This week, John Philip Newell has us considering the creatures, something my daughter Grace delights in every day. Admittedly, I don’t appreciate the pill bugs, toads, and garden snakes as avidly as Grace does (a side effect of what Darkwood Brew guest Bruce Epperly might call the domestication of my sense of amazement). But that’s not to say I’m not astonished by the complexity and diversity of our shared, evolved creation.
Today many of us are concerned that our children (and ourselves!) are spending too much time indoors engaging with media and technology, and not enough time outdoors engaging the senses and the natural world. Richard Louv is well known for his books promoting the importance of spending time in nature. When I first read Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, I was concerned that “getting out in nature” meant camping and hiking and summer vacations at the lake or in the mountains, things we weren’t able to regularly do. I was blind to the natural diversity present in my own backyard. When I finally took the time (thanks to my children) to pause long enough to take notice, I discovered there was plenty to behold smack dab in the middle of my midwestern suburban subdivision. A garden flagstone, when flipped over, reveals a world of pill bugs, centipedes, millipedes, and earthworms. Red Admiral butterflies, sometimes as many as 15-20 at a time, visit our maple shrub in the Spring. Across the street is a man-made pond with a creek that is shallow enough for little kids to cross, hopping stone to stone. Where the creek meets the pond, toad couples embrace surrounded by glistening strands of eggs. Even at a busy commercial area nearby, traffic stops to allow a mother duck and her ducklings to cross the road. All of this within steps of my home.
What does it mean to contemplatively consider the creatures? Delicate and diverse, fragile yet tenacious, all life flows from the same stream, evolves from a shared source. Embedded in the web of life, like it or not, we are related to even the lowliest of our creaturely companions. While we reign at the top of the food chain, we are humbly reminded that more than any other species, we are disposable. The last to emerge, no other species depends on us. If humans disappeared from the face of the Earth, the remaining species would get along just fine in our absence…in fact, the planet would probably thrive! What would happen if all the insects disappeared? According to biologist Jonas Salk, if the insects disappeared, within 50 years all life on earth would cease to exist. Consider that the next time you step on a spider or a beetle! Take a moment today or tomorrow or the next day to consider the creatures as they scuttle and hop and slither about their business. There’s a reason for their existence, a significance to their scuttling and hopping and slithering. Think of them as creaturely neighbors and not just pests and ask yourself, What kind of neighbor am I?