2081 Clipper Park Road Baltimore MD 21211

Earth Day Musings

Jennifer Dowdell
Landscape Architect, Biohabitats, Inc.

In my work at Biohabitats, I spend many hours noting patterns. Whether they are forms and patterns in the landscape, textures and patterns of habitat or hydrology on a map, or patterns of numbers, they all inform my craft. I approach these tasks with the same sense of wonder and curiosity as when I first saw photos taken by the LandSat 7 satellites, amazing abstract images of development patterns, climatic anomalies, and natural features – each pattern providing part of the story, and the history, of place.

On Earth Day, we seem to be bombarded with these types of grand images: open space, earth rising over the moon, natural wonders from 10,000 feet or more, etc. They reminded us to appreciate, preserve, conserve, restore, and live in harmony with Earth’s natural resources.

But this Earth Day, I plan to seek out patterns and natural wonders at a finer scale, in hopes of connecting in a new way to my own habitat: my home, yard, street, neighborhood, and region. I want to be better attuned to those subtleties that I may take for granted on a daily basis. I’ll take in the fragrances of the soil in my patio container gardens. I’ll go for a walk in my neighborhood early enough to hear the bird song or catch a glimpse of that red-tailed fox I’ve seen outside my house on occasion. I’ll also try to learn about local areas of natural significance. On the top of my list are the serpentine barrens at Bare Hills, just up the road from us here at Biohabitats.

Serpentine barrens are rare, unique ecosystems known for their seemingly bleak conditions – toxicity for many plants and low nutrient concentrations- but which have provided habitat for a unique plant community containing rare and endemic plant species. There are only a few such places in Maryland, and one of them is right here, practically under my nose. And yet I have never sought it out.

And so I pose this challenge to you: seek out the small wonders, the ones we often ignore but that provide us connections to place. This Earth Day, consider becoming an eco-tourist in your own town.

3 comments

  1. Julie Gabrielli says:

    Wonderful! Thank you for this great reminder that wonders are all around us.
    I wrote about this recently, too — as discovered in some lamb bones from making soup. (Unlikely place, I know!)

    And, thank you for the great information on Bare Hills. Definitely checking that out soon.

  2. ISM says:

    Nicely put. Think global, act local. Charity (or conservation) begins at home. People only value what they know.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Especially germane is the third stanza of Robert Service’s “The Joy of Little Things”:

    It’s good the great green earth to roam,
    Where sights of awe the soul inspire;
    But oh, it’s best, the coming home,
    The crackle of one’s own hearth-fire!
    You’ve hob-nobbed with the solemn Past;
    You’ve seen the pageantry of kings;
    Yet oh, how sweet to gain at last
    The peace and rest of Little Things!

    Perhaps you’re counted with the Great;
    You strain and strive with mighty men;
    Your hand is on the helm of State;
    Colossus-like you stride . . . and then
    There comes a pause, a shining hour,
    A dog that leaps, a hand that clings:
    O Titan, turn from pomp and power;
    Give all your heart to Little Things.

    Go couch you childwise in the grass,
    Believing it’s some jungle strange,
    Where mighty monsters peer and pass,
    Where beetles roam and spiders range.
    ‘Mid gloom and gleam of leaf and blade,
    What dragons rasp their painted wings!
    O magic world of shine and shade!
    O beauty land of Little Things!

    I sometimes wonder, after all,
    Amid this tangled web of fate,
    If what is great may not be small,
    And what is small may not be great.
    So wondering I go my way,
    Yet in my heart contentment sings . . .
    O may I ever see, I pray,
    God’s grace and love in Little Things.

    So give to me, I only beg,
    A little roof to call my own,
    A little cider in the keg,
    A little meat upon the bone;
    A little garden by the sea,
    A little boat that dips and swings . . .
    Take wealth, take fame, but leave to me,
    O Lord of Life, just Little Things.

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