The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

3-D printers and fireflies

I am sitting on the back deck, watching eight squirrels cavort around the grass and through the flower beds, trees and roof. A few House Sparrows arrive looking for breakfast, as do a pair of Mourning Doves and another of Northern Cardinals.

There is water in the pool at the bottom of our otherwise drought-stricken stream. It is long enough for a few falls as the water pours from the rocks at the top and splashes its way into the pond at the lower end.

It is powered by an electric pump, a balancing act between the consumption of electrons on the one hand, and the aural pleasure it gives to my memories of small mountain streams and the daily bathing needs of songbirds who then perch in the dogwood outside my studio window to fluff and comb their raiment.

But there is life in that shallow, otherwise seemingly lifeless, body of water. Yesterday, a little green frog was sunbathing nearly atop a stone high enough that froggy’s nose poked above the surface of the water. Standing at the pool’s edge, I could see little somethings apparently swimming around, so I grabbed my waterproof camera and placed it to capture video of whatever was down there.

What I discovered were mosquito larvae, mostly. Cute little submersible wormy thins with a split tail and bulbous head. I know their cuteness will wane, though, when they take flight. Maybe they will become food on the wing for a few of our avian friends.

Fine bubbles rise from the rocks at the bottom of the shallow pool, . I wondered what that is about. The resident greens keeper suggested that the bubbles might be from leaves decomposing at the bottom of the pool. Could be, I agreed.

Most surprising were several snails – periwinkles, I’ll call them, until I am corrected – carrying their spiraled mini homes around the rocks, vacuuming their repast from the minerals’ surfaces. Now and then, one would release its grip and float off, to land on another, potentially tastier, pebble.

What piques my mind is the wonderment of how they might have arrived in that particular pool. The pool in which they now reside is a rubber-lined tub half full of town-treated water. Mosquitos can fly in to deposit their future broods, but where did the snails come from? It is not as though there is a natural stream close by – at least not close for a creature barely three-quarters of an inch long.

A short distance from the water, a plant of indeterminate species has poked its growth from between the bricks of our lanai, proof positive that if we humans make this planet uninhabitable for ourselves, Mother Nature is poised to take over the place. There have been shows on TV about what our cities will look like 100 years after we’re gone. The lone plant among the desolated bricks makes the projection more believable.

There was a report this week that more than 50,000 years ago Neanderthal beings were making scrimshaw carvings on the bones of deer. Fifty-thousand years, though, is only a few minutes in the life of a planet four-and-a-half billion years old.

I wish I could look ahead with the clarity we can turn toward what is behind. Tremendous possibilities abound, if only we could recognize them with the faith of the periwinkles in my backyard pool as they slowly, like living 3-D printers, create and expand the homes they carry into their presumably unknown futures.

Later, fireflies among the branches set the eventide afire with the promising sparkle of a tomorrow.

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  1. Douglas Pugh

    July 11, 2021 at 17:54

    Enjoyed the read, John. You have such an easy, comfortable style even though your topic – like this one – is not so much

  2. Thanks, Doug. That’s the plan. I’m glad it’s working.

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