The late afternoon sun shines amber rays upon a silent grasshopper.
A profound event is under way.
In the woodland's soft loam, mama grasshopper has planted her eggs, the ****** of a brief, worthwhile life. Having evaded field mice, mantids, lizards, snakes, and birds, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED - almost.
In this little patch of sunlight, it is her time to "donate" to Mother Ecosystem. It's an honor she shares with the butterflies, bees, squirrels, gnats, toads, termites, foxes, deer, hawks, robins, ants - and let us not leave out microbes and fungi.
Now sugar ants have discovered her and are dismantling, tugging, dragging her away in parts, reminiscent of an automobile salvage.
Wayward workers stumble into ant lions' pits and become meals themselves.
The old, hollow white oak log, once mighty King of the Forest, is prostrate and bare. Yet, with its last molecule, it continues giving. Within its hollow, a disparate multitude is moving about, hiding, hunting, chewing, defecating, sleeping, reproducing and dying.
In decomposition, the oak's material essence melds back into the earth as nature's great Round River,* an incomprehensibly slow, invisible tide.
It is late spring and waves of woodland sounds are pulsing through the community. Cicadas shrill chorus fills the air. Distant flocks of song sparrows and warblers combine in a cloud of chirps. Above it all is the sharp tapping of a woodpecker.
A charred fence post has become prime real estate: a coveted,grand perch for phoebes and jays, and for a fence lizard, an elite high rise station for sunbathing and attracting a mate. Mating azure damselflies dance in the air above the lizard. They alight for a moment - snatched! Above, a circling red-tail hawk eyes the lizard.
Across a draw stands an abandoned farm, tragic end result of disrespect for the land. Goodbye sweet, precious loam, created over millennia. You are being carried away with each rain. Where, on where are you going?
To brooks, rivers and the sea.
On a bleak ridge, a few oak tree survivors huddle together as they endure relentless grazing. This parcel of land has nothing to offer anymore. If you were to listen to the wind, you might hear its whispers of dispair.
But here, in this vibrant, buzzing woodland community where the land breathes life, there is home, food and an ideal place for all.
* Words coined by Aldo Leopold, pioneer American ecologist, conservationist, and educator