Confessions from a consumer on grass fires and glass houses

I peer outside.  It’s overcast with a light drizzle of rain.  The sun looks as though it might break free of this gray haze, rays tenuously testing for the smallest of openings.  Smiling, I am happy I mowed the lawn yesterday – it looks so green, fresh and trimmed, so perfect I don’t want the thought of it to end.  But I know I will start sneezing and this imagine will be replaced by allergy-driven ideas of a pyromaniac set on setting flame to all things pollen-bearing.  As much as I love nature, there are certain things that test my loyalty.  Ironically, fire used to be a much bigger component of historical, early successional prairies in the Willamette Valley, helping to restore and rejuvenate oak stands and native grass and forb density and diversity.  It’s a cleaning of nature’s slate to make way for better soils and harvests – the reason why foodstuffs grow larger with full-bodied, crisp, rich textures and tastes.  With the expansion of urban boundaries and stricter safety regulations, large-scale fires have become non-existent today, allowing non-native grasses and weeds to spread into once pristine prairie habitat.  Endangered or threatened insect and bird species, like the Fender’s blue butterfly and Western meadowlark, have been feeling the brunt of this degradation, their homes less suitable for nesting, pollinating, foraging and survival in general.  Since over 96% of nesting birds depend on terrestrial insects to feed on, the decline of native plant diversity has led to a concomitant decline in insect diversity, limiting foodstuffs for species like the Western meadowlark, Oregon’s State Bird.  So too, the endangered Fender’s blue butterfly depends on the threatened Kincaid’s lupine, a beautiful bluish-purpulish perennial flowering plant in the pea family.  This butterfly will only complete its life cycle on this one plant species.  In late spring, adults deposit tiny spherical eggs which will hatch sometime in June.  The larvae overwinter in the roots and emerge as caterpillars in spring where they feed on the leaves, metamorphose into adults and lay eggs for the next generation before dying.  Imagine if you could only thrive, procreate and die in one house your whole life – this could either be quite comforting or disturbing – but these butterflies know no other way of life, no other prairie or fragrant petal to pollinate.  With this thought, I return to my initial maniacal idea about torching all things pollen-bearing: I really didn’t mean it, at least for the native plants.  I am a readily-adaptable human being who has all the time in the world to purchase more Claritin and curse my selfish genes for complaining.  Whether we know it or not, we are all connected and dependent on this giant glass house called Gaia.

About tyler4turtles

I am an avid photographer, poet, ecologist, bookworm, blogger, art enthusiast and runner who calls Montana home but lives in Oregon.
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2 Responses to Confessions from a consumer on grass fires and glass houses

  1. Gallivanta says:

    Allergies! At certain times of the year I live on Claratyne. This last summer it was the plantain grass which caused me grief.

    • I’ve come to learn that allergies are just another fact of life. Grass will always grow in another meadow, the breeze will always carry granules of pollen in the atmosphere and birds and insects will continue to pollinate flower to flower. As long as there is a high diversity and density of native flora to provide food and habitat for rare fauna, I will not complain about my trivial, insignificant spring fever (although, I may still sneeze, blow my nose and curse the scourge of invasive plants like ragweed, reed canary grass and scotch broom!).

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