Tuesday, August 30, 2005

They Endure

Seeing falcons perched on the streetlamps forces you to think a little differently about ecology.

People talk about how fragile ecosystems are--and they are, anyone who doubts that should talk for a few moments to the people who work to conserve them--but what we sometimes forget is how durable life is. Survival is a question of adaptation, and living beings have been doing that since we ditched asexual reproduction. Animals are good at hiding, and hunting, and scavenging, and if there's a behavior that helps them to survive, they'll learn it.

Living in Minneapolis sometimes helps me remember that. It seems "urban"; we've got malls, skyscrapers, highways, cars, and people everywhere. But when you drive along those highways and see falcons perched on the streetlamps, ready to swoop down into the grass along the side of the roads and snatch up some small animal you can't even see when you're driving 55, you wonder just how much they even notice us, let alone fear us. When you're driving home, and foxes dart across the road and into the underbrush, or you pass a small herd of deer on your neighbor's lawn, you wonder just how easy it is for even a large animal to hide in "domesticated" suburbia. And when a motion-sensitive camera captures a shot of a full-grown mountain lion in the middle of the night, staring into the night-lens as though it knows full well it's being watched...

You feel a giddy thrill of terror and amazement. We are not the most powerful animals, not even here in our homes. We're not always forcing nature away; sometimes, we're just finding new ways to bring it to us.

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