I was recently thrilled to see that the small, stunted, and scrappy orchids in my backyard were all in bloom. I had largely given up on them. Sun burns, over-watering, leaving them out on cold nights—I’m guilty of it all. As most orchid growers would tell you, orchids thrive on neglect. Give them the right amount of light and shade and they’ll do well in spite of you. Yeah, sounds easy enough, but I can’t grow orchids the way I would like to, and that frustrates me, so I see these new blossoms as a small victory over my own ineptitude.
So, happily, we have a few magnificent flowers this spring, all because I left the damn orchids alone.
I am learning that there is a time to be hands-off. Each time I go out to explore the nearby waters I am reminded that my impact can be lasting or largely invisible, and it is all up to me. I can either choose to be passive or choose to be active, but the end result should look like I was never even there.
Our responsibility in the natural world is to leave it alone, unless it needs our help.
While paddling through the lily pads yesterday I almost plowed over the bright pink eggs of an Apple Snail. Amazingly, Apple Snails grow from these tiny eggs to about the size of a baseball. Why are these little eggs important? The apple snail is the main diet of the Limpkin (Aramus guarauna), a protected bird with a very unflattering call. If I am unaware and damage the eggs as I paddle through the lily pads, the Limpkin population can suffer for it. It’s my job to know.
Similarly, it was a lack of awareness that led to the Lionfish invasion we now have offshore. The Lionfish (Pterois), is a non-native, highly invasive species that was introduced into the Atlantic ten years ago. They have a voracious appetite and are prolific breeders, and the sad reality of their presence here is such that, ten years from now, you may only see or catch Lionfish and little else. It’s going to take a heavy, hands-on approach to eliminate them; as long as we can do it without impacting anything else.
As an outdoor enthusiast and parent of teenage daughters I am learning quickly that there is definitely a time to hold on and a time to let go—a time to be active or passive, and lately, as far as my kids are concerned, it’s becoming more hands off then ever before. Parenting, like fishing, surfing, or paddling, is a privilege, not a right. If you appreciate the local waters you must adopt a parental sense of responsibility. If you help to create an environment in which nature thrives, younger generations will thrive too. Even if you don’t have kids yourself, someone else’s kids will benefit, and we’ll all be better off.
Lionfish ceviche on a bed of orchids anyone?
March 11th, 2012