When I was a little boy I used to love to turn over rocks exposed by low tides. Crabs, eels, sculpin, tiny starfish; I was enthralled by the teeming wildlife of the intertidal zone. Because I was a little boy, and little boys can be smelly, exhausting, and self-absorbed, I was not always as cautious with the ecosystem as I ought to have been. More than a few sea creatures perished both at my hand and from my carelessness, I admit with sad honesty. Some little boys grow up to be smelly, exhausting, and self-absorbed adults who enjoy Two and a Half Men, and a very small number of crabkillers mature into psychopaths or TSA’s. I am in the group of men that you never see in detergent or air freshener commercials, the kind that not only get older but also mature.
I have taught my daughter, who also loves to overturn intertidal rocks, that it is important to treat the animals that live there very gently and to restore their homes as much as possible. Being of sweet and gentle nature, these are behaviors that come to her easily: everybody who goes into the bucket goes back into the pool before the tide comes in. We appreciate the wild by not harvesting it, even inadvertently.
All of my Native Plant reference materials have at least some amount of information, if not entire chapters, devoted to how best to collect plants from the wild and transplant them elsewhere. I find this to be an interesting dynamic, where one’s love for nature includes the distinct possibility of killing it by coveting it. Despite the large amount of native plants I have planted, I have yet to dig up any vascular plants for transplanting. The only plant material I have transplanted is moss–and that is from my own property. As a reformed crabkiller, when I do wild harvest my mosses, I do my very utmost not only to ensure the survival of not only the transplant but also of the mother plant. I’ve got more moss than
JD’s got Salinger, but I am not skinning off great sheets of it; rather, I am cutting a plug or a pad from a much larger colony, usually in the middle, doing so gently with my Hori Hori, and trying as diligently as possible to restore some woodland duff to the area where I have been working.
This is partly due to the fact that hey, I’d like to come back and get some MORE moss if I want it-call it enlightened self-interest. But it is also that despite the condescending ‘steward of the land’ pep talk the city gave me when they approved the original Mitigation Plan, I AM the steward of this land. I love my forest…any forest, really. I love the plants, the scent, the sounds; I even love the stupid annoying critters that seem to think I am just providing them with surplus food (except YOU, Mountain Beaver! YOU SUCK! Go owls!!). I intend to take only moss, and leave only the prints of my Merrills. Or at least make it look that way.