When I mention that the birds are all gone, some contrarian invariably pipes up
and declares "Well, I don't know about that; I saw a bird in my backyard, yesterday."
A...bird. Thanks for the observation, nature lover!
I work on the northwest side of Indianapolis. Between the far edge of the vast
asphalt parking lot and Highway 421 rises a grassy berm, punctuated with a
dozen small decorative gardens. Each boasts a patch of yellow day lilies, a
large, bushy patch of some kind of mint, all backed by five or six shocks of
tall ornamental grass.
This berm has been my refuge, my oasis of sanity for the past five years.
I have become very familiar with its inhabitants, as well as those of the
parking lot itself, and I love seeing them all. Except that this year, they
are almost totally gone. The half-dozen killdeer that always take up in the
western quarter of the lot are absent, as is the small contingent of
scavenging starlings. I haven't seen any soaring vultures or hawks for six
The bushes, always quite literally crawling with little delta winged skipper
butterflies, and humming with at least four species of bees are empty. I have
seen a scant few dragonflies and a couple of grasshoppers. Yesterday,
I heard a robin. A solitary robin. Today I finally saw a cabbage white, and
a dozen Canada geese came down from the expansive, flat roof of our
building to drink from shallow, oily puddles in the middle of the lot. I have seen
none of the bigger butterflies: monarchs, viceroys, buckeyes, or red admirals.
The sky and the earth around my workplace are empty, and the only sounds are
he rumbling highway, or the occasional shrieking jet plane. It is a grievous thing.
"I saw a bird in my back yard, just yesterday," she said, with authority.
Do you remember? Do you remember the black rivers that snaked across the sky
every fall and spring? The undulating, chirping avian torrent that went on for
five, even ten minutes? Followed by another, and another? Do you remember when
you could not run barefoot across the lawn, because the clover was continually
covered with honey bees? Do you remember the deafening whir of the night
symphony? The tree frogs, the crickets, the cicadas? Do you remember The great,
yellow-and-black argiope spiders, their magnificent orb webs glistening with dew? Or
Garter snakes in the fern bed? I remember when an eastern box turtle wandered
into my suburban backyard one spring!
Things are not changing.
They have already changed.
And it makes me sigh.
Drew Harmon, August 2016
This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.
A windpuff-bonnet of fawn-froth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, fell-frowning,
It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.
Degged with dew, dappled with dew,
Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.
What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.
Gerard Manley Hopkins