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Almost two months since arriving at my new post and I have killed more living things in this time period than in the last two decades combined. My job and the nature sanctuary I am managing demands I take up such weapons of destruction as weed whackers, lawn mowers, hedge trimmers, chain saws, and a special mower capable of chewing up and spitting out saplings, vines, ten foot tall reeds and anything else nearby. Meadow voles, mice, woodchucks, and Eastern Cottontail Rabbits flee before the dreadful violence of these weapons of mass destruction I wield. As they run in terror, Red-tailed Hawks occasionally dive to grab some of these hapless mammals and add punctuation to my new role as Death.

Now, on one hand, there will never be a shortage of these invasive plant seeds, berries, rhizomes, and vines. In fact, the invasive plants here have already won the battle and now "own" most of the land of this sanctuary. Yet, despite the population and reproductive capabilities of these plants, I am still killing individual life forms in the name of caretaking and stewardship and natural resource management. It's my job.

I have to pick my vegetative battles and let the rest alone to choke itself and cast billions of seeds this way and that. Soon I will be desensitized to this act of dealing death. It must happen. . . just as soldiers are trained to face enemies in battlefield condtions and kill them, even though the enemy belongs to their own species.

And in all its madness, I am trying to find a vision for the land through the lens of my job as a naturalist, educator, and habitat manager. How to be at peace with the paradox of life: that creation and destruction walk hand in hand, bound together, eternally trying to undo what the other has wrought. In the final analysis, they become each other. And I too cannot escape the paradox:  of loving nature, wanting to protect and save the land for diversity and the health of the life web it is apart of; and dealing death to countless living organisms in the process. In this I am cheerless, and my soul outraged to have been sent to this frontier to "manage the land and natural resources". I am privately ashamed to feel a certain satisfaction as I look at the improvements I've made to the appearance of things.

With any luck, I'll eventually lighten up about my situation and be able to post "happy" and "uplifting" nature journal entries and observations.

Reader Comments (1)

So true. Who are we to rate good or bad species.

Here is the one that got me.......

Digging the foundation for our house. ....... these rocks have lived undisturbed for eons..... and here we come & rip them up. Strange feelings. ..noteven aliving thing! !

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersteve Gambino

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