A decade or so ago, my older sister and I would band together to fight our impending bedtime with television programming from “Nick at Nite,” broadcasted after 8 p.m. on the Nickelodeon channel. “Nick at Nite” featured old sitcoms such as “Gilligan’s Island,” “Happy Days,” “I Love Lucy” and “The Brady Bunch.”
While I haven’t tuned in to “Nick at Nite” for years, last night I reacquainted myself with another after-dark classic, which for the purposes of this blog I’ll deem “Nature at Night.”
After a flurry of activity equalling that of Grand Central Station, I waved goodbye to the last of my family’s houseguests as they backed out of the driveway, and I marvelled that the temperature had dropped almost 15 degrees since the midday toaster-oven weather.
I turned to scurry back inside dodging the moth-infested porch light, but something stopped me before I made it through the door (although nothing seemed to stop the few moths that did make it inside). Mid-Missouri’s recent heat wave has had me holed up in a heavily air-conditioned hideaway, so I decided to seize a few moments of tolerable outdoor enjoyment.
My mind needed some time to calm down after a busy day, but after a few minutes I was certain my momentary outdoor retreat was in fact the most peaceful place imaginable. Seated on the front porch behind drapes of my mom’s patriotic bunting, I looked on at the quiet patch of trees that had harbored so many birds when the sun was shining. Just hours ago at this same spot I had seen songbirds salvage melting suet and watched woodpeckers nearly level a hummingbird feeder. Night had fallen, and all was calm.
Then I listened.
The longer I listened, the more I realized that a calm appearance is no indication that nature goes off the air at night.
I held my perch on the front-porch chair, taking in the communal musings of frantic cricket frogs as a single cicada set a rhythm for the night. As my ears adjusted from their heat advisory-induced stupor, the natural noises of the 88-degree night became increasingly and wonderfully deafening.
After my immeasurable period of wonder at the ever-active nature right outside my door, my mom ducked her head out the door, eluding the porch light’s dive-bombing moths and calling me back into the house with a cautionary aside of, “You’ll get eaten up out here.”
So often we think conservation is an effort to make nature act the way it’s "supposed to." But after only a few stolen minutes alone with the outdoors, I couldn’t help but reflect on how nature left to its own devices will be just fine and just as active as ever. Our job is to make sure it’s allowed to do that using proper conservation-minded management—and to pause occasionally to appreciate it for all it’s worth.