April 25, 2013
Get Your Science On In Nature
So as I was looking through my ideas for blogs, I thought I was going to write about egg whites and blood pressure today. I was excited about writing this health blog. Then I opened Safari and checked NPR and was sucked in by an article on NPR’s Cosmos and Culture section about science and life.
To simplify the blog article, writer Adam Frank writes about lowercase ‘s’ science and how it can help slow down our busy lives. In a more complicated explanation, Frank discusses how important noticing is using nature as a means to illustrate noticing.
Okay, so he really is discussing the idea of living. He uses a Joseph Campbell quote to illustrate this: “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive.” Frank explains that being alive does not mean working and overworking; rather, being alive means noticing, experiencing, and being present in the noticing and experiencing.
And he reminds us that each one of us is already a scientist. We do not need degrees or studies or any of that to experience science—well at least not for lowercase ‘s’ science that is. All we need is a walk in nature. Frank gives some pretty great advice on how to be a scientist on our walk (and ultimately in our everyday lives, nature walk or not). First, he says, we must practice noticing. To do so, he suggests that we start counting things on our walks. Count the trees, the leaves on a specific branch of a specific tree, the blue flowers and then the white ones, or even the different kinds of birdsongs.
He also suggests to focus on the shapes, colors, and patterns of the things on our walk. In counting or looking at shapes, colors, or patterns, keeping a notebook or nature journal is a good idea. We should write about what we are seeing or draw our nature in the journal.
Finally, he reminds us to always question, to always ask ourselves why, how, and when?
He ended his blog with some really inspiring words:
“Refining our capacity to notice is an act of reverence that we can bring to everywhere and everywhen. It’s an invitation, bringing the world’s most basic presence into view, opening our horizons and restoring our spirits. And that is what science is really there for.”
As I finished reading this blog, I found myself excited about his words. Walking in nature—be it a park, forest, or just some land in the country—reinvigorates me. I find myself hypnotized by noticing, by the sights, sounds, touches, and tastes (and I would imagine smells if I had a good smeller) of the great outdoors. I also felt jealous that I could not yet walk out into the woods or up into the mountains. I have three weeks of this semester left, but as soon as I can, I will be taking those walks, hiking through Nature, and noticing. I will be the scientist. I am the scientist already.
Earlier this week, I wrote about Earth Day 2013. I specifically focused on how important nature is. Reading this article on NPR reminded me that nature is also important for science, and Frank is right; we are all scientists already, so we need to get out and get our science on!