Sunday, January 25, 2015

That Wild Land

You see it from the road, just beyond the guardrail or along the edge where the pavement ends. It’s where the deer dashes after he got too close to the road and the cars came roaring by. As you pass it in the car, there seems to be no sign of life. There is just an indistinguishable forest of trees: bare in the winter, green in the summer, and yellow/orange/red in the fall.

On the bridge over the Etowah River near me, hundreds and thousands of bare trees stand in apparent silence as we drive over and look down for a glimpse of the dark water.  Again, there is no sign of life.  I wonder how many people even notice it or, if they do, think about how that land should be “cleaned up.”

Ruby-crowned kinglet in the woods
I know these places teem with life. Exit your car and get into the woods and the songs of the birds will fill your ears. They are on an all-day search for food, either for themselves or to feed their chicks. They live in these woods.

Along with them live a hundred other creatures: squirrels, snakes, mice, chipmunks, lizards, bats, foxes and many more. Each of them searches these woods for food, a mate and a place to live.

As if supporting animal life were not important enough, these wild areas have another function. They help to filter pollution, both air and water. While all land filters water to some extent, these broad and deep areas of rich soil filter water pollution even better than the compacted and disturbed area we call “lawn” The complex ecosystems that live beneath rich soil have a whole community of critters, fungi and minerals that gets the job done right.

Areas that are adjacent to small streams play a crucial role in delivering clean water into our rivers. Yesterday I took these pictures along Scott Mill Creek, a small but swift stream that later joins Canton Creek before it folds into the Etowah River. The Etowah River is home to 76 species of native fish and is a source of drinking water for many people in the area. It's water we want to be clean!

I passed a sign yesterday in front of a broad, wooded expanse of land. It said “Available” and I laughed. I imagine all those critters living there would disagree.


  1. Thank you for this wonderful reminder and thought-provoking post. :)

  2. Beautiful and thoughtful. Contemplative. Well said! Aldo Leopold would approve!

  3. Imagine how it would sound if such areas as you describe were labeled, "Not Available - due to concerns for human health and life."

  4. There is a sign in my neighborhood, advertising the sale of woodland as "Vacant" Land. It is the minds of the sellers that are vacant...