One of the things I did a lot in 2020 was walk around. This does not sound super exciting — I know. I suppose I could try to elevate it by calling it hiking, but that lacks the aimless quality that more accurately characterizes what I was up to.
And, you’ll remember that during those endless months there wasn’t much else to be doing. Wandering around also had some major advantages when it came to the coronavirus pandemic. Social distancing was no big challenge, for one, and if you could get good enough at it, as in finding yourself alone with no one else in sight, you didn’t have to have your mask hanging on your nose all the time.
There were unanticipated joys. One morning I wandered into the vicinity of a pileated woodpecker, so engrossed in what he was up to he didn’t seem to care whether I was wearing a mask or not; he just went about his woodpecker business.
And it’s not like you didn’t know this already, but when you wander around like that you recognize, perhaps more clearly than ever thanks to pandemic isolation, that there are worlds of creatures oblivious to you, or why the Yankees are slumping, or why you can never find matching socks.
And yet they depend on you, on us, to keep their world going, even if they don’t seem to be paying all that much attention. Just like the wood turtles at Harbor Brook in Meriden. Not all that unlike the dogs and cats at the pound in Wallingford.
The turtles are protected, so if you’re building a dam or new bridge or whatever, you have to accommodate them, by holding off on your extremely important project until you can move them safely out of the way.
Dogs and cats are domestic, so they need more direct involvement and, you might think, air conditioning.
I had gone decades upon decades without hearing the phrase pollinator pathways. When I did it sounded like something out of a kids’ television show, like Teletubbies. It’s one of those things that makes so much sense you wonder why it took so long, and why perhaps it’s taking so long to gather attention.
The first I heard of it was out of Southington, which is a progressive place. I don’t mean that in a political sense, as in liberal and conservative, but as a place where ideas can gather root.
In 2019, before the pandemic had me talking to woodpeckers, Southington leaders were talking about opening a pollinator garden at the Novick property on Flanders Road. Others were being encouraged to do the same on their own properties.
You don’t have to do anything official, like hold a ribbon-cutting, though I imagine it wouldn’t hurt. From what I gather the main thing is to look at the American lawn, which everyone spends so much time mowing, as not such a great thing.
So, the three main ideas are: plant native species, don’t use pesticides, and keep the grass area as small as possible.
I live in a condo, but there’s a patch of pollinator garden in front of my place that, I like to think, contributes to this circle-of-life arrangement. Yes, it’s true we take care of other species, but they take care of us, too.
“Pollinators need our help.” So said Jim Sirch, a gardener and public education coordinator at the Yale-Peabody Museum of Natural History, in a story by Joy VanderLek that ran in the Southington Citizen and Cheshire Citizen in March. From that I learned that the lawn, measured in total square miles in the U.S., takes up a space the size of New England. That’s a lot of mowing.
Just the other day the Record-Journal ran a story about Southington’s Kim Rees and Clare Bean, who have been taking care of the pollinator pathway garden along the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail. They’re looking for volunteers to help in the garden so they can focus on education, spreading the word about the importance of such gardens. That’s worth supporting, I’d say. The story listed 860-209-1028 or firstname.lastname@example.org as contact info for volunteering.
It's a charming idea to think that we can stop mowing our lawns in favor of helping living creatures, including ourselves, thrive.
Reach Jeffery Kurz at 203-317-2213, or email@example.com.