Trekking through the forest of thin, reaching pines, your feet sink into the soft, pillowy carpet of soil. The spongy quaintness of this nature-made rug of moss and decaying plants enchant you. The simple comfort of resting your head upon the fluff is tempting after hiking through the mountainous terrain all afternoon. Yes, there might be a few spiders or a couple of ants. But other than that, there can’t be anything else hiding under this thin layer of leaves, right?
“There is more than what meets the eye” seems to be an obvious phrase that gets lost behind obvious sights. Underneath spongy soil, an intricate and complex maze of rodent living quarters zig-zags its way through the forest. The decaying and mossy plant covering is an unlikely rodent metropolis: a perfect insulation system for the long and cold winter months. This newfound comprehension of the soil gives it more meaning and significance than what was originally thought. What was once just an area to rest your heavy head down is now an under-the-surface city with streets, homes and neighbors—A bustling ecosystem right beneath your eyes that you would never know about if you weren’t looking.
As you continue your hike, you pass more natural life. Each with its own hidden details. You assume that the bright red berries you graze your hand over are poisonous. However, if you looked closely, you would have seen the streaking downward stripes stating that they are red currants—non-illness inducing to the stomach and tangy to the tastebuds, according to Hunker article “How to Identify Wild Currant Shrubs” by Amrita Chuasiriporn.
You are not aware that the wild rose bushes growing alongside the path are not only pleasant to your eyes but also healthy for your body. One rose hip, the berry that grows after the petals fall off, has at least 30 times the amount of vitamin C than an orange does, according to Pacific Prime’s “Lifehack: 4 Unconventional Sources of Vitamin”
You reach your destination. Water pours over the edge of a towering cliff, crashing in a thunderous rush of white capped waves that speed down the river. With each smash against jutting rocks, droplets glitter in the late afternoon sun as they hurtle away from the expansion of H2O. There is a hurried motion as the river communicates to you.
Your feet ache, so you take off your dusty hiking boots and sweaty socks to soak your feet in the icy, glacial river. Ouch! You reach down and pick up the large stone from the water that you just stepped on. You toss it back, and with a kerplunk it sinks down to the bottom. Too late, you didn’t look closely enough to see the tube shaped caddisfly larvae home made out of sand particles and bits of plants, glued together by their bioadhesive silk onto the stone (Hitchcock Center).
One natural feature you notice is a small tree trunk with bark stripped away. Underneath the bark, bands of bright green and red catch your eye. The cambium from the tree, thick tissue made from xylem, phloem or cork is what you glanced at (The Daily Garden). But if the bark was still in place, this unusually vivid color would be hidden from view.
The world is a pop-up textbook of information. Each detail fits into a puzzle, a puzzle in which we will never be able to individually put together, no matter how wide our perspective is. No matter how much we think we know, there is always something below the surface of our knowledge, whether it be a caddisfly home or a city of rodents.
The more understanding we have of the natural environment, the more we can work to create a harmonious relationship with nature. A wider perspective can lead to more empathy. And empathy is what we need to approach the issue of our environment’s health in a productive and successful course of action.