On Aug. 5, the members of the Six & Twenty Book Club were greeted by Judy Stapler, hostess for the day. The meeting was held at the Environmental Education Center at the Cowan Lake State Park on a sunny summer afternoon with president Patti Cook presiding.
Cook introduced Sally Buchanan as the meeting’s program leader. Buchanan gave a brief review of her book selection for 2023 “Unseen City: The Majesty of Pigeons, The Discreet Charm of Snails & Other Wonders of The Urban Wilderness.”
Unseen City was written by Nathanael Johnson, who at the time was a journalist for Grist, a climate-focused magazine and he had written articles for several other publications about the climate and the environment. It was his oldest daughter, Josephine, who inspired Johnson to write the book. During the times of taking Josephine to daycare when she was very young and curious, he wanted to learn and share more with Josephine about what they would see on their walk in the city. It was an opportunity for Johnson to approach nature with his own open eyes and new curiosity.
Johnson focuses on learning about the everyday nature they saw — the squirrels, the pigeons with funny feet, the half-eaten acorn nuts, the high soaring turkey vultures, and more — and seeing everyday nature in a new way.
Connecting and seeing the reality of nature with open eyes cannot be overstated.
In 1955, Rachel Carson, acclaimed conservationist and a respected science writer, began an essay “The Sense of Wonder: A Celebration of Nature for Parents & Children.” This essay stemmed from a visit with a young nephew where Carson began teaching him about the wonders in the surrounding woods and streams. In doing this she realized she was seeing things anew for herself. She wrote “If a child is to keep alive his unborn sense of wonder — he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”
John Burroughs, an American essayist and naturalist, wrote in a 1907 essay: “If I were to name the three most precious resources of life, I should say books, friends, and nature. And the greatest of these, at least the most constant and at hand, is nature Nature we have always with us, an inexhaustible storehouse which moves the heart, appeals to the mind, and fires the imagination — health to the body, a stimulus to the intellect, and joy to the soul.”
Today, it is easy to overlook everyday nature as we rush about, or are so accustomed to seeing nature, we just stop seeing it.
In the era of electronic devices, it is reported the average American spends 90% of their time indoors. In 2008,“Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv, explores the increasing divide between the young and the natural world, referred to as “nature-deficit disorder” and how this divide impacts the environmental, social, psychological, and spiritual implications of that change.
It was discussed how members can impact the lack of contact and awareness of nature with our own children, grandchildren and others. One way is to take the time to open our own eyes about nature in our everyday lives. Maybe we can’t take the kids on hikes but we can spend time in our own backyards exploring what we “see.”
Buchanan discussed and gave examples of tools that can be used to increase knowledge that can be shared with children and others. Not becoming experts but becoming more knowledgeable. One example is taking advantage of our local state parks, such as Cowan Lake and the many activities made available to the visitors to the park.
Buchanan introduced her guest, Maddie Spangler, naturalist at Cowan Lake, to share information about programs open to visitors and invited members to tour the Nature Center following the meeting and refreshments.
Stapler invited members to the refreshment table for take-home treats of homemade “bird nest” cookies and trail mix. All fitting for the afternoon discussion of nature.