Saturday, May 12, 2012

Introduction to the Naturalist Adventure Blog

Greetings! Welcome to the Naturalist Adventure! My name is Winston Hall. For several years now I've been meaning to start this blog and I’m excited about embarking on this journey. Whether you’re here by accident or intention, my hope is that you find something here that excites you.

What is a naturalist? A naturalist is someone who simply observes nature with a curious mind, inquisitive spirit, and a thirst for knowledge.  A naturalist is someone that understands that any modern structure you see is sitting on top of what used to be a forest, field, or swamp. A naturalist is someone who understands that an urban setting exists in nature, not apart from it.

Even more importantly, you do not need an advanced degree to be a naturalist or any sort of pedigree. I would argue that to be a naturalist you only have to do two things:

1.   Observe nature.
2.   Ask questions.

I was blessed as a child to grow up in a rural area of Texas in Coryell County – at the conversion of the Blackland Prairie and Edwards Plateau regions. I was born in 1982. We had no Internet, no satellite, no cable, only three television channels (four if the wind was from the south), and no air conditioning. The result of this technological void was my attention was always on the outdoors. For hours on end, I would wander through the forests and prairies, constantly studying animals, plants, weather patterns, and anything else that caught my attention.

The most important skill I gained from all my wandering was to pay attention. My mother would always say, “Watch for snakes” and I would eye each step. I would hear a noise and investigate to see what created it. And of course, I watch the weather to know what to wear or to seek protection. In time, this turned into a subconscious habit. Not just looking, but seeing the world around me.

As I got older, my exploration matured. I dove into the writings of Aldo Leopold and studied the philosophies of Eustace Conway and others. I started to understand how ecosystems are connected, man’s influence on these ecosystems, and ways we can improve our relationship with nature. I also started learning a few scientific names and realized somewhere along the way I had accumulated a lot of knowledge. I am by no means an expert, but with each day that passes and each thing I learn I continue to improve and work toward a fuller appreciation of the natural world around me.

One of my goals is to reconnect people with nature. Most people are woefully unaware of how modern society has shaped their very existence. Since it’s inception, the United States has slowly shifted from a largely agrarian society to an urban one. The result? Current generations simply have no connection to the natural world that they are still to this day a part of. People have lost touch with the idea that their clothes, food, and even much of the components of their technology come from nature itself.

I would argue that mostly modern society has stolen from us the ability to see details. Did you know in the average commercial on television the shot changes approximately every one to three seconds? It’s no wonder that when you point at a pecan tree and ask someone what they see, they look at you curiously and reply:

“A tree?”

Because of the frenetic modern commercial culture we live in, we have been trained to see things in generalities. A tree. A car. A bug.

But my challenge is to help people look closer. A simple tree consists of thousands of leaves, bark, bugs, fruits, birds, roots, and even sometimes other large animals. (Snakes!)Within each leaf is a scientific process that is so complex it defies belief. You could study one tree and all its various components for a lifetime and still not know everything there is to know about that tree.

My hope as this blog progresses is that it challenges people to take a closer look at the world all around them and question and observe even the simplest things. 

And the adventure? That’s easy. Simply stepping out your own front door starts the adventure. Observing nature means following your whims. It means seeing what’s around the next corner or over the next hill. Nature is adventure, simply because you don’t know what you’ll find next.

Thanks for joining me on the Naturalist Adventure! 

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