This week’s story is not a biology essay, despite first glance at the title. Although each of these creatures has fascinating adaptive features to help it suit the relevant climate, it’s really an analogy for where I started and where I am now.
When we left Australia it was not uncommon to see huge mobs of kangaroos lazing in the shade at the local golf course or even right on our front lawn at dusk, nibbling at the tiny patch of tender green domesticated grass. Some evenings I would roam the hills opposite amongst the tall straw-like grasses at dusk to gaze across the vast valley and soft undulating hills. As the sky would reveal rich jewell-like colors while sunset deepened and the lights of the encroaching housing developments flickered with artificial abandon below I would sometime sit on the boulders to listen to the rustle of the landscape. Thinking I was blissfully alone, I was often surprised by a large ‘roo or two poised just near me, alert but not alarmed. Having usually finished all my film on the roll or accepting it was too dark to photograph these unique animals, I would just sit quietly again on the rocks and wait as the kangaroos would graze peacefully then slowly lop along with their ungainly legs and powerful tails. The males can be quite large but they are surprisingly quiet so you would not hear them approach if they were not fearful. If I knew then that my life was going to change dramatically I would have savored the experience at every opportunity and spent every possible evening on my hill.
Fast forward to 8 years on and Connecticut is now my usual base. As I reflected on how my family and friends would be celebrating the Australia Day long weekend with all the heat and humidity I was preparing for the onslaught of a blizzard that was predicted to be historic. Thankfully it wasn’t as severe as forecast but we do have more snow expected in the next few days that will probably disrupt usual activities, especially travel and school. It’s funny how it doesn’t take long to settle into a routine with the new seasons. Falling trees, plummeting temperatures, power outages, stockpiling of supplies “just n case” has became part of the daily existence here. Normal preparations are punctuated by reminders of major storms in years past like our loss of power for 12 days and so many fallen trees it literally was a natural disaster. In this new environment, I now look for bears or deer in my yard, spot the fox stalking purposefully through the woods and perhaps hope to catch a glimpse of the lynx cat that has taken up residence under our back deck. As the days finally lighten and we nudge closer to February we all hanker for the news to learn if “Phil” the groundhog will see his shadow or not, determining if we will have another six weeks of winter or an early spring.
This is a time for me to reflect on where I came from and what I now call home. Is it the friendships and family that make a home; the memories and the aspirations; the cluttered souvenirs of a full life and the furnishings or books and paintings we transport to a new setting? Perhaps we simply adapt to new surroundings and opportunities or cling forlornly to the life we once had.
Looking forward, looking back? Fearful or hopeful? Reinventing ourselves or trapped in old narratives? Is there ever a creature as complex and fascinating as people? Perhaps that’s really the key difference.