In terms of wild places, the margins are where there is most action. The liminal places, neither one thing nor another, see the greatest diversity of life when compared to what’s around them. It’s the bit of sand and rock that is sometimes sea bed that has the most life on a beach. Edges of woodland see the most insect life. One of the reasons hedges are so good for wildlife is that they are all edge.
Locally, I have the tidal Severn River. At low tide, a vast, shining expanse of wet mud emerges from beneath the river, attracting flocks of wild birds to feed. This landscape in the UK used to be a lot more marshy – drained for agriculture, it is a lot more fixed and predictable than it was. Marshes are perhaps the ultimate liminal spaces – shifting worlds of not quite water, not quite land, fluctuating with rainfall and seasons, sometimes drying into stability for a while, sometimes becoming entirely aquatic. Wetland creatures have to be flexible. Anything liminal is subject to change, to becoming one thing or the other temporarily, permanently.
Harvest mice, which we associate with grain fields, are actually creatures of the wetland. The little nest balls they weave in the corn were originally made in reeds, keeping them safely above the shifting water levels. A heroic adaptation to a shifting landscape, that.
As a species we’ve worked hard to take out the liminal, make things firmly one or another. Collectively, we favour straight, tidy, clear cut edges. It’s an exercise in sterility. It’s in the chaos that the most interesting things happen.