We’re all naturalists
Christopher’s definition of a naturalist is a person who studies and appreciates nature. This would make me a naturalist too. I love exploring nature and what it has to offer. Watching plants grow and wild baby bunnies nibbling on grass is something other naturalists would enjoy. Hearing the wind chimes outside as the dragonflies get carried off by the wind. It’s all magical to witness.
Christopher spent a lot of time teaching about natural history. Citing Bates, Wallace, and Darwin as naturalists who brought new ideas to everyone. He describes naturalists as those who observe the world around them and take notes. I think of bird watchers with this description. There are many people where we live who enjoy those activities.
In the warmer months the parks department leads paddling along the red river. Sometimes there are bird guides who will point out birds along the way. This is a fantastic event that brings people together to enjoy nature together. It’s also really fun. There is a real appreciation for the natural world in the Fargo Moorhead area.
Christopher mentions that his son enjoyed collecting insects when he was younger. That is something my kids like to do also. Some days we’ll do a scavenger guide where they match the insects from their activity sheet to those, they see around them. Other times they bring their binoculars and zoom in on animal behaviors. We also have some insect boxes where they can catch a beetle or some other insect and then feed it fresh leaves. Sometimes that’s hard to get right, since there’s so much variety in vegetation it can be hard to figure out which food a critter likes. Near the end of the day, they release it back into the yard. We also raise caterpillars into butterflies and release them into a nearby botanical garden.
He makes an interesting point in how people watching is indeed animals watching animals. And how that activity could be considered a naturalist endeavor. At what point do we say that’s a naturalist and that is not? On the beaches of Florida my family and I collected seashells this past month. The tide rolled in and left millions if not billions of evacuated homes for us to hold. The ground felt rocky and sharp with all the broken and unbroken shells. Are people who collect shells naturalists?
We enjoyed seeing the variety of ridges. Some deep and others smooth. Colors like ice cream vanilla, purple coral, and blue waters decorated these strong bones. We peeked inside hoping to find a sign of life, but they had moved on. When we got home, we used the shells as decor, filled them into jars to remind us of our trip.
Having the natural earth in our home is important to me, it feels more peaceful to be reminded of nature everywhere. Sometimes that gets lost in the hustle and bustle of the world we participate in. And not all societies want to live close to the world outside their steel buildings. But there are also lots of us, who I would deem naturalists who can’t go on without the smell of grass and hearing a bird chirping outside their window. It brings us immense joy to be around our animal friends.
Christopher considers us all to be naturalists whether you observe plants in the backyard, urban wildlife, birds in Honduras, or a collector of jumping spiders. He also considers himself to be not a good naturalist because he doesn’t know as much as others. But, it’s not about how much you know, it’s about how you want to know and learn and find out. “A good naturalist embraces their lack of knowledge about nature on the road to developing their own expertise”.
For my Seton Watch, I started by opening the window in my art studio, like I do most mornings. It lets the hot summer air in, and I can hear the birds singing. If I’m lucky I can sit by the glass doors that lead to my backyard and watch our newest baby bunny eat some fresh grass. If I open the window, she stays and eats. If I open the door, she runs back to an area under the steps outside. She’s small and gray with white whiskers and a twitchy nose. She had a sibling, but I don’t know where that one has gone.
When I’ve had my heart filled from watching her, I’ll open the door and head down the stairs, sometimes pausing to sit on the steps and watch a black dragonfly dart from branch to tree. I saw one with wings so light they looked invisible. Around me are my plants of mint, chamomile, tomatillos, tomatoes, wildflowers, irises, fire lilies, and ferns to name a few. There are also blue tins of herbs and lettuce that make great omelets this time of year.
A blue bird eats from a bright red feeder next to the purple irises. Tiny black ants climb all over my plants, they especially like the fragrant cilantro. Rolly pollies hanging around with dirt worms. They show my dirt is healthy and that plants will thrive here. As I check on my plants and water them, I see my newly adopted kitten watching me from the door. Maybe she’s a naturalist too.
Article referenced “What is a naturalist?” by Christopher Buddle