The Cracker Barrel: Life goes on

Just take a glimpse into nature and you'll see this is true.

Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

For the better part of the past two years, much of what passed for news was about death. Given the ravages of COVID-19, the angry demonstrations over racial injustice, the horrible collapse of a Florida condo, and the ongoing devastations caused by climatic extremes, we have all been subjected to an ongoing barrage of destruction.

All these afflictions are real. We are living in difficult times. The pandemic alone has killed more than half a million Americans. Our political disagreements seem unending. Etc., etc., etc.

But during these same trying months I have looked out the window or stared through my binoculars or walked down our sand driveway and have seen a number of uplifting sights.

I’ve watched a mama deer keep watch over her two gangly fawns. I’ve smiled, astonished, as the fawns spring through the air as if propelled by powerful pistons for legs. I’ve laughed, delighted, as they bolt in different directions at the appearance of a human, one to the left side of the road and one to the right.

On the same sand road I’ve been treated to the sight of adult wild turkeys shepherding a flock of seven little babies, leading them off the road to protective cover.


I have walked down the path to the lake, drawn by the yodel of loons, and had the life-affirming joy of watching two baby loons swimming beside what I presume to be their mother, and later finding their way up onto her back for a less exhausting cruise around the bay.

In the same lake I’ve seen a pair of trumpeter swans, though I haven’t yet spied this year’s flock of cygnets.

In the woods around our house I’ve noticed a number of recently born red and gray squirrels, along with an abundance of little chipmunks. While I admit to a mild dislike of squirrels, based purely on the irksome amount of sunflower seeds and corn they scarf down from the winter bird feeders, I find myself applauding their success at bringing forth a new generation of young.

In similar fashion I can’t help but take satisfaction at the sight of several different birds bringing hatches of offspring to life. In one of the bluebird houses I built years ago and attached to a post on the garden fence, a pair of great crested flycatchers have chosen to take occupancy and raise their young.

For perhaps the 35th year in a row, phoebes have nested in the extended overhang along the side of our garage and brought to life two more batches of young. On the front of the garage, in the nesting platform we put up for robins, ma and pa redbreast hatched a brood of kids who are already big enough to terrorize worms.

And high above our birdbath in a birdhouse meant for tree swallows, a pair of chickadees brought forth another generation of their own.

But of all the manifestations of life that surround us here on our homestead, perhaps none brings more satisfaction than the success my wife had with encouraging the endangered monarch butterflies.

Having years ago transplanted a cluster of milkweed plants into our garden, this spring she carefully removed caterpillars from the plants and brought them down to the little soft-meshed cage she bought online and fed them leaves of milkweed as they fastened themselves to the ceiling of the cage and transformed themselves into chrysalises.


Over a period of three or four weeks the magical transformations continued, and eventually she coaxed each newly formed monarch onto her finger, took it outside and released it into the sky - 15 in all.

To my mind, the lesson from nature is clear: life is good, and life goes on.

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Craig Nagel, Columnist

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