Posted by: Memorizing Nature | June 18, 2011

Interference and Neglect

Here is a patch of greenery where the insects live. Half a decade ago, this place was pure woodland, a stand of mature oak and maple. But then the land was sold for a new development of houses. The people who would occupy the houses needed a road, so a swath of trees was chopped down to make room for a machine that ground up boulders and spit them out as gravel. The gravel, it lay the foundation for a street that would soon get a name and carry commuters (including myself, there is a complicity). The boulders, they had been carved out of the midriff of a cliff, a piece of Canadian Shield once scraped clean by parading ice.

Photo by E. Medline

Before long, the machine departed, leaving a bit of razed space. One corner marked a gravesite of dead tree trunks. “Yuck,” I may have uttered. But a year later, mustard took hold. Now, five years on, this strip of wasteland is hip-deep in wildflower, with sumac rising between. Each year, the soil improves, and eventually poplar and birch will arrive. I venture down there, spending a half-hour reacquainting myself with this disturbed terra, poaching photos, my ankles getting scratched. It is a moving landscape dotted with exclamation points of activity, colour and clarity. Bumblebees scout low, seemingly too heavy to lift their bodies higher. Feathery caterpillars dangle from stems, energizing themselves for a surprising future. Grasshoppers magically disappear and reappear with a click of chitin.

Photo by E. Medline

In other writings, when I speak of a meadow, I am talking about these very 25 square metres. Can one condemn the premise but praise the result?

Photo by E. Medline

No doubt, anywhere else this place would have been grassed over with Kentucky Blue, made to fit some purpose, cleaned up, hauled away, sanitized, picked over, adorned with the heavy petals of over-engineered annuals, golf-coursed, and celebrated. Pavement would be less hypocritical.     

Photo by E. Medline

Back in the meadow, which is neither a monoculture nor a flat of asphalt, a slight wind blows. Nearby a creek trickles. What a mess of multiplicity. Every strategy of nature is in place – fight and flight, prey and predator, camouflage, symbiosis, and mimicry. When the sun shines, the air smells of honey and butter. I am dizzy with the taste of wild roses and bird nests. I can hear the chemistry of carbon dioxide transforming into oxygen. Oh, there shines another beetle! A baby groundhog emerges from its tunnel for the first time, no longer blind. All is a’whistle, heating up, creeping, absolved. Damaged wings fly by, leaving a trail of blue powder. Deer prints press into the earth. Here, houseflies feel truly at home. Let it be, let it be. Neglect, that’s the ticket. Leave it alone! Leave it alone, and blackberry bushes will rise up to dine with the sky.


Note to readers: at Macro Monday, photographers showcase their close-up photos.



  1. lovely that there is this wonderful wild area …

    Crafty Green Poet

  2. I too have seen natural places developed to death in the decade that I’ve been photographing native plants. Time after time I’ve shared in the sadness of a razed field, but enough pieces of nature survive to keep me going.

    Steve Schwartzman

  3. What a tranquil, beautiful place.

    Us humans need to learn to appreciate nature again, we take it so much for granted. To connect with nature is to be content.

  4. Hope that this little piece of an unlikely paradise remains undisturbed and continues to flourish against all odds….and that you can spend some tranquil time there.

  5. Not only are you an amazing writer, but your photos are incredible!

  6. Fantastic details and depth in these images.

  7. Fascinating insight into this piece of ground reclaimed by nature… beautiful photographs…

  8. Each and every ONE of your photos are perfect. I think I especially like the beetle. I’m thinking you saved the best for last on this post.

    Macro Crystals is my link for Monday. I do hope to see you visit if you have time.

    Happy day to you.

  9. It’s refreshing to find a bit of nature amongst the concrete. And I’m so glad nature was allowed to reclaim at least a small part of what was taken from her.

  10. What a gorgeous place…a true gift of Mother Nature. Let us hope it remains this way for a long time to come. You macro shot are awesome…so much fabulous detail. This was a wonderful post. I enjoyed every bit of it. Genie

  11. Really beautiful macro work!!!

  12. yah… hey… I think someone is gonna fall in love with you Elaine reading these brilliant, entertaining, tender and revealing pieces… they are sooooooo beautiful!

  13. I’d like to recommend two nature writers that you and your readers may not be aware of. The first is Neltje Blanchan, whose book Nature’s Garden is available online for free at

    The other is Donald Culross Peattie, whose book Green Laurels tells the stories of some of the world’s great naturalists. His prose is a wonder to read.

    Steve Schwartzman

    • Steve, thank you for your comments and suggestions. The photos on your wildflower blog are works of art, especially the abstract depictions of water. Wow.

      • Thanks for your kind comments on my pictures.

  14. I love this essay, especially the final paragraph. It is elysian in feel.

    The observation of how nature reclaims the disturbed… I’ve been participating in that lately at my pond, and my root cellar garden — both of which tend towards entropy as engineered by nature. Sometimes I wonder what my gardens would end up looking like if I just quit putting my energy into them. Different. That is what they would look like. Maybe even more beautiful in a very wild way.

    Maybe I’ll quit weeding.

    ha ha ha ha ha ha ha I’ll quit weeding when I die.

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