Saturday, April 24, 2010

Nature Study – My Journey and Passion for Truth

We love the outdoors. It is a too small statement for a life lived outside. I grew up mostly on the Oregon Coast. 

My father is an avid motorcycle rider – I spent and abundant part of my youth riding to camping parks across America for the weeken – and then given freedom to wander the park at will throughout the day. I would find a small path, or a stream, and then walk til it was time for the next event.

I have fond memories of growing up in my grandmother’s garden, listening to stories of the trees, of the strawberries, of the carrots. I knew that each plant had a story. My parents have had the same home less than a mile from the ocean since the lat 1970’s. Estuaries, rivers, marine life, storms, and a rich forest undergrowth has been a part of my life – as much as the contrast of our time spent in Oklahoma for  years or the high desert of Central Oregon for 5 years. Contrasts.

I share my history to share my wonderment of why I would know so little about what we are seeing this spring. Why does everything feel new? Through the eyes of a child – maybe – but they are running ahead poking banana slugs with sticks while I Macro Photograph a rare viola or trillium.  They see the chipmunk, and can reason its path through the evidence left along the trail – and then have wars with throwing the bits of pine cone on a stump, a leftover squirrel snack. :)

I wonder if my concrete belief and devotion to intelligent design comes more from years of exposure to the observations of being allowed to roam the lakes and rivers and mountainsides as a child days on end than to the reading of the book of Genesis and the truth written in my heart.  Anna Botsford Comstock (Anna) says that

“Perhaps half the falsehood in the world is due to the lack of power to detct the truth and to express it. Nature-sutdy aids both in discernment and in expression of things as they are.”

I am reading the first part of Anna’s book – Handbook of Nature Study. As I now have my own copy, I am marking with pencil and post it to remember all that resonates with my experience thus far or encourages me to step out or  re-define and refine our walks.  I think the entire opening of Part 1 which is 24 pages long could be underlined.  I was impressed at her correlation to truth and knowledge based on simple observations.  Truth , absolute truth, is not brought up in learning circles often.  Written in the 1800’s she pioneered discoveries and documentation of our simple landscape – and in all of the “truth” that she speaks of, her closing encouragement is

“While an earnest attempt has been made to make the information in this book accurate, it is to be expected and to be hoped that many discrepancies will be found by those who follow the lessons. No two animals or plants are just alike, and no two people see things exactly the same way – the chief aim of this volume is to encourage investigation rather than to give information.”

We have seen trees and plants already in our studies that differ in behavior and growth from her observations on the east coast 200 years ago.  It is thrilling to think that something we discover in the woods can be a newly discovered species or behavior!

I’ll share in my next post a few of the things that I have learned from Anna’s introduction that will refine and direct our nature study times.  I do see the importance of being outside, of taking the photo and saying how lovely -

The difference seems to be in sitting in a concert hall – listening to the symphony – knowing it is pleasing to the ears, closing your eyes and enjoying the move of the music – and then leaving with no desire to know the composer, or the names of the instruments, or the structure of music, or the  musicians themselves. 

How long will thousands of tourists drive Hwy 101 stopping to pull out at parks here and there to take awe inspiring photographs with no desire to learn of the landscape that steals their breath?

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