nor do I mean the occasional, also excellent columns about the natural world written by Steve Grant.

Rather these columns are appearing in the editorial section of the paper, surely a strange place (to me anyway) for nature writing. But it is very welcome.

I’ve already posted about the one on the possible demise of monarch butterflies. And last week I posted about the one on the appalling lack of oversight on pesticide regulation.

There has also been a most interesting one about a piece of land that can be seen from interstate 84 in eastern Connecticut. It used to have an outdoor sports complex on it and remnants of the fields are still somewhat apparent. Some time in the mid 2000s, Home Depot wanted to build a store on the property. The citizens fought the store strenuously and as a result, all that remains on the land is what one might expect when nature starts to reclaim a piece of land.

I’ve often noticed this sort of thing on a smaller scale when a house is being foreclosed. Connecticut has a very high foreclosure rate (still) and the foreclosure process is a slow one. As a result, sometimes a house will go vacant and remain vacant for a period of years and the owner of the mortgage is not always as good as it should be about maintaining the outside.

Grass will grow quite high–over a foot or more–and weeds will grow higher still. After the weeds come the opportunistic and fast growing “weed” trees like Norway Maple, locust, occasionally Tree of Heaven and of course the slower growing oaks, planted by squirrels and jays.

Moss begins to colonize shadier sites and depending on how long the home is vacant, things may begin to sprout even from gutters. At this point, the home is reaching the point of almost total decay and indoor leaks may begin to occur.

Unless a municipal authority steps in and requires the lender to mow, trim and maintain (and not all do) wildlife may begin to make homes for themselves in the taller grass. It’s easy to see how neighbors might discourage this sort of decay (never mind become discouraged by it!)

What is my point? Just that the fine line between the cultivated and the wild is not quite as fine as we’d all like to think it is. There but for one season of something that keeps us out of the garden (that fabulous world cruise when we hit powerball?) and our cultivated little worlds can all become a lot more uncivilized. Although I guess if we hit powerball and took a world cruise, presumably there’d be enough to hire someone to tend the garden while we were away too!

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