Welcome to Little Bit of Nature: an exploration of the intersections of humans with the natural world.
Growing up in southeastern PA, I was lucky to have a family who loved the outdoors. My childhood was full of walks in the woods and camping trips. I learned to identify common plants, searched for seed pods and animal tracks, and developed a serious love for the sound of rain on a tent, lantern-lit games of rummy, and long hikes. Even when we were home in our suburban neighborhood, we were outside. We climbed trees, played in the runoff during rainstorms, and created obstacle courses. We used our imagination. Our apple tree was a jungle. The tall maple by the driveway was a skyscraper. We were explorers, and super spies, and Indiana Jones.
I smile when I see my own children absorbed in a game outside. They seem at their happiest when they are covered in dirt, making mud pies, digging holes, and running obstacle courses that take them into the pool, down the zip line, through the pond, around the house, and over the fence.
In my teen years, I began to think about the history of a place; wondering about the animals and peoples who walked the same woods, or the way the forest looked long ago.
I remember especially vividly a walk through swampy woods on a trip to Dinosaur State Park in Connecticut as a teen. This was the first time my imagination of the history of a place went back hundreds of millions of years. The boardwalk loop trail couldn’t have been more than 1/4 mile long, but the signs showing what the Dilophosaurus who once roamed the swamp might have looked like, sparked my imagination. Walking the short trail that day, I imagined the dinosaurs roaming the swamp. I thought about the massive shift that had occurred to yield a planet dominated by humans, and considered our human relationship to the earth; how we seem to have extracted ourselves from nature, despite the enormous impact we have on the planet.
Natural histories continue to fascinate me. Who or what used to live here? What was their relationship with these woods, this space, this place in nature? How has the landscape changed and what affected it?
My childhood experiences have clearly shaped my love of nature today. Those same common plants and birds I learned to identify as a child appear as old friends on my walks through the woods, and inspire me to learn the names and favorite growing places of new plant friends. I hope that as more people learn the wonders of the natural world, the community of people earnestly bound to protect the environment that supports us will grow.