A comment made to me by a friend on a hike a couple months ago has sent my mind racing with ideas. We were walking and chatting along a trail back from Belle Island in Kingston. My eyes were darting up and down and all around and my ears were listening for any interesting sound amid the cacophony. This behaviour is involuntary.
An acute awareness of my surroundings and recognition of what I am seeing has been learned from the countless hours I have spent outside. And the ability to do this was learned from generations earlier as people moved across the landscape, it would have been evolutionary advantageous to our hunter gatherer ancestors to be able to do this.
Anyway, we were walking and talking about this and that, and I kept pointing out birds and snakes and frogs and more, and of course distinguishing plant species from one another. Eventually, after hearing me excitedly report the next thing that we encountered, my friend suggested that I would be great at teaching people to see in nature. It sounds so simple to say - teach people to see in nature - but I think this is the starting point of a rather complicated ongoing exploration that needs to be nurtured continually.
I think the motivation for knowing is important too. I am often frustrated by people who ask me whether plants are edible. Yes, I forage some plants myself, but I also care about the biological and cultural histories of those plants. I know the plants for more than just some purpose. I think that seeing in nature is a first step to knowing nature, and that should be the goal. There are different ways to relate to nature, just as there are different ways to relate to people. But exploitative or extractive relationships are not good in any instance, and so we should strive to know plants for more than just some purpose. This reads as kind of preachy, I know, but I think this is good to establish unequivocally.
My friend's comment keeps coming up in my mind and has made me reflect on how I relate to nature. It's given me ideas for things to share here and ideas for other associated projects in the future. And then over the weekend my closest friend unexpectedly came over, which is always the best kind of surprise. We had to pick somebody up and as we waited for them to arrive we walked the perimeter of the parking lot. Parking lots may not be the first place one thinks of to botanize, but there was nature there too. And so the same message keeps coming back: look around, adopt explorers attitude and recognize that nature can be found in even the most mundane of places (like parking lots), and get to know what you see.
News, reflections, notes and other ramblings from the trail by PTBO Flora founder Rachel.