Walk right out on it. You can investigate a marsh easier now than at any time of the year. No wet feet, no poison ivy, no mosquitoes and ticks. Beneath that ice, the richness of the swamp hums along in first gear, waiting for April in order to spring to life again.
If you didn’t know it, you’d assume Pigeon Swamp is just another Connecticut shallow pond, always looking much as it does now. Welcome to the Shifting Baseline Syndrome: there is now no evidence that 100,000 fat and happy Passenger Pigeons once called this home. Today I chatted with somebody there who had no idea, although she walks there all the time. We unfortunately perceive only 2-5 years at a time, and we think our own brief view encompasses history. It’s a kind of amnesia. We simply can’t picture how many tadpoles, Monarch butterflies, pussy willows, chestnut trees, or fireflies inhabited our father’s childhood, let alone our own. FYI – there were a LOT.
It seemed the fierce, vibrant and creative activism that consumed my UConn years was equally gone. Nope, it was hidden beneath the ice. After 50 years, it has burst forth, driving change, forcing a retreat from fossil fuels and our oblivious wasting of nature’s ability to regenerate itself.
I’ve been worrying for some time now about how to activate young people to respond to the climate crisis. Turns out I didn’t need to. Thank goodness. They remind me of myself at 18-20, angry about war, injustice, and my own future.
Maybe they’re just another example of a natural cycle. We forget that wars, recoveries, enlightenments, and revolutions have all happened before. And yet there is continuous relentless change taking place. Passenger Pigeons won’t be coming back, even if we clone them. While you are walking around on the ice at Joshua’s Trust Pigeon Swamp Preserve, listen for ghost wings. Muse on Polar Bears, Piping Plovers, and melting permafrost. But don’t be depressed, be dynamic. Come out from under the ice. Attend the Climate Change lectures during the winter. March with me and the students. Make a difference.
By George Jacobi
Photos by Ray Johnson