By Gary Swick, President

Lying in a hammock feels like harmony to me. It’s the cradled feeling of being safely supported while swinging in suspension. It’s peaceful relaxing in a hammockand joyous.

May brings about an incredible demonstration of nature’s harmony, with many factors playing into a unified production. Can you imagine trying to orchestrate spring: arranging the timing of the angle of the sun, temperature adjustments, synchronistic arrival of migratory species coinciding with available food source emerging, and the symbiotic influences of organisms upon each other?

Ancient Displays

This is wonderfully displayed now in our woodlands as the spring ephemeral plants rush to gather sunlight before the trees’ buds burst first with flowers, followed by leaves which will soon shade those below. Stored energy is ignited into rapid growth of flower production that results in a palate of various colors carpeting the forest floor. This display is offered to a hiker’s eye, but flowers are not created for the hiker. They are intended for the partnership with a pollinator. The designs have been well tested through thousands of years of “market research” and adaptation, sometimes referred to as evolution. May is a time to work in harmony with a system, the ecosystem.

Trillium grandflorumThis production is so well arranged! Who directs the players? How do they know their roles? Who provides the cues? It is a great mystery to which scientists have many clues. We understand inheritance, DNA coding, and instinct. Humans also possess internal drivers and responses to cues. When the alarm bell sounds at the fire department, a swarm of activity ensues and a harmonious effort takes place. When the orchestra director taps the stand the mass of performers unifies poised for their joyful work. The sound that initiates the harmony comes from a vibration that reaches human ears and sends a signal to the brain. In nature, the signals are not always audible, yet they still resonate. To be in this resonance is to be in harmony.

Finding Our Way

Humans were once harmonious dwellers of the landscape like any other organism. Just as migrating waterfowl use knowledge of nature and instinct to navigate great distances successfully, humans did too. (Nowadays, we need a GPS device to find a friend’s house, but that is a story for another time.) What happened to our inherent knowledge and instinct? Did we forsake them for progress? I romanticize about Native American cultures living in harmony with their surroundings. As their cultures grew, they continued to worship their brothers and sisters, the plants and animals, as equals. They showed gratitude when taking nature’s gifts for food and shelter and marveled at the non-living components as well. They lived in unity with their landscape.

When our ancestors displaced the aboriginals here, we set about altering the landscape. We did this without harmonious intent, marching polluting-pipewest with brute force. We cleared the forests, drained the wetlands, and plowed the prairies for agriculture. We straightened, dredged, and dammed our rivers for commerce. Add to that the dumping of our wastes into the air, water, and land – not very harmonious behavior.

As a species, we are young and prone to making mistakes. Our species is intelligent, compassionate, and vulnerable. Many of our greatest minds remind us that the answers to all our needs are found in nature. It requires being part of nature, not overpowering it. For decades, we have been trending toward protecting our air and water. We are embracing renewable energy, municipalities are investing in green infrastructure, and citizens are protecting and restoring native ecosystems. We can get back into the harmonious rhythm, understanding we are part of a system that requires unity.

Here are some ways to practice your harmonious relationship this May:

Restore Our Native Landscape

Lawns are an illusion of nature. Our green spaces are wonderful opportunities for conversion back to working ecosystems. Local native plant sales arrive just in time for a Mother’s Day project. Do this for Mother Earth and all the moms in our lives. Or you can join us at the Schweitzer Environmental Center on May 13th for our native grounds maintenance activities.

Feel the Love

Register at friendsofthefoxriver.org to help clean up the river at one of our Love Our River Day events in Elgin, Batavia, and Yorkville. We will  do some trash removal and follow that with a celebration of the river with food, music, and tales of harmony.

Feel the River’s Rhythm

calm canoe shady shot by gm Join us on a “Find the Fox” canoe trip. It is a wonderful way to feel the harmony of quietly connecting directly with our river. Feeling the power and peace of the river is an easy way to feel connected to nature. You will be surrounded by its beauty. Guided trips on the 2nd and 4th Sunday’s begin this month and continue thru October.

Breathe in the Beauty

Each and every day you can go to a riverside city park or county forest preserve to be part of nature. Immersing yourself in the beauty and wonder is a terrific way to develop the appreciation necessary to seek harmony with nature.

Start A Toe at a Time

Stand in a stream to feel the resonance of nature. Finding your inner child is finding your harmony with nature. It Is natural to humans.

Embrace the opportunities that May offers us to return to a path of harmony.