Earth Day 2011… a Home in the Woods

A view from our patio. Tomorrow is Earth Day 2011, a time to stop and appreciate the diversity and beauty found in nature, a time to remind ourselves of the critical role we have in protecting this beauty and diversity for future generations.

My earliest memories of childhood are of exploring the rural countryside around my home in Diamond Springs, California. As a result, I have always loved wandering in the woods. When other boys my age took up baseball bats, I disappeared into the forest and tracked Jack Rabbits.

This splendid fellow considers our property part of his range... Here he reminds me.

Later my enjoyment of nature turned into a passion for protecting the environment.

I was recruiting for Peace Corps Volunteers at the UC Davis when Earth Day I took place. It started me on the road to becoming an environmentalist. I quit my job with Peace Corps and became Executive Director of Sacramento’s Ecology Information Center.

The beauty of nature is found in many forms, from the small flower to the grand vista. The hills behind our home are now filled with spring wildflowers, such as this Shooting Star I photographed last week.

Forty years later the message of Earth Day remains the same.

Diversity in nature helps assure our continued survival. Within that diversity there is also unity. All of life is tied together in a complex whole. When we destroy one part of life it has a rippling effect, reaching out and disrupting other aspects of our existence.

Predators, such as this small fox who has a den on the back of our property, have historically been considered an enemy to be wiped out. Ecology has taught us of the vital role these predators have in maintaining the balance of nature.

It’s not nice to mess with Mother Nature.

Protecting the diversity of life through maintaining natural areas does more than help assure our survival, however; it provides a sanctuary where we can escape the busyness and worries of our everyday urban life and return to roots that reach back to the very beginnings of human consciousness.

The beautiful Applegate River flows by our home and provides a rich riparian habitat for birds, mammals, plants and fish. My wife Peggy has already claimed a rock where she can sit quietly and meditate on the beauty.

I am convinced we lose something of our humanity when we isolate ourselves from nature.

When I hike down a woodland trail, a sense of peace settles over my mind even as my fat cells scream for mercy. Both body and soul gain. The benefits are so persuasive I have been drawn to the wilderness again and again during my life.

At an elevation of 2000 feet we have a mixed woodland forest of Ponderosa Pines, Douglas Fir, White Oaks and Red Cedar. A March snowstorm decorated this Douglas Fir.

Our recent move to the Upper Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon is but one more example. The Applegate River flows past out front door and 1.8 million acres of national forest and wilderness form the boundary of our back property.

A herd of deer and a flock of wild turkeys consider our five acres as part of their range. Fat Gray Squirrels chase each other through the mixed oak, pine, fir and madrone forest. A small fox has chosen to make its den in our blackberries.

A herd of seven black tail deer often bed down on our property. They drop by our house frequently to see if Peggy has her garden in yet.

As I look out our window, Mountain Jays, Gold Finch, Grosbeaks and tiny hooded Oregon Juncos are gathered around our bird feeder, more or less taking turns.

Larkspur, shooting stars, buttercups and numerous other wildflowers provide spring decorations on the slope below.

I realize how very, very lucky Peggy and I are to have this home in the woods. With the approach of Earth Day 2011, it is my hope that future generations will still have such wilderness areas to enjoy and cherish.

Sunset from our patio... and a final reminder of the beauty and peace to be found in the natural world. May our children and grandchildren continue to enjoy it. Earth Day 2001.

(Next Blog: How the Pond and the Woods introduced a seven-year-old child to the wonders of nature.)