Thursday, April 3, 2014

Rikki Hall

Ijams Insect WalkAbout. Group leader Rikki sixth from right. 

When I write, I write with someone in mind, a particular reader. For years I wrote a regular column called "The Backporch Naturalist" for Hellbender Press and I'd always weave in a strand of humor to make Rikki Hall laugh. He was one of the editors of the environmental newspaper and I knew he was one of the first readers of raw copy.

If I later heard that he laughed, I knew I got it right.

And Rikki loved to challenge me: "How about a pro-cowbird piece? The native species that everyone loves to hate, give them reason not to." Or "How about a column about roadkill?" That would be interesting.

As indeed it was.

I also lead nature walks at Ijams, but sometimes someone else leads and I just go along for the adventure.

This week we mourn :( the passing of our friend Rikki Hall who led several insect and birding walks for the nature center over the years.

Noted for his broad smile and that tress of dark hair that loved to rebelliously fall down over his forehead, Rikki was one of those remarkable people that took enormous joy in noticing nature's minutia, the little cogs in the master clockwork. The oothecae, the pupae, the pedipalps, the warbler wispings, Rikki noted them all. Rikki was in his element in the middle of an overgrown field.  

Rikki knew the secret: that nature is as vast as it is deep, and always infinitely fascinating, a set of nesting Russian matryoshka dolls with one treasure hidden inside another, inside another. The closer you look, the more that's revealed.

He would stop and point out the smallest spider workings or beetle meanderings, sharing the details of their lives and, in turn, his love for such things that generally go completely overlooked. Rikki's passing should not go overlooked. He cared.

Rikki knew if you look deeply enough, nature makes sense, but in his untimely death that logic flies out the fenêtre.

I quote here from Emerson, "To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same fields, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.”

Transcendent Emerson must have known Rikki, one of life's truly great people, an attentive eye, sadly missed by absolutely everyone who knew him including this former Hellbender writer. 

Kim, I hug you with tears rolling down my face.

With visiting group from Russia. Rikki second from left. 
Insect exploration at Ijams Homesite. 
Walk leader Rikki second from left.
Birding WalkAbout on Ten Mile Creek Greenway. 
Rikki in the middle with co-leader Janet McKnight. 

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