43.8554° N, 102.3397° W
The earth is a descendant of the sky. It allows itself to be what it is. Nature has no ego. It is raw, unedited, essential, the seductive dream our cities have just before twilight. We awaken from everything we forgot about ourselves when we enter the realm of nature. In the city, we live our days without crushing pine needles as we walk, or discovering mossy rocks full of macrocosmic worlds of lichen and red-stemmed feather moss. I wonder often, could I leave the city, could I live inside a dream of the trees? But how would I choose one place to live? And who would share such a life with me?
42.0943° N, 93.5700° W
Scalloped-edged lichen unfold into paper-thin leafy waves of ashen sea-green. Old pine bark pushes up into patterns and around limbs on branches and trunks where bryophytes and bright green mosses sprout spores. Tiny worlds cover everything, but who notices in the company of white pine, birch and cedar.
41.6533° N, 87.0524° W
Quiet marshes around the southern edge of Lake Michigan are the legacy left by glaciers over 14,000 years ago. Groves of trees outline the edges of the Great Marsh, protecting expansive wetlands that purify water, filter pollutants, and facilitate storm drainage. Open ponds are hemmed by sways of cattails, also providing filtration. The dunes and wetlands provide a buffer between the lake and the land, protecting inland ecosystems from flooding and damaging winds. American beach grass and other plants root into the sand, stabilizing dunes that, in turn, minimize beach erosion.
These ecosystems invite me to hope, if I deeply contemplate these interwoven systems that balance fragility with an abstruse resilience. There is profound wisdom in the communities that nature creates.
41.2808° N, 81.5678° W
While it is still designated by the EPA as one of the 43 contaminated sites within the Great Lakes Areas of Concern, the Cuyahoga River was the catalyst for establishing the National Environmental Protection Agency January 1, 1970 and the Clean Water Act in 1972.
Until 1969, the Cuyahoga river caught fire 13 times due to pollution from Steel Mills, starting as early as 1868. Over 100 years would pass before President Nixon would propose to regulate pollution through the creation of the EPA.
38.4426° N, 96.5730° W
A thousand eyelashes of hairy grama and buffalo grass fail to be still in the gentle gusts of wind as the sun descends. Chartreuse thickets of grass turn brilliant yellow at the top, an ombré of grasses, a million long-stems. Repeating. Repeating. Repeating in the wind. An ecstatic frisson erupting from earth’s joy.
Tallgrass prairie once spanned 170 million acres across the US. Now less than 4% remains. The rocky soil of the Flint Hills prevented early farmers from tilling the land, inadvertently preserving the largest expanse of this unique ecosystem in the US.
46.4425° N, 95.1361° W
12,000 acres of pine forest were purchased by a North Dakota company to convert into potato crops. The clearing of this rare Minnesota forest in Wadena impacts wildlife unique to the area and creates a possible water safety issue. Potato crops typically use heavy pesticides, a potential threat to a local aquifer and drinking water source. 42 square miles of Jack Pines were cleared, an area equivalent approximately to three cities combined, before the clearing was stopped by the Minnesota DNR.