The chapter “Killdeer” does not mention killdeer until the very end. The author, her mother, and her grandmother all see them, then one begins to drag its wing. Williams and her grandmother know that this is because it is trying to distract them and lead them away from its nest and children. This short segment relates to the rest of the chapter because Williams had recently learned that her mother had cancer, and they had done their astrology charts and were sitting and talking about their lives. In a way, similar to the killdeer, they were distracting themselves to forget about reality and danger of cancer. Williams’s mother may have also been distracting her specifically to protect her from the thought of losing her mother. Her mother even says that they are not so different from the killdeer when Williams says the bird is trying to distract them as a protective device.
About 10 years ago, the county “randomly” (we suspect our neighbors complained) decided that the trees on our property were in the right of way of the road, and were causing trouble for large trucks and farm equipment. These were trees that had been there for dozens of years, not causing trouble until the larger vehicles began using the road, and even then, the branches were only brushing them. So, one Thursday, the county sent out people who marked the trees to be torn down, and began removing the original fence around the property, which my own great-grandfather had installed. That same day, they started cutting down the trees, some being 100-year-old pines from our pine tree forest. My family tried to see what they could do to stop it, or who they could call to talk about it. They were upset to lose the trees, and especially upset because the removal of the trees would expose our swimming pond to the road. After being given a name of someone they could call, and the information of the man in charge, they learned that he would conveniently be out of town and out of the office until Monday. The workers clearing the trees continued tearing down the trees over the weekend, since there was not much we could do. They worked late into the evening and even on Sunday, so by Monday, when the man in charge was available, the job was already done, and the ancient trees were just lumber. This was a destruction of my environment not just by the county for roads, but also by the farming industry, who wanted the road to be clear for their tractors and sprayers. Today, while some of the plants have grown back, it is mostly weeds and small trees that block our pond from the road, and the place where the towering pines were is still noticeably empty.
After meeting David Kline, and visiting his farm, I realized how observant he must be of his surroundings. In many of his essays, Kline talks about seeing animals around his farm and property, such as owls and other birds flying over. When we visiting his farm, I did not notice any of the animals he had talked about because for me there was too much else going on to observe rather than looking to the sky for birds, or looking in the trees for owl nests. He must really watch the sky while he is out working and keep an eye to the trees to see the owl ears peeking out of nests that he describes in his essay “Night Hunters.” I would have liked to see some of these things while we were there, but I was too distracted by the plethora of other sites. I was busy admiring the elaborate barns and houses, and the many animals that were running by. I was especially distracted by the cats, who came running out to see us as soon as we headed towards the barn. I wanted to pick them all up and take them home with me. I was also busy admiring the horses and the landscape, not bisected by power lines and telephone poles like everywhere else. I think David Kline must be very aware of his surroundings and other living things to be able to see even more past all of the things happening around his farm already.
The author that had the most impact on me was the first author we read, Bill McKibben. He opened my eyes to how much of nature is altered by humans, and even things we consider natural are regulated by people or humans have access to them. He also uses statistics and stated facts, which help me visualize what he is talking about. One of his quotes talks about how much damage humans can do on plants and other species, even when they are not close to human made areas, an example of humans altering everything, even without touching it. “Since the emissions spew out high above the ground, winds carry them great distances-hundreds, even thousands, of miles. Under the right conditions, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides in the emissions are transmuted into nitric and sulfuric acid that eventually drift to the ground or fall in the rain. And there they weaken the trees and acidify the lakes to the point of sterility” (McKibben 31-32).
Another quote from McKibben in The End of Nature that made me think was the quote, “But now, the way of life of one part of the world is altering every inch and every hour of the globe.” This quote really points out how it is just one way of living that is altering nature and destroying it. It’s not even just humans themselves, but the way they live with technology, and waste, and fuel. This renews the idea that we need to think about the way we live, and try to change it in whatever ways we can to reduce some of the damage we are doing on the planet.
