Nature Observation and Joy

November 16, 2014

Beware, o ye who walks in the woods with me. For I cannot help myself: I must share. Look at this little fern over here. This is a nice soapberry tree. So many ant lion nests here! Did you hear the tsip sound? Do you think it's a Dark-eyed Junco or a Yellow-rumped Warbler?

I pray that it is not a subconscious showing-off, know-it-all thing. That accusation has stung me before, in the middle-school classroom. Consciously, I simply love drawing people's attention to that which fascinates me (and yes, please do return the favor). There is a wonder about the natural world, a wonder and a joy that is so great that it often cannot be contained. This joy is reason enough to share with friends and family.

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Equally important, it inspires and fuels my efforts to protect that natural world: for its own sake, for the joy it brings others, and for the critical services it provides. And that protection does not come about without others also being, or becoming, aware of at least one of those perspectives.

Whence comes this eagerness to identify, this knack for noticing? One source is my mother, who would always be on the lookout for fossils whenever given the chance, who helped me ace my 9th grade wildflower project, who introduced me to the small things in the garden. Thank you for that, Mom*.

Whatever the source, you can't notice what you can't see. My father recently reminded me of something I had told him years ago. In the fourth grade, I began slowly moving to the front of the class. At some point, I had to admit that I could not read the blackboard. Diagnosis: nearsighted. Prescription: thick-lensed glasses. And suddenly, where there had just been green smears, there were now individual trees. How marvelous it was, I confessed, to suddenly see and appreciate individual leaves! Truthfully I can't remember it that clearly anymore, nearly thirty years later – but that is the story I told when the memory remained: that glasses had opened up a whole new world for me. What I do know is that I have been looking up, down, and around ever since.

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Observing, identifying, breathing hearing tasting nature. This is the joy of the divine. All of the small details of life, and the broad scenes they co-create, are aspects of a continuous revelation. Every frog, fossil, frond, and fawn is a microcosm, pregnant with transcendence. Truly, "[t]his is an existence which knoweth no decay," as Bahá'u'lláh tells us in His Tablet of Wisdom, "and Nature itself is lost in bewilderment before its revelations, its compelling evidences and its effulgent glory which have encompassed the universe." (http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/b/TB/tb-10.html)

 

* Thank you, Dad, for my early lessons in computing.

Photos by the author, taken at Cedar Hill State Park just south of Dallas in spring 2013. The bird to the right is a female Eastern Bluebird.

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