Nature from a Bench

Yesterday afternoon, after a hectic day at work, I sat on a bench outside my office, waiting for a ride to dinner. At such times, I usually settle into a passive observation mode, a detour from the stress of modern life. Though I was sitting at the edge of a campus parking lot, with little vegetation in close range, there was plenty of activity to hold my attention.

We humans, enamored with scenic landscapes, tend to ignore the natural residents of our urban settings. But a male cardinal, singing from the gate of a pickup, was just as sincere as a trogon, calling in an Arizona canyon. House sparrows, foraging in the shrubbery, were just as focused as weaver birds of the African Plains and, zooming overhead, chimney swifts expressed the same exuberance as their white-throated cousins of the Front Range foothills. At my feet, tiny ants scoured the concrete desert, gathering morsels of food with the same determination as the swarms of a tropical rainforest.

The natural world, after all, is a continuum, broken only by man-made structures. Whether on a Midwestern campus or in the wilds of Borneo, we share the same sun, the same thin atmosphere and the same struggle to survive.