UTAH NATURE STUDY SOCIETY
"I spent the summer traveling," naturalist Louis Agassiz once said.
"I got halfway across my backyard." Agassiz was a well-known scientist and
educator of the 19th century. (A peak in Utah's Uinta Mountains is named
after him.) He advised his students to observe nature, rather than
limiting themselves to the academic environment reading about it,
and to then draw their own conclusions about what they have seen.
His words, quoted above, describe a type of travel which I find very
rewarding -- an outing to observe and enjoy our natural
world. Fortunately, there is an organization of like-minded people here
in Utah, to share such activities with -- the Utah Nature Study Society.
I have been a member of UNSS since 1966. My husband, my children (and now,
my grandchildren) have often accompanied me on these outings.
Rather than going on a nature hike, we go on a "creep" about once a month.
Usually this means that we walk slowly, giving ourselves time to see what
is around us, hear the birds, smell the flowers, and look closely at any
interesting little thing that someone might find. Sometimes we are actually
down on hands and knees peering at something with a hand lens, or taking a
close-up photograph of a flower. The children in the group are always very
good at finding something to wonder about. Some member of the group can
usually identify it, and tell the rest of us some interesting facts. We
often notice things that the hikers miss because they pass by too quickly.
To me, the most enjoyable part of this is the awareness of the real world.
It doesn't necessarily matter whether or not I know the scientific name of
a flower or bird. If I do know, or if someone else can tell me, that is an
extra. But just being there, and feeling like I am a part of it all, is
what really matters. Each of us is a part of nature, but this is easy to
forget in today's world where nearly everything around us is man-made and
artificial. We start to believe that we can get along without nature, or
that we can conquer and control nature. It is revitalizing to me to get
back in touch with reality by getting close enough to the earth to be aware
of all of the wonderful things which inhabit this world.
"You will find something greater
in woods than in books.
Trees and stones will teach you
that which you can never learn from masters."
-- St.Bernard de Clairvaux
"A naturalist is one who calls our attention to things
we have seen all our lives, but never noticed."