5 Questions, Answered
There’s a little meme that’s been going around among some of the nature bloggers I like to read. As far as I can tell, it started up in Alaska, made its way to Seabrooke Leckie of The Marvelous in Nature and Susannah of Wanderin’ Weeta in Canada, Dave Bonta’s Via Negativa in Pennsylvania, and is working its way through a second generation including Jason Hogle’s Xenogere in Texas, which is where I first came across it. You know this type of game from Facebook and other places, but these are five thoughtful questions and I’ve really been enjoying reading other bloggers’ answers. So I thought I’d try my hand at them. Do you feel like sharing your answers, or is there someone whose answers you’d like to see? Let me know and we can try to make it into a future post on the Natural Capital.
1) You seem to have an intense curiosity of the natural world, how did that curiosity come about?
Until 7th grade I lived in the woods in rural southern Illinois, and spent a lot of time outside — there wasn’t a lot else to do. (It can’t hurt that we only got about 2 and a half channels on tv, one of which was PBS). Even after we moved to a more populated area in north Florida, camping and hiking was something my family continued to do regularly. So I’ve been comfortable in the outdoors pretty much my whole life.
But the curiosity is something I have continued to cultivate as an adult and especially since moving to the DC area. I don’t remember really learning to identify a lot of plants or animals as a child. As I have learned more about the natural world, these green spaces that I have always loved have magically metamorphosed into communities of individual species that I know and love. It makes it very difficult to hike quickly — there’s always something to stop and look at more closely. I’m just starting to do the same thing with bird songs — to hear what used to be just musical chaos as individual birds. It’s transformational.
2) What would you change about your home, your neighborhood, your corner of the world? What one thing would you change to make it a better place?
This is a really tough question. I can think of lots of specific fixes, but taking a step back, I think people in DC work too hard. I wonder if we would take better care of the natural places in our community if people had more time to spend in them, and if they actually unplugged and were present when they did spend that time. And, in turn, I think people in our area would be a lot happier if they did.
3) Describe your most profound encounter in the natural world.
I don’t think I can pick just one. Watching the sunset and thinking about the earth turning, or looking at a starry sky away from light pollution and really thinking about what I’m looking at, because they both make me feel tiny and yet connected to everything.
Seeing a bobcat, because I never thought in a million years I would see what to me is a symbol of an old, wild Florida that is struggling to even exist anymore.
Seeing the way sunlight turns blue when filtered through a glacier, after hiking 2 days to get there, by myself, because I had just broken up with the person who was supposed to go with me, and being healed by that sense of awe and connection to something far larger and more important than myself.
Snorkeling with sharks. Holding a wild owl. Watching a mink catch a catfish right in front of me.
4) If you could have a conversation with any person in history who would it be, and why that person?
I’d like to speak with one of the Indians who knew the land near where my house is now, before contact with Europeans. I’m guessing they knew things about the natural world around here that probably haven’t been passed down.
For future rounds on the Natural Capital, I’d like this question to be: What’s your favorite natural place in the DC area, and why? My answer (at least today) would be the stretch of the Northwest Branch around Burnt Mills Dam, because we always see cool stuff there, and the scenery along the river is just really pretty. Especially when the mountain laurels are blooming.
5) What advice would you give to anyone wanting to better experience the natural world?
Don’t just blow through. Going jogging in the park is great scenery, but if you really want to experience the natural world, you’ve got to really slow down. Learn names, not for the names themselves, but for the practice of looking closely enough to be able to identify one thing from another. Keep a journal of what you see. But most of all, just stop and look. Most of the animals on my “profound” list above were ones that I saw because I had stopped to look at something else, first — I didn’t even know they were right there, the whole time.
Would you like to share your answers, or is there someone whose answers you’d like to see? Leave a comment or email me at email@example.com and we can try to make it into a future post on the Natural Capital!