An Orgy in My Backyard: Falling in Love with Nature

It’s been a cold, rainy spring in Maine, so it was no surprise that after a beautiful, sunny June day, on a warm clear night, there was an orgy in my backyard. I’d never imagined experiencing so much sex happening all around me, but there I was in the thick of it. The June bugs who weren’t flying all around (and bumping into me) were paired up so thickly on the ground that I had to walk slowly and carefully, so as not to crush dozens of them. And at the pond, the peeping and trilling of the spring peepers and tree frogs was so loud I had to cover my ears.

Normally, it’s not easy to find the tiny spring peepers and the perfectly camouflaged tree frogs who quiet down as one approaches, but they were so seemingly determined to find a mate that night that they didn’t stop their calls for even a second. I even saw two peepers hook up (whereupon they stopped peeping and just focused on mating). It wasn’t just the process of creating life that was occurring that night. The big green frogs were looking for dinner, and I came upon one who was eating a tree frog. It was quite an extravaganza of life and death by that pond. Even the nightcrawlers – big, dark earthworms – were out in force, slithering back into their holes as I passed.

I reveled in it all, amazed to witness such an event in my backyard. Most of the time other species are hidden. With the exception of diurnal flying birds and lawn-hopping squirrels, it’s uncommon to see wildlife, even in rural areas. We’re so divorced from the natural world in our built environments, so when we get to experience the extravagance of nature, the deafening sounds coming out of animals no bigger than the top joint of our thumb, the reality that under our feet worms are teeming, turning refuse into fertile soil below the visible grass, we are reminded that we are one species among many, interdependent, all participating in the grand drama that is life.

It’s so important that we ensure that our children have opportunities to witness and experience nature in this way, to understand the mysterious and amazing and wondrous world that lies beyond their TVs and computers and classrooms, to know that they are part and parcel of something precious beyond words and currently threatened by the actions and choices of our species.

Please bring a child into the woods, or a meadow, or a park, or a seashore, or a prairie at night this spring. Let them fall in love so they’ll protect whom and what they love with all their power.

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

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