The Little Merboy Part 4 of 4
So he passed quickly through the wood and the marsh and between the rushing whirlpools. He saw that in his mother’s palace the torches in the ballroom were extinguished and all within asleep. But he did not venture to go in to them, for now he was dumb and going to leave them forever. He felt as if his heart would break. He stole into the garden, took a flower from the flower-beds of each of his brothers, kissed his hand a thousand times towards the palace and then rose up through the dark blue waters. The sun had not risen when he came in sight of the princess’s palace and approached the beautiful marble steps but the moon shone clear and bright. Then the little merboy drank the magic draught and it seemed as if a two-edged sword went through his delicate body: he fell into a swoon and lay like one dead. When the sun arose and shone over the sea he recovered and felt a sharp pain but just before him stood the handsome young princess. She fixed her coal-black eyes upon him so earnestly that he cast down his own and then became aware that his fish’s tail was gone and that he had as pretty a pair of white legs and tiny feet as any little boy could have but he had no clothes, so he wrapped himself in his long, thick hair. The princess asked him who he was and where he came from and he looked at her mildly and sorrowfully with his deep blue eyes but he could not speak. Every step he took was as the witch had said it would be, he felt as if he was treading upon the points of needles or sharp knives but he bore it willingly and stepped as lightly by the princess’s side as a soap-bubble so that she and all who saw him wondered at his graceful-swaying movements. He was soon arrayed in costly robes of silk and muslin and was the most beautiful creature in the palace but he was dumb and could neither speak nor sing.
Remember Martha, the last of her kind, who died on this day a century ago. September 1st marks the extinction of the passenger pigeon, a species of North American bird with incomparable population numbers before they were completely eradicated by humans at the beginning of the 20th century.
3.7 billion to 0 in forty years.
And if you are wishing this wouldn’t happen again, hoping that history doesn’t repeat itself - remember that we are currently enduring the sixth major mass extinction event. While the other five in our earth’s history were naturally caused by everything from major meteoritic impacts, to extreme cooling or warming of the environment, and frequently changing atmosphere - the latest event, Number Six, is being completely attributed to humans. This is the Holocene Extinction.
In 2012 the IUCN reported that 30% of amphibians are at risk of extinction; as well as 21% of mammals, reptiles, and fish, 12% of birds, 68% of plants. We are looking to lose 30-50% of all species of life on our planet by the middle of the century.
This may feel like a hopeless inevitability, but the future is not set in stone. What we need for this cause is awareness. What we need is an investment of personal interest. We need voices, and students, and teachers. We need scientists, and law makers, and committees and new legislation for the environment. We need communicators. We need enthusiasts and what we really need is to ruin apathy. This is a shared planet, not just between ourselves but with every miraculous piece of life that has erupted on its unlikely surface in the last billion years. We owe it to that great improbability not to mess this up.
"Right now, in almost every river in the world, some 12,000 different species of caddisfly larvae wriggle and crawl through sediment, twigs, and rocks in an attempt to build temporary aquatic cocoons. To do this, the small, slow-moving creatures excrete silk from salivary glands near their mouths which they use like mortar to stick together almost every available material into a cozy tube. A few weeks later a fully developed caddisfly emerges and almost immediately flies away."
Since the 1980s Duprat has been collecting caddisfly larvae from their normal environments and transporting them to aquariums in his studio. There he gently removes their own natural cocoons and puts the larvae in tanks filled with materials such as pearls, beads, opals, turquoise and pieces of 18-karat gold. The insects still do exactly what comes naturally to them, but in doing so they create exquisite gilded sculptures that they temporarily call home. If you saw them out of context, you’d never guess they’d been created insects.
On rare years when the conditions are right in the arid landscape of the Badlands, in the American West, wildflowers burst into a display of colour for just a few days.
The vegetation in the region has adapted to the climate, with just a small amount of moisture the desert can become coloured with sweeping fields of Scorpion Weed, Beeplant and the flowers of the Pincushion Cacti. These blooms can be very short-lived to conserve moisture.
Photographs by Guy Tal
"… is it not possible—I often wonder—that things we have felt with great intensity have an existence independent of our minds; are in fact still in existence? And if so, will it not be possible, in time, that some device will be invented by which we can tap them?"
Virginia Woolf, from “A Sketch of the Past,” in Moments of Being (Harvest Books, 1985)