By Margaret Evans, Editor
It’s still springtime, and my Adventures in Nature continue apace. I’ve come to rely on them as an antidote to all the noise and chaos out there – maybe even a permanent vaccination, though I’m still experimenting with that theory. Much testing left to do.
To that end: There’s this little brown rabbit that often appears before me on the Cypress Wetlands Trail in the mornings, always in the very same spot. If you’re interested, it’s that curvy place in the trail right past the YMCA, if you step out the back door and walk to your left. (Sorry, I don’t do directions like east and west. I’m missing that gene.) I saw the rabbit a lot last summer and fall – I think I even wrote about him? – then winter was upon us and Her Wimpiness wasn’t on the trail much. I don’t think my rabbit was, either; whenever I did venture out, he was nowhere in sight.
Then, in early April, he suddenly appeared to me for the first time in months. It was right around Easter, because I remember making the connection. (Easter. Bunny. Get it?) He showed himself a few times after that, then made himself scarce again. No sightings for weeks. Not a one. It was frustrating, too, because I’d started taking my phone-camera with me, shooting miscellaneous objects of interest – it’s incredibly therapeutic for a brain that tends toward restlessness/teeters toward insanity – and I was growing more eager by the day for a shot of my little brown rabbit. I was also getting a bit worried. I began to fear he had come to no good.
Then, a few days ago, I was on the elliptical machine; it was the day after Baltimore . . . happened. I’m watching the story unfold on the news and I feel my heart in my throat and the tears itching behind my eyes and I know I have to get out of there. It’s chilly and damp outside, but I don’t care. I need out. I scramble in my bag for my phone, and it’s not there. I’ve left it at home again. Damn. I can’t take pictures of small, exquisite life forms along the wetlands trail, an exercise I’ve come to need just as as surely as my sweaty efforts on the elliptical. It’s my therapy. My remedy.
But I hit the trail anyway, with visions of burning Baltimore dancing in my head, and these words thrumming an urgent backbeat: Please let him be there. Please let my little brown rabbit be there. I need to see him. If I see my little brown rabbit, everything will be okay. I will be okay, Baltimore will be okay . . . the world will be okay.
And guess what? He showed. He actually showed. After weeks on hiatus, my little brown rabbit was right there in the curvy place. I could hardly believe it. He studied me for a minute – “Where’ve YOU been, missy?” he seemed to say – then disappeared into the brush. (I have no idea what goes on in there. “The brush.” A land of mystery.) I felt my heart rate slowing down and my spirits rising. I decided aerobics time was over for the day, strolled to the observation deck – I had it all to myself, thanks to the chilly dampness – and looked at some birds through the viewfinder. Mostly egrets and a few Anhinghas. (Man, are those ever gorgeous!) Perching . . . preening . . . gliding . . . nesting. Just doing their thing.
I was moved by their lyrical efficiency, their perfect obliviousness to the frantic machinations of me and my kind. I felt a deep calm descending on me, and a quiet joy rising up. The moment felt eternal and weightless, like it would last forever but the slightest motion might set it to flight. I held my breath. I slowly exhaled. Ah.
Nature repairs, restores, and redeems. Even when the little brown rabbit doesn’t show up. Even when you forget your camera. It just does. It’s almost like a law.
I started thinking about that law – the one that says nature just makes you feel better – and then I remembered this fascinating Nova special we watched the other night. The one about mathematics. (Yes, it was a show about math, and it was fascinating. I swear.) I began pondering Pi and the Fibonacci Sequence and the Law of Falling Bodies… and all the mysterious, math-y things that occur in nature, over and over. In daisy petals and pinecones, in the human ear and the delicate whorls of shells. I thought about how mystical and marvelous and, yet, strangely comforting it all is. The order of it, the beauty, the symmetry . . . the rightness.
And I thought about those young people in Baltimore – the ones I’d just seen on TV, demolishing their own community, out of anger and hopelessness and a disregard for life. I thought about the mathematics that occur and recur in society – the formulas that lead to human flourishing, the variables that make such a difference by their presence or absence. Variables like love and respect, education and opportunity, fairness and justice, discipline and a sense of purpose. I thought about the chaos those young people live in every day, and how chaos so often multiplies.
And then I had this thought: That I wish I could take them all by the hand and walk them through the cypress wetlands of Port Royal, South Carolina.
An overly simplistic solution to a complex problem? Probably. But it might be just the factor that would change the equation.