Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Rare is a Relative Term

Cinco de Mayo 2014 found Hoot Owl Karma just a few miles from home, kneeling in the sand and straw beneath a mature stand of loblolly pines, camera shutter clicking eagerly in the face of a small colony of showy native orchids -
pink lady's slippers or moccasin flowers.

The field guide characterizes these native beauties as secure in North Carolina, not significantly rare; 
yet this tiny colony of pink lady slippers is the only one we've encountered in the wild.

Rare is a relative term, so perhaps we'd be excused for saying these lovely creatures are relatively rare in our neck of the woods.

Sometimes singly, sometimes in small groups, inconspicuous amidst the sticks and straw in spite of their striking beauty, the orchid blossoms sway gently in the breeze to the music of lawnmowers and barking dogs from the nearby development.

And as the orchids sway, a man kneels before them in a stand of pines growing from a hill of sand and ponders the wilderness past.

Pines came along relatively early in the history of vascular plants, appearing in the fossil record more than 150 million years ago.
Orchids arrived somewhat later, perhaps a little more than 50 million years ago;
and the ancient dunes which became our Sandhills were deposited here by the sea some 20 million years ago.

The man imagines a scene much like today's playing out here among the pines over millions of springs, with one caveat.

Man has only been a witness for the past 15,000 years or so...

As for the future - next year, or the next - who can say?
This tract of pines was thinned last year, and is currently for sale. 
How long will this magical wood remain a wood? 

How long can any wood remain a wood in the civilized world? 
Only as long as its owners allow;
such is the way of civilization.

And as the trees go, so go the orchids; that's ecology.

Rare is a relative term, and time is too.

 Both speak of loss and of opportunity;

while there are yet magical woods and native orchids,

and while there is yet time,

Carpe Diem!

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