Mother Nature and Snow White are a couple of the nicknames given to me by family members who know my relationship with nature. I once returned a baby bunny to its mother after it was taken by a cat and flown across our street by a crow. I put decals on my windows to keep the birds from flying into them, and I’m always on the lookout for native plants for my yard that will provide food and shelter to the animals that live nearby.
Nature seems to have a place in our family. Growing up, my grandmother always fed the birds; she still tends her flower gardens that attract all types of pollinators. My great-grandparents had a vegetable garden that spanned the width of their backyard. I remember my great-grandfather taking us out to see his prize tomatoes, stopping to smell grandma’s peonies on the way. Their generation had a different perspective on survival, having lived through the Great Depression. I never expected to love and appreciate the natural world around me as much as I do. Witnessing my family’s relationship with the outdoors, and spending my own time with living things outside, has given me an appreciation and respect for the beings we share the planet with.
We are bulldozing natural landscapes and replacing them with concrete at an alarming rate. Between 1982 and 2012, the U.S. population grew by about 35%, while the land we developed increased by almost 59%. We are replacing forests, wetlands, and prairies that can absorb carbon, provide resources, clean our water and maintain diversity in nature with roads, houses, factories, warehouses, etc. Instead of looking at land as something to be removed and replaced by something artificial, we should be more mindful of creating a balance between the world we’re building and the natural one that ensures our survival.
Creating diversity with native plants in our yards provides a healthy environment fostering biodiversity and supporting life. According to University of Delaware Professor Doug Tallamy, an Oak tree supports 524 species of caterpillars, whereas a Ginkgo only supports one species. My journey to find native plants in Nashville, TN, led me to GroWild, a family-owned and operated nursery that specializes in native plants in our area. The owner is an incredibly knowledgable man who’s dedicated his life to natives and happily shares his knowledge with his customers. Getting to know someone like Mike has changed my perspective on what a yard should be and how I can contribute to preserving the wild world in my space.
Developing your relationship with nature is easy. Take a walk in your neighborhood, local park, or backyard, and take time to watch who’s around. I see each animal as an individual on a daily mission to eat; I’ve watched them play with each other, talk to each other, share food, mourn a loss, and be concerned for their young. When you give time to the plants, the birds, the bees, butterflies, foxes, and other life around you, you want to preserve it. Perhaps it’s about appreciating the beauty of all life on earth and knowing that you can help it survive. Recently, I noticed a Red-bellied Woodpecker making a nest in one of our trees; providing a safe and healthy environment for wildlife is an empowering experience.
We can each do our part to preserve the natural world.
- Please get involved in your city government to try and influence the way they think about planning. Repurposing existing sites before tearing down nature for new buildings and homes.
- Businesses and individuals alike choose native plants for landscaping and try to preserve as much natural space as possible. While lawns are beautiful to look at, they’re dead zones that require a lot of money, energy, and chemicals to maintain while serving no natural purpose.
- Find someone who specializes in natives by asking around.
- Dedicate an area of your lawn to creating a native habitat for your local wildlife.