Browns Bog was a look into another world, an ancient foreign world. The ferns along the boardwalk grew to large proportions in the peaty, soft ground, reminding me of drawings of the landscape of the dinosaurs. The soft, cushiony ground seemed as though it would swallow you whole if you stepped in the wrong place, or ventured too far into the jungle of ferns. The moss on the rocks in the bog also seemed like it was from another world. The stars of moss looked like underwater creatures, like sea anemone, or starfish, clinging to the rock to avoid being washed away when the water left them abandoned in the sun of Ohio. The pitcher plants also seemed of another world, or at least a more tropical one. They looked like they should belong in the jungle, surrounded by leaves the size of a human head, colorful poison dart frogs, and flowers all the colors of the rainbow. Instead, they were dropped in a marshy bog, where they must endure frost, and layers of ice. Many of the plants in the bog looked like they belonged elsewhere, which made the environment of the bog especially interesting.
With all of these interesting, exotic plants along the boardwalk, leaving the boardwalk and following the other path was a clear divide, like stepping over a line back into normal Ohio environment. Leaves from oaks and maples once again littered the ground, no longer concealed by towering ferns. The ground was safe to walk on, without the risk of sinking knee deep into peaty soil.
The divide between the bog and the forest was evident, and it makes you wonder, if the plants keep encroaching on the bog and its little pond, eventually overtaking it, which area will it more resemble. Will it look like the exotic jungle of the forest along the boardwalk, or will it look like the leaf covered ground we are so used to seeing in Ohio and the Midwest? If we are lucky, it will stay exotic and tropical, continuing on as a window into another world.
When we first arrived at Johnson’s woods, I was not immediately impressed. I grew up surrounded by trees and wildlife, and have gone on many hikes in nature preserves through the Midwestern area, so seeing more woods was not initially new or exciting. As we really entered Johnson’s woods though, my feelings began to change.
Around the first corner of the path, there was an enormous fallen tree, which itself was not unique, or new. What was outstanding was the size of the tree, and the amount of life that had grown on that one decaying tree. It was covered in a blanket of deep green moss, with more spindly, lighter green plants emerging from that. It was also almost completely hollowed out at the end of it, with the inside a dark, mulchy brown, providing a home for more plants and some insects. The decaying tree was also providing a good home for fungi, with multiple mushrooms growing off of its bark. This large decaying tree being left to flourish and provide for new life was not something I commonly see on my hikes.
Another sharp contrast was the size of the trees in Johnson’s woods, some over 400 years old (Johnson’s Woods State Nature Preserve), older than the United States, or even the knowledge of gravity. The beech trees were some of the biggest I have ever seen, and the number of enormous old oak trees was amazing. Their towering height was also impressive, reaching up so high, I had to strain to see the tops, and identify the leaf shapes. I would have liked to get closer to just reach my arms around them and feel how big they really were, but in interest of preserving the rest of the forest, I resisted. In the forest, I was also able to see how when an old, canopy tree dies, and no longer shades the forest floor, it allows for other trees and plants to start growing. There was one spot where this was especially clear, where the trunk of a tree was still standing, but it was dead, and no longer had branches. I could tell that it must have been missing its branches for a few years, because while there were no other old, large trees close to it, there were some smaller younger trees beginning to fill in the space the dead tree left behind.
A final new experience of Johnson’s woods was the presence of the beech blight aphids, the fuzzy white bugs coating some of the branches of the beech trees. While observing these, I also noticed the ground below them also had a greyish coating over the leaf litter. After some research that led to the discovery of the names of the aphids, I learned that the grey dusty looking substance is actually mold that grows on the honeydew the aphids secrete after eating plant sap (Beech Blight Aphid). These were insects creating a phenomenon I had never seen before, that sparked my interest. So, while I arrived at Johnson’s Woods expecting just another hike through the forest, it gave me a whole new experience that I had never imagined.
Childs, Robert. “Beech Blight Aphid.” The Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment.
UMassAmherst. October 2011. 11 September 2017.
Platt, Deb. “Johnsons Woods State Nature Preserve.” Trek Ohio. Trek Ohio. 24 March 2012.
11 September 2017.