Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Quiet Ruckus of Nature

I have the great good fortune to spend a few days at a nature preserve spelling a friend who needed a few days out of the woods. I'm only too happy to go into them. Not that this is so far out in the woods in the physical sense; town is really only a boulder-roll downhill, yet it seems another universe away. No traffic, few people (maybe once a day), plenty of critters: skittering lizards, birds galore, deer crashing around in the brush. The lack of civilization’s noise is disconcerting at first, but soon enough my ears give up scanning for screeching cars, cooped-up dogs, unhappy children, construction clamor, someone else’s tv or radio (always tuned quite loudly to the wrong station). Suddenly the racket of nature comes to the forefront: rustling leaves, rattling dry-grass, zooming bees, whining flies, chirping, trilling, whistling birds, the Woodpeckers Chorus drilling on the oaks across the stream bed. Sometimes a random dog barks from a ranch way across on another hill, and yes, airplanes do rumble and buzz across the sky, but these noises seemed dialed down as the rustling breeze seems dialed up.

I'm staying at what might be termed a Researcher's Residence. This is a far cry from the cozy country cabins one rents for vacation, yet no tents are involved. It’s much closer to camping with some decent amenities, such as a real bed, fridge, stove, bathroom, mudroom, washer and dryer. No need to go downhill into town for anything other than consumables and your choice of beverages. That said, one has to be prepared for what these amenities might be used for. The mudroom hosts nets and containers, boots, bib-waders, boxes of mysterious (to me) contraptions, all with the accompanying odor of muck and marshbottom. The freezer, handy for leftovers and coffeebeans, is also home to a variety of Tupperware containers and Ziploc bags labeled cryptically with numbers and dates. Some of the smallest containers hold desiccated bees and other critters I didn’t look at closely enough to identify.

There is, I notice, a distinction between Inside Bugs and Outside Bugs, with a sincere effort made to keep the Outside Bugs out and the Inside Bugs in. Tight screens and door seals work for the Outside Bugs; the Inside Bugs are trapped in more of those plastic tubs spread out on the kitchen counter, some large enough to serve as mini-ponds for the water bugs, others are those tiny little condiment containers we get with take-out.Most of the containers are labelled with black marker on blue carpenters tape: Whirligig beetle, Diving Beetle, Stonefly. Still other bugs have been identified and pinned into the display cases, with the tiny neat tags indentifiying species and location of capture. Every surface has reference books on insects, pollinators, flowers, local geography.

We humans get to occupy the DIZ (De-Insectified Zone) between the two, which surprisingly enough only has a few spiders in the corners, like any normal house. And here I sit amongst the bugs, inside or out, content to breathe the quiet ruckus of nature.


  1. Lakin, the "quiet ruckus of nature" is such an intriguing paradox. Very lovely piece.

  2. thanks, Jane. I'm ready to return! Though I did learn that while I enjoy a quiet cabin in the woods, I can also enjoy a quiet cabin in St Helena too. Well, maybe not quite as much....still, there is something to be said for being just a few blocks away from espresso!


Noise makers!