Nature Notes: Above and below


Looking at some recent videotapes of ocean waves taken down at the beach, I noticed that by slowing down or speeding up the tape, the rhythm of the larger oceanic swells could be seen as large mountains of water hidden among the smaller wind waves.

A sight that was completely invisible in real time became wonderfully interesting at a speed unknown to our everyday senses. These tiny "tips of the iceberg" are actually quite common if we only take the time to look for them. How can a bat find the entrance to its bat house on the side of a tree by echo location and smell alone? What fantastic sonar detection they must have. A humpback whale can swim in a direct line from Alaska to Hawaii and find its feeding and breeding grounds near Maui with no navigational difficulty. Try that without your GPS or Loran!

Hummingbirds can cross the entire Gulf of Mexico nonstop and make landfall coming and going at the same exact location year after year. We can't even do that in a single engine Cessna! The toughness and resilience of animals and plants and insects as they go about their lives is what makes this beautiful blue such a marvel. No matter that geese fly overhead thousands of feet above us free and wild, or that ballooning spiders fly even higher than geese and can cross oceans on thin silk sails. Many species of seabirds migrate at night, silent except for hushed conversations as they make their way in the dark, high, unnoticed and quite safe.

The wild and unstoppable biomass of insects continues with us or without us. They have been busy doing insect business for millions of years and will still be hard at work long after we are a hominid lineage that just dead ended.

The ebb and flow of rain and sun, cold and warm, insects and birds, little waves living among bigger waves, and all of the inhabitants who ride alongside of us, each a passenger on this water planet, looping the sun which loops the galaxy which loops the universe which probably loops itself, and each of us with an equal share. The mallard has the same right as the doe, and the elk has the same right as you or I. The mouse and her seed collection will go on and on, and each is an indispensable element, a working cog in this crazy place we call home.

So the next time you're walking down to the beach, take a look up high in the sky. Maybe you'll see them, those little sky pilots looking down, and under your feet buried in the sand, clams and insects and a host of other lives and other hearts beating just like yours and mine.

Maybe, just maybe, we can get a sense of who we are and why we're here. Maybe we can see into the glaring brilliance of sun filled waves and hear the laughter of children feeding happy seagulls and know that this business of war has no place here. This place, this Earth, is for living.

Craig Sparks is director of NAWA and loves big surf. Found injured wildlife? Questions? Call NAWA at 665-3595 or e-mail to

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