You snooze, you lose

Published 8:00 am Thursday, September 1, 2022

Every month I struggle with finding a topic for my column, yet I always come up with something, usually based on something that happened in the past month. Today my thoughts are pretty simple, based upon a saying that we’ve all known since we were children: “You snooze, you lose.” 


A few days ago I saw some black trumpet (edible) mushrooms along the trail around Twin Lakes, which is owned by the Saluda Community Land Trust and used for swimming lessons (funded by the Polk County Community Foundation) and by local residents on a reservation basis. I was the chaperone for a day of open swimming and snuck off to take the dog for a walk on the trail. Today I walked on that trail again, with a basket this time, to pick those mushrooms. But they were gone! Hopefully, someone else got them and enjoyed a delicious supper. Or, they simply dissolved and will nourish the earth with their presence here. 

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I did not take advantage of the opportunity to harvest those delicious mushrooms, so I lost. What does that have to do with conservation you might ask? My only answer is that same old adage – you snooze, you lose. Had I done what my instinct told me to do, I would have picked those mushrooms. But I did not listen to my instinct. On a deeper level, how often do we put off acting on something that we know is the right thing to do, but we put it off until it’s a ‘better time?’ More often than not, that ‘better time’ never comes. Many of us do not take the time to stop and pick up the bit of trash beside the sidewalk – someone else will do that, or so we hope.

The death of a young friend this week has been an awakening for me. He was 30 years old, rock climbing with his brother, when he was stung by a bee, could not breathe within five minutes, went into a coma for 9 days until he finally died less than two weeks from that day when he was happily climbing towards a mountaintop. It brought to my mind how unpredictable life is, and how little time we have to make this world a better place with our lives. In short, if we do not act now, we may never get the chance to ‘do good.’


As conservationists, how can we do that? I don’t have the answer; all I have are some ‘maybes’. Maybe it means picking up the plastic bottle on the street so that some animal will not eat a piece of it by mistake. Maybe it means choosing what’s best for the environment rather than what is most convenient. Maybe it means opening the windows rather than using the air conditioning that consumes electricity. Maybe it means not buying water in plastic bottles, or pre-packaged foods. Maybe it means leaving those mushrooms in the woods so that they will nourish the soil beneath. Maybe it means eating less meat and more beans. Maybe it means planting a garden. Maybe we can carpool more and drive less. Maybe we can make our lawns smaller (less grass mowing) so there is more wildlife habitat. 


Maybe we can use fewer herbicides and pesticides so that the bees will not be carrying toxins that might cause death for some of us later. Maybe we can encourage our neighbors to preserve their land with a conservation easement or land use restrictions that will preserve farmland for future generations. Maybe we can simply choose life, all life, with every decision that we make.

This is a whole lot of ‘maybes’ but I sure do not want to get to the pearly gates and not be able to answer St. Peter when he asks me if I did my best while on earth. I want to be able to say that I did my best to make this earth a better place for my having been here, and I bet you want the same thing. So, lets all act in a positive way when we see a need: let’s choose life. And let’s not snooze, and lose.