Thinking back, to nearly a lifetime ago. I was just a kid growing up in St. Paul. During the summers, on weekends mostly, our family would make the drive to Amery, Wisconsin, where my grandparents had a cabin on a lake. It seemed like it was a world away, though it was only about an hours drive.
I loved being there. Among the big pine trees, the wildflowers, waking in the cool of the early mornings to the sound of American Robins singing. My uncle would rake the bottom of the lake along the shore and boat dock so we could wade in and swim. Once in the water there I rarely wanted to come out. The water was clear enough we could stand in it and watch perch swimming quickly past our feet.
I used to fish from the dock, watching the bobber go under water, thrilling to the bend in my fishing rod, reeling it in. Most often it was sunfish, sometimes perch. Sometimes we kept it for eating (though I'm not a fish eater), most often I wrestled up enough courage to hold the fish in my hand to release it from the hook and put it back in the lake. On the drive home I would close my eyes and see that bobber dancing on the surface of the water, then lunge under. I haven't fished in decades, but I can still recall the thrill of it. The peace it can bring, too.
In the evenings the fireflies lit up, dancing among the trees and the wild grasses and flowers that lined the dirt road to the cabin. The air was clear, as was the sky. Stars appeared after dark in numbers I could never imagine seeing from our home in the city. Like magic.
Once back home, evidence of our trip to the woods, to the cabin and the surrounding wilderness, was evident. There crusting over the grill of the family car, and gunked in bits on the windshield were the remains of thousands of bugs.
Moths, mosquitoes, flies, beetles. All met their demise in collision with wind, speed, and heavy moving machinery. It took a little elbow grease and a lot of soap and water to clean them off, but it was a small price to pay for weekends away.
I'm not going to get in to the politics of climate change, clean energy arguments, and all that. Clearly climate change is hard at work, and we need to act. But how to enact a difference in our day to day lives can seem an overwhelming prospect. I'm looking to conservationists and gardeners for inspiration. To the idea of preserving existing, and building new, prairies, and forests. Restoring wetlands, woodlands, and wildflower fields. And to the idea of adding native plants and trees to our existing gardens, no matter how small, in an effort to increase the food and shelter sources for our birds, bees, butterflies, and everything in-between.
In the state of Wisconsin alone we have an abundance of conservancy organizations that have taken up the task of preserving our existing wilderness, and restoring it as well. Gardening organizations and clubs offer information on how to add natural habitat to even the smallest of yards. They provide details on what plants, shrubs, and trees can benefit the wildlife and ecosystems they need to survive, maybe even thrive again.
Community gardens have sprung up in cities and towns, rural and urban. Planting fruits and vegetables for personal sustenance, and to benefit the community at large; insects, animals, and humans alike.
I have a real soft spot for natural areas in Wisconsin that have been built or restored by their owners with a goal of providing wildlife habitat and natural recreation space, along with a plan for preserving the spaces for generations to come. Their passions leave a legacy that will survive long after they have gone. These visionaries come from all walks of life. They create legacies large and small, but all improve the world we live in.
If you're curious about some of these special legacy preserves, check out the new Special Feature Page: LEGACIES OF NATURE, which highlights 18 of these amazing spaces.
They will leave you hopeful, and may inspire you to join or support these types of projects as well.
A traveler, singer, novice photographer, humane gardener, and nature lover.