“Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher ‘standard of living’ is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free.” – Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac
Last week I drove up the street I live on and saw a bobcat cross the road with its freshly-killed dinner dangling from its mouth. Looked like an unlucky chipmunk to me, but might have been a small rabbit. Honestly I was focused on the bobcat. For I’d never seen one before, and even though I knew right away what it was I still called my friend Tom to validate what I believed I’d just seen.
The next day my daughter and I were looking out the window and saw a red-tailed hawk land on the umbrella next to the pool, look around for a moment and then fly off to another vantage point. Its search for lunch momentarily overlapped in our world. I sit under that umbrella writing now, as I often do.
Yesterday, while mowing the lawn, I glanced up the street and saw a doe carefully crossing the street at roughly the spot my car was when I saw that bobcat. She was escorting three fawns across the road. Two were more spry, the third a bit awkward on the legs, as if just born. They disappeared into the brush on the other side of the road, just as the bobcat had a few days before.
All of these interactions with the wild amongst us would be familiar to countless generations of humans who lived on this land. They’d be far more taken aback by the swimming pools, lawn mowers and cars parked in driveways than the wildlife I find so fascinating. The question is whether they’ve been here all along or if they’re just returning in greater numbers as they adapt to the world we’ve dropped down in their neighborhood. Surely the deer and hawks have grown in numbers in my lifetime. But what of the predators like bobcat, fisher cats, mountain lions, coyotes and wolves? Evidence shows they’re returning to the land too. My encounter with the bobcat isn’t uncommon anymore, what was uncommon was the years when it would have been.
All this points to a relatively healthy ecosystem surrounding the development I live in. Granted, it might have been even healthier were this development not dropped into the woods 22 years ago, but it was, and over time the land adjusts and the wild creatures return. The difference here was a requirement for open, undeveloped space allocated around house lots. Less profitable for the developer, but more attuned to the land. And that land serves as a highway for all sorts of wildlife, and in turn keeps me here, rooted to the land in ways I hadn’t expected when we sunk a foundation onto this plot. And so it is that I serve my tenure as watchman for the land, and wild amongst us. May I serve it well.