Sunday, November 7, 2010

Things that No Longer Exist

Extinct animals always fascinate me. We will never see a a passenger pigeon except as still images or as preserved mounts in museum displays. The same can be said for the Carolina parakeet, Eskimo Curlew, Great Auk, and countless other birds, mammals, reptiles, and other animals that once roamed the earth.

I am amazed to think that at one point in time, the sky was once blackened by the flocks of some of these  species. But groups of hunters and high-powered shotguns managed to obliterate numbers of the animals to nil in just a matter of decades.

While a pigeon or a duck may seem like mundane losses, one has to appreciate how pretty they are as preserved specimen. By no means do they have the majesty of a tiger, or the mass of an elephant, but once gone, how are they missed?

Rarely do we observe the insignificant things until they are completely gone. 

Maybe that is the true poetry of extinction. Extinction creates nostalgia, artificial longing for things we never knew. In contemporary society, we care nothing of the pigeon. But one species of pigeon, dead now for a century, evokes the folly of man and the melancholy associated with such emotion. 
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