Nature Connection: If Nature Made Resolutions

By: Mary Richmond

Mary Richmond Photo

Nature doesn’t keep the kind of calendar that separates days, weeks, and months. She goes by the seasons, which aren’t always as cut and dried as our own paper calendars try to insist. Sometimes it feels that Nature moves along at her own pace, which can change in an instant, perhaps surprising her as well as us. Other times she can appear quite orderly and predictable.

This past week we celebrated the beginning of winter with the winter solstice. The day with the fewest hours of daylight is now past and we are beginning the long journey back into the light.

For humans this time of year is filled with festivals and celebrations, even as Nature is settling in for her long winter’s nap here on Cape Cod.

While we are hemming and hawing about making resolutions to be and do better in the coming year, Nature is making a big yawn. She’s already made hers and they are remarkably the same from year to year.

If Nature were to make a list of her resolutions I’m pretty sure tops on the list would be to maintain balance. No matter how hard she tries, something is always switching around and throwing other things off, so keeping balance is a constant, often tedious job. We humans don’t make it any easier, always tossing wrenches like climate change and pollution into the mix. Just when she thinks she’s adjusted and fine-tuned her timing an unseasonable warmth causes spring shrubs and flowers to bloom in the fall. No worries, she mutters to herself. It’s only a few. In the larger scheme of things, it will all work out. A tweak here, another there, and balance is restored.

Second on her list is most likely diversity. I’ve heard people say that they don’t understand why diversity is important. Who cares if all the plovers perish if we have gulls? Nature rolls her eyes at this, after she wipes her sorrowful tears. All her creatures and plants must work together to make the world work as it should. Birds like plovers poke about in the sand, aerating it, moving decaying plant and animal matter around so it can be eaten or decompose. Birds like gulls are a clean up crew as well as predators. They maintain population control in a natural way. But wait, Nature is wildly gesticulating at me. Remember that balance thing, she asks? It’s all messed up. Natural population control has pretty much gone right out the window. Ask the mosquitoes and snails. We need to preserve as much diversity as we can, or everything will be a huge mess, she says adamantly.

Diversity doesn’t just give us pretty things to look at and think about. Diversity actually helps keep us alive. Think COVID and cancer and all the ways people are working to solve the problems of spread and cures. That funny-looking critter buried in the leaf litter may help us complete a puzzle we don’t even know we have yet. Think moldy bread and how many years it took for someone to say, hey, maybe that smelly blue stuff will help cure people? Everything and everyone has their time, place, and reason for being.

Nature probably would add tolerance and adaptability to her resolution list. Tolerance isn’t just a nice way to interact with others but a necessary survival skill in the wild. So is adaptability. While people whine and complain about any changes they didn’t create themselves, such as the need for a vaccine or mask for example, nature adapts by either dying or doing what it needs to do to survive. Given the choice, most will at least attempt to adjust to the new stimulus.

We humans look at resolutions as things we really might not want to do. What if we adopted Nature’s attitude, though, and resolved to adapt as it becomes necessary to do so? This means we would stop poisoning the environment, stop arguing about things that are plain to see and do, and do what we could to mitigate climate change as best we can. We could resolve to let our lawns grow naturally, plant native flowers and shrubs for the good of not only ourselves but the birds, bees, butterflies, and other wildlife, and learn to grow more of our own food without poisons.

We could resolve to stop using plastics, toxic detergents, and fossil fuel-dependent energy. Nature would like that, I think, and reward us with her own resolve to offer up the cleanest air, water, and food she could muster. A win-win, as they say.

As the new year sneaks around the corner, let’s resolve to be kind to each other and to Nature. Without her, we have nothing, though not everyone seems to understand this. It’s not too late to sit back and observe the ways Nature goes about her business. She has much to teach us, if only we’d listen and do as she asks. Let’s resolve to be attentive to the natural world and be willing to adjust our thinking. We humans are not alone. We need Nature much more than she needs us. We can do this.

Happy New Year, everyone!