It occurs to me that part of the genius of Nature is that it is all about comfort. At any given time, anything you’re likely to see in the natural world is comfortable, or otherwise it would be somewhere else. Every living thing seeks its own comfort. It’s not precisely the word ecologists use, but it’s what they mean.
We’re not talking about cats, here. Really doesn’t matter where they are. They are going to be comfortable wherever they land and make it seem like a matter of policy. It’s not really a policy. It has more to do with the fact that, with the exception of the big bone in their heads they use to keep their eyes lined up, they are entirely filled with pudding. They could sink all the way to the bottom of a bed of nails and emerge yawning and unspindled.
So cats have sort of punched their own ticket, comfort-wise, which is why the invasive little suckers act like they belong anywhere they roll up, including under my bird feeder, even though they totally do not. But we’re talking about other living things that, in the course of their perambulations, are going to follow a comfort gradient to the cushiest available niche. I started thinking about it when my fellow frog-wrangler Karen kept finding salamanders, magnificent migrating salamanders, and I didn’t. What was her secret?
“I look for them in the cracks of the pavement,” she said. Oh! We’re trying to rescue frogs and other amphibians as they cross the road, which they will do as long as it’s wet. But evidently the salamanders pause when they come across a fissure in the asphalt, and maybe they slide right in, and it’s probably just that much damper in there, and the sides of the crevice feel all cozy and nice, and they hang out a while. It’s soothing to imagine all the imperfections of the pavement mortared up by comfortable salamanders. Except for that traffic thing.
But comfort is not limited to salamanders. Here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s hard to find a surface that hasn’t been colonized by beauty. Lichens will appear in any likely spot that has a modicum of moisture and light. Then they’ll get even more comfortable by secreting acids that crumble up the surface just an eensy bit, and settle in like a dude molding his butt in a bean bag chair. And if it’s not too sunny and not too dry, any random moss spore that happens by will snug its butt in right on top of the lichens. And as the mosses grow and parts of them disintegrate, they decompose into a nice spongy soil. And then regular plants stick a toe in and say aaaah. You can look at just about any tree-crotch in Portland and discover an entire miniature forest made up of comfortable things, just enjoying their Goldilocks moment.
That’s why I’m here too. I rattled into this little fissure of the world and stayed put. I’m comfortable in the dear damp and the fertile gloom of our close grey skies, a place where the forecast “intermittent sunshine” refers to July. Where our star is modest and polite, asks if this is a good time before barging in, keeps its music low. If it means I have to let moss set up camp on my northern flanks, it’s worth it.