Currently I am traveling without electronic devices, so I won’t be able to write my weekly blog. However, the manuscript for my next book is in the hands of Purdue University Press undergoing final revisions, so while I am away, I will print short excerpts from the upcoming Essays to My Daughter on Our Relationship with the Natural World. Hopefully I will have much to say about my trip upon my return in early May.
The return of the turkeys made me think about other environmental events that have happened in Wisconsin during my lifetime. All of them, of course, occurred decades after the writing of “The Good Oak.” The list of invasive species would be a story unto itself. Along with garlic mustard, there would be purple loosestrife, gypsy moths, emerald ash borers, burdock, Canada thistle (a plant native to Eurasia in spite of its name), leafy spurge, honeysuckle, and more recently, Asian ladybugs and bighead carp. The most memorable invasive species for me is the alewife. As a kid growing up near Lake Michigan in the 1960s, summers meant a wide belt of dead herring at the high-water mark of every beach I ever played on. When I was eleven years old and at the peak of my lakeshore wanderings, alewife made up 90 percent of the fish mass in Lake Michigan. Today the alewife population is greatly reduced, and the long ribbons of rotting alewife on the beach have been replaced by the equally ubiquitous remains of invasive zebra mussels. Mussel shells, however, don’t stink, and I almost feel sorry for the current generation of young Great Lakes beachcombers. Decades from now, what foul aroma is going to remind these kids of the best part of their childhood?