What is nature for?

11225072_10207160433190570_7063498719917835900_nAn apprentice of mine, in his entry interview, upon being asked why anyone should care about nature, replied after only the slightest hesitation, “Well – because it’s the most beautiful thing there is.” This has gone down in history as possibly the best interview answer ever uttered.

Beginning this tiny insignificant dot of a blog, at the beginning of my thirteenth year as a restoration ecologist, I wonder, near-constantly, what nature should mean to a person. To a people. To all people. Increasingly, it seems that we’re no longer a part of it. That we’re drifted off into a universe entirely of our own making – a universe essentially devoid of the wonderful chaos of a system governed by the laws of nature rather than the laws of man.

Yet wonderful things happen when those who have been disconnected from the natural universe check back in. Despite the fact that I’m an insufferable curmudgeon, some of my greatest satisfaction has come from sharing my love of the natural world with others. The young people I work with are among my greatest inspirations. I can’t say there’s hope, exactly; often there isn’t. Often there is the exact opposite of hope. But I think a life lived in awe of the natural world, in constant curiosity, in the pursuit of both understanding and beauty, cannot be a life wasted.

I would want everyone to care about our natural world enough to wonder how it works, why it is there, and what it means to them personally and to us, the human race. To wonder, and then to discover.

I suppose this blog, then, is to speak to anyone willing – anyone wondering – what nature is for, what it means, what it can give – anyone questioning the relationship of humankind to nature — to wade through the muck at the edge of the floodplain – to take in the sounds of the wind in the trees, the insects moving, the splash of water – to move toward the water’s edge.

To part the reeds, and to prepare to be quietly amazed.


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