when the forest begins to rust

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……………

one morning last week i woke up to a glimmering wet forest after some late night showers. i scarfed down cereal, set a thermos of coffee aside, and headed out for a quick walk. there’s nothing like the forest right now. i almost prefer the late fall woods. while most of the brightest red maples have already turned, the oaks and beeches have their own fascinating chorus of rusty browns and soft yellows. then, in some places, you might be lucky enough to spot a few brilliant yellow sugar maples. later in the season the ground is covered in more leaves and i’m more likely to come across two of my favorite scenes: fallen leaves resting in strange places or mostly empty branches with a few lonely leaves still clinging on.

later on the same day i spent a lot of time online reading about birds. (i guess that’s what happens when you’re on the job hunt and want to procrastinate writing cover letters.) darin and i watched a documentary on netflix last year called ghost bird, and i still find myself thinking about it today. the film is about the ivory-billed woodpecker, a majestic bird that is extinct or critically endangered, and the recent debate surrounding it’s potential resurgence and conservation efforts in Arkansas. i have to be honest and say that even though i grew up a staunch environmentalist, my years of studying environmental sociology deepened and diversified my opinions on environmental issues to an extent where i became skeptical or disenchanted or simply apathetic (however you want to put it) with major campaigns to save endangered animals.  the truth is a lot of fundraising campaigns to “save” endangered species focus only on very flashy, famous, or “cute” animal species, and fail to do more to educate about communities of species, their ecosystems, and our societies complex role in such things. anyway, i still found myself thinking pessimistic thoughts like, “maybe it’s not the end of the world if species die, the ecosystem will live on somehow.” but ghost bird sparked something in me and tugged my heartstrings. nobody may ever see a sight like this again: young ivory-billed woodpecker. that feels incredibly sad. this bird would not have been eradicated if old growth forests in the deep south, like the Singer tract, had not been logged in the manner in which they were. it also disturbed me to see the vast number of specimens of ivory-billed woodpeckers that were once collected for research and archival in museums. i still find myself pouring over images of this bird and thinking about the events that lead to it’s potential extinction. maybe they still live, maybe they don’t. it’s a mystery i’m fascinated with, and i think the next thing i’ll do is search out information about rare or endangered species closer to home.

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