There’s an old saying about how the more things change, the more they stay the same. Some days that’s a discouraging, frightening thought, and other times it’s simply comforting. It’s all a matter of perspective, timing and context.
In nature, I find the idea more comforting than not. There are certain things I can count on, no matter what. And, nature is still full of surprises, which keeps me alert and full of wonder, as well. It is a win-win situation all around.
Living in the same place year in and year out allows me to learn and know my surroundings in a deep and satisfying way. I know where to find certain flowers, birds and animals throughout the seasons. It’s not always predictable but it’s fairly reliable. I’m pretty sure I’ll find Queen Anne’s lace in July and goldenrod in August. July will be the month when most baby birds fledge, and August will be full of those same young birds bulking up and preparing for either migration or a long winter ahead.
Going to a new place is always exciting. There will be new nature to discover but often there is plenty that is the same as at home, depending on where we go. I have found that even places halfway around the world have at least some familiar faces and plants. Versions of crows, herons and starlings are ubiquitous just about everywhere. Even ospreys can be found in a surprisingly large number of locations.
On a recent trip to an area full of rolling hills and green landscapes that stretched far into the horizon I saw many old and new friends. There were mountains instead of ocean waves and lakes stretched out, reaching into the green, green fields. There were cows and horses, roosters crowing and old pickups with gun racks and sacks of feed. Not a single lobster pot was to be found.
Many of my old friends were around though, such as crows, robins, blue jays, turkeys and house wrens. There were chickadees and downy woodpeckers, flickers and nuthatches. A long walk down a quiet lane early in the morning was filled with flowers and shrubs, some familiar and some not so much.
Mid-August is full of field flowers in this part of the world, for though we were out of New England, we weren’t too far out. Queen Anne’s lace was blooming in profusion. Chicory was everywhere and many fields were yellow, already full of goldenrod blossoms. There were touch-me-nots, sweet peas, vetches of several varieties and all sorts of fun little flowers I couldn’t identify.
The path I walked daily was by a stream. There were frogs and dragonflies, vireos and warblers. There were hickory nuts falling to the ground and berries ripening. Fish jumped in the lake, and sunrises were spectacular. As I sipped my coffee very early one morning I was startled by a splash nearby. An osprey had caught a good-sized fish just yards from me, quite close to shore. It flew off over the still lake water into the coral sky like a fading dream.
There were many deer and lots of groundhogs. Otters, minks and even a fisher crossed our paths as the days wore on. Getting away from home for a few days was relaxing and fun. As I spotted my third kestrel in as many miles along a country road, I knew I was far from home. When I watched a rabbit nibbling wildflowers under a rising moon though, I realized how much things really were the same, even when they seemed and felt different at first.
(Mary Richmond is an artist, writer, naturalist, and educator who grew up on the Cape and lives in Hyannis. More information at www.capecodartandnature.com.)