Monday, March 21, 2011

The Naturalist's Life

Blogs are an interesting pastime but sometimes work takes precedence. Of course, it helps if you’re doing what you want to do—which for me means spending a lot of time in nature. I’m told that when I was about six months old my folks heard the distinct calls of a great-tailed grackle coming from upstairs where I was in my crib. Mom went upstairs to see what was going on and found me peering out the window at the grackles in the trees nearby. I was, as she explains, calling out to the birds and they were calling back to me. She says it occurred to her at that moment that I was destined to be a nature person.

I would imagine that many of you are the same. We spend time in nature because there we feel a sense of oneness and congruency with all that exists both in the world we see, hear and touch as well as the world beyond our senses.

In my book Adios to the Brushlands (Texas A&M Press, 1997) I write about a conversation I heard between two rangers at Big Bend National Park. One ranger told another that she had just talked to a man who bragged about walking a certain trail in about half the time suggested it would take. The second ranger said, “You should’ve asked him, what was the point?”

It’s not the beginning or the end that matters but the journey in between. Every walk reveals something new and in that revelation we learn more about ourselves as well. Woods roaming becomes a form of meditation, indeed an interlude of profound transcendence. But while other forms of contemplation call for a closing off of the world around us, immersion in nature demands the opposite. We allow colors and sounds and all that surrounds us to flood inward. The more we see, hear and smell the more alive we become; indeed, the more that life itself becomes real and relevant.

A long time ago I concluded that the one thing we know for sure; the thing that is beyond speculation or myth and that surmounts faith and hope or creed is the absolute knowledge that life exists. And the very center of life is that world of nature surrounding us. Perhaps that is why those of us who cherish nature hold it sacrosanct. When we protect it we are not simply saving the living things around us but saving ourselves as well.   

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