Liz Saito, in her personal observations of this pandemic we are all dealing with, describes a peaceful visit to the shore. We thought of that one morning this week, walking our dog in the early morning light. It was very still and the air was full of the sound of birds. One could imagine that they were happily greeting a new day.
The human race is grappling with a pernicious microscopic bug. The coronavirus is but a protein molecule covered with a layer of fat. But once in our bodies it is absorbed into human cells, where it alters their genetic code. The cells become aggressive and in some cases threaten human life.
The effect is frightening; we watch daily tallies of infections and death. We defensively put distance between ourselves and others, hoping to avoid the contagion.
But it is peaceful at the pond early in the morning, and we think about how the wildlife around us is oblivious to the virus. Life outdoors goes on as normal.
But the reality of it is that, as peaceful as it seems to us humans, there is nothing peaceful about it at all.
Franklin Russell, a Canadian journalist, 60 years ago wrote a wonderfully detailed book that chronicled a year in the life of a small pond and its surrounding fields and woods.
In one chapter in “Watchers at the Pond,” he wrote of the hunters and the hunted:
“Many moments of pure terror occurred in the hunt: a violent flurry of forest leaves, a sudden impact high in the trees, a long, squawling cry of anguish, save fights underground and underwater. A squirrel, walleyed with terror, raced through the undergrowth towards a tree, with a weasel close behind. An owl dug into a patch of leaves in search of mice, and they squealed when they found their exit tunnels collapsed. The squirrel might escape and the mice might die; both were trivial events.”
Nature is harsh and never merciful, but it is never cruel. There is no tragedy. The death of one creature means the survival of another.
Most of us are far removed from that daily, even hourly struggle. Now the invasion of a lowly clump of molecules is likened to a terrorist threat. This is not wrong; it is indeed terrifying.
But perhaps it should remind us that we should reflect from time to time on the place the human race occupies in this world.