Are there angles in nature?

We are elements of the landscape, you and me. We take up our space, consume resources, and we serve as resource for others.  We as a species have an incredible impact on the natural world.  We are not some monolithic collection of related animals… we come in many shades and sizes; we occupy habitats across most of the planet.  And we certainly are not of one mind.

Our cultural and political diversity has not always provided us with happiness and sanguine relationships, either with ourselves or the world around us. Still, here we are, plodding along.

A pretty significant sea change in our politics here in the U.S. is underway. Plenty of ink and electrons have been dedicated to this already, I needn’t pile on.  But I would like to take a moment to reflect on some things I imagine won’t change much in response to our recent screaming and hollering about who should take the reins in Washington.

I set out here to ponder whether there are angles in nature – angles being those mathematical constructs on a plane occurring where two lines intersect. Nature doesn’t appear to exist as a plane where two lines might have opportunity to intersect.  In that case then, nope… no natural angles.  But in the course of our being us, of our being those natural animals that have seemingly conquered the planet, we have created mathematics and the concept of angles.  In which case then, of course… angles are as natural as war or space exploration.

So what do we have here today that I suppose won’t change all that much in the next several years, and how do angles matter? We still have quiet places, out of the way niches, spaces where human interferences are muted or at least closely kept in approximately some non-human manner.  For an example of one such place I’ll offer up the farm.  Or should I say – part of the farm.  The lower meadow.

crp-field-fall-16

A flood plain meadow in central Ohio, October 2016.

I wrote a piece about the meadow as it exists in relationship with Uncle Sam as a CRP property.  The CRP contract extends beyond the next four years, so unless some extremely extraordinary sea change comes out of Washington there will be no noticeable change to the meadow from the angle of this nation’s political perspective.  From my perspective as the opposite party in the CRP contract there are no significant changes anticipated (or allowed without mutual consent).  A difference between Uncle Sam and me on this little slice of planet – I get to visit regularly to soak in the peace and abundant beauty of the spot.  So I have a slightly different angle to appreciate it from.

What other angles exist? To the white tail deer this meadow is a lush buffet.  Rabbits, squirrels, woodchucks, and many other herbivores also find this habitat full of opportunity.  Omnivores like raccoon, opossum, red-winged blackbird, wild turkey, and others find market opportunity here as well.  Coyote are the only carnivores I know to frequent this spot, and their efficiency appears to limit the success of pheasant and bob white settlement… but there could well be other factors along this angle that my perspective is blocked from seeing.  There exists a myriad other angles of critter – snakes and snails, voles and other small beasts, insects of many stripes (lots of pollinators Jeff 🙂 ), and too the microbial world… space does not allow.

Having exhausted my faunal appreciation for the meadow, let’s turn to the floral angles. There are too many to describe at any length.  Grasses, forbs, lichens, shrubs and trees can get us started.  Throughout the center of the meadow much of the flora is introduced, deliberately planted to create a habitat and a perennial cover that would not exist under typical agricultural management (which it follows).  At the edges the flora is more representative of the longer term vegetation found in the region.  In the background you see the tree line punctuated by leafless ash trees killed by emerald ash borer.  Oaks, hickory, and walnut can be found if searched for, but sycamore, maple, locust, and sassafras are more common.  Has some former owner cut the more valuable trees?  A worthy supposition.  Stumps can still be found – but my ability to ID a tree from a stump is too limited.

If you pass through the tree line a couple hundred feet you come to the Little Darby Creek flowing right to left roughly parallel to this tree line. The angles multiply with the presence of the creek.  As a water habitat the Little Darby is more protected than many of its fellow water courses in the region.  It is a State and National Scenic river (at least along this stretch).

Need more angles? Thus far I’ve only mentioned what you are likely to see.  Standing in the spot from which this photo was taken you can also hear and smell quite a lot of the natural world.  The insects probably do the most talking, especially in the evening.  But if you’re patient you can hear all sorts of bird song, rustle in the brush as something of size passes, and rustle too as a breeze pushes and bounces the flora back and forth.  Still another angle betrayed by sound – the presence of mankind on an interstate freeway which passes by a bit less than a mile beyond the creek.  [The freeway represents a piece of niche construction for Homo sapiens… so it’s just another natural angle.]   Smells here are abundant as well; beautiful smells and well… some less pleasing but still part of the package (think rotting carcass of an opossum that no longer forages for its dinner).

One more angle before I close… this photo was taken on October 17th, in the evening as the sun is sinking on the right.  The fall is just getting itself mustered and the air temperature is cooling off.  As the picture is taken I am standing in the shade of trees to my right.  After capturing this scene, I strolled down into the meadow where the warming of sunshine on my face satisfied one more sense.  You can taste the beauty of the world with very little imagination under those circumstances.

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