Life finds a way
Spring is about to show up around us after not much of a winter; but even though we didn’t get much cold or snow, things still change from fall to winter to spring, and it’s worth reflecting a moment on some of them. By Rama Sobhani
In particular, I’ve been meditating lately on what I’ve heard called the “mystery of life.” That might mean different things, depending on who you ask, so I’ll take a minute to try to lay out how I see the “mystery.”
I guess the greatest mystery of life is how as a whole it continues to exist through so many challenging conditions, like winter. Yes, some individual members of the animal and plant kingdoms don’t make it, but, overall, life goes on, as cliché as that might sound. When you spend as much time in the outdoors as those of us in the parks business do, you’re constantly reminded of how there is life all around you, even though at times you might not be able to see or hear it.
I mentioned winter and that’s really when the resilience of life, in general, strikes me. Yes, it wasn’t much of a winter this year, but, still, no matter what, winter isn’t summer and if you had to spend all your life outdoors, you would be intrinsically aware of that, if you didn’t freeze to death, that is. My point is from a human perspective, winter is challenging, no matter what, but to the denizens of natural spaces, like Ouabache Trails Park, where I spend very much of my time, winter’s barely a hiccup. The plants and animals that inhabit our world just do different things in winter, be it hibernating, living off of stored food, or shedding leaves to stay more efficient when there’s less sunlight.
It’s hard to keep this in mind as humans, especially as busy humans for whom for the sake of efficiency the rest of the world has to be pared down to a simpler and more predictable set of circumstances. We tend to think the rest of the world works on human terms and that’s only natural.
Imagine being out in the middle of the woods after a heavy snowfall. Let me set the scene — everything around is pure white, nothing is moving and the only sound one can hear is one’s own breathing. The fresh snow acts as sort of a sound dampener to the world in the distance and because it’s just fallen, all the traces of regular life in the forest are gone from view — no leaf litter, no twigs, logs, puddles of water. Because it covers up what they forage for, no robins are hopping around the ground looking for food. It’s dead silent and there’s no motion.
To the human eyes and ears, life has stopped. But, of course, that’s not nearly the truth. Life is just going on in a different place and in a different way.
Humans also tend to think of life on a human scale. While we’re lucky to spend 90 years on Earth, that doesn’t even register on the geologic clock. This shifting of life activity has been going on for millions (billions, really) of years through astronomical cataclysms, massive climate changes, animal and plant species coming and going. Yet things persevere. As a character in one of my favorite stories once said, “Life finds a way.” I don’t want to get preachy, but this is why I’m always skeptical of whatever the latest ecological emergency is supposed to be. With human eyes, we sometimes see a massive threat to the stability of the world around us, but meanwhile, chances are life is humming along and will continue to for a very long time even after some of us are gone. It takes a certain humility to accept that humans can’t change as much as we often think we can.
I could get off on a tangent here and go onto a philosophical discussion of whether perception is reality (it isn’t), but I’ll wrap it up by saying that personally, I’m comforted by the idea that despite outward appearances life is going on and will continue during all of the seasons, despite my own perceptions. The scale of life, the timeline of life are much grander than any of us. Pretty soon spring is going to remind us that life is all around. Having come through on the other side of winter once again, we’re reminded that life finds a way.
By Rama Sobhani
Rama Sobhani has been the superintendent of the Knox County Parks and Recreation department since 2012 and before that worked as a reporter for the Vincennes Sun-Commercial. He is originally from the West Coast, but became a Hoosier when he completed his master’s degree at the Indiana University Ernie Pyle School of Journalism in 2008.