(If you prefer, this blog episode is also available as an audio essay at: https://georgesly.podbean.com/)
natural history = the study of animals or plants, especially through observation rather than experiment, presented in popular rather than academic form.
A Secret Which May Enrich Your Life
Would you like for me to share a secret? Maybe you would be even more interested if I told you that this confidence could change the way you see your world? How about a gift that could enrich your life? What if I told you that this secret is a gift lying close at hand? Even now it is nearly within your grasp. I have found such a prize and yes, I will share its source with you.
The mystery of the origin of our cosmos and life on earth fascinates me. The grand saga of the diversification of this life over time captivates me. The inherent and abounding beauty to be found within the natural world enriches me. Our place in this majestic order not only intrigues me but quite often baffles me as well. Over the years, my myriad encounters with the natural world have granted me generous gifts of solitude, beauty, contemplation, companionship, learning, humility, wonder, and gratitude.
Herein rests the great prize, the secret that lies at hand but stays hidden to so many. We humans are an elemental component of the unfolding universe story. The wondrously varied geology of our world, its stunning variety of microbes, plants, and animals are not here to act simply as stage props as we unthinkingly go about our daily affairs. Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-discoverer of the principle of natural selection, tendered us this question. “Can we believe that we are fulfilling the purpose of our existence while so many of the wonders and beauties of the creation remain unnoticed around us?”
Connecting With Nature Exposes Us To Beauty and Gives Us Peace of Mind
We are surrounded daily by opportunities to engage ourselves in mystery and loveliness. Day-to-day we may, if we so choose, encounter and be captivated by natural dramas of astonishing complexity. As a result, through the practice of thoughtful awareness, we can enhance our lives. We can deepen and strengthen our appreciation for the wondrous gift of life which has been bestowed us. Many of the stresses and banalities that so often threaten to consume us can be removed from our lives . The natural world is a portal into an alternative domain. In this realm, we may seek peace of mind. We are removed from anxiety. The addictive escapism of today’s media-driven world can be defeated. In this alternate world we are able to disown societies’ judgements, disapprovals, and demands. We can be reunited with our aboriginal selves.
In the blogs that are to ensue, I will share personal interactions and meditations provoked by my life-long love affair with our world’s flora, fauna, and wild places. My hope is that these will serve as examples of how you too might seek deeper connection with the natural world. These tales have been inspired by my attempts to follow Wallace’s seemingly simple instruction – to notice. Within these stories I will speak of serpents and seasons, bats and birds, reef and rainforest, wolf and wildcat, cosmos and consonance.
Exposure to Nature is Simply Good for Us
Research within the last few years has demonstrated that exposure to nature has many positive benefits for us. Enrichment of physical health, cognitive performance among children, psychological and spiritual well-being have all been documented. May my reflections in natural history encourage you to become more engaged with nature. Perhaps you too can begin to notice more closely, and gain pleasure from, the natural world lying so close at hand. It is the world where marvel and loveliness reside, where cares and compulsions can be put aside for a time.
In 1859, the British naturalist Charles Darwin elucidated his paradigm shifting theory regarding the origins of the biodiversity found on our planet. He proclaimed that “endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved. ” Though unnoticed by so many among the human kind, a multitude of these forms most wonderful are here yet. They are yours to find, yours to appreciate, yours to reflect upon. They are treasures which can enrich your world. Through the practice of noticing, of calling upon conscious awareness of the “wonders and beauties of the creation” these riches can be yours. They are free gifts granted us by the Cosmos.
George Sly – Sullivan, Indiana