Sunday, May 06, 2012


Back when I was in college, I took a wonderful class on social ecology from an equally wonderful professor who also happened to be a Native American storyteller. You can imagine how much fun his classes were! I also have to admit that it was one of the more difficult classes I took in college - every exam was essay format, open book. And he expected citations to back up your arguments.

One of the things that I took away from that class was a whole new idea of what "nature" is and how it is defined. The class opened me up to the wonderful world of philosopher and activist Murray Bookchin, and his ideas on social ecology. (The late Mr. Bookchin also happened to give a series of lectures at the college while I was attending classes there, so I had the opportunity to hear him speak.)

This new idea of nature was not an easy one to wrap your head around. After growing up thinking that pavement and my little suburban neighborhood (and the bordering urban city) where not nature, I started to understand that we as humans beings, and by extension anything of our creation, are all included in the definition of nature. That means that the wrought iron bench on which I sit right now is included in the definition of nature. Our vehicles and our buildings can also be considered "natural", as they are the product of our imaginations, and human beings are natural beings.

So I sometimes find it ironic that I live in what's considered to be the East Coast's last great wilderness area, but I find myself plugged into a computer for 8 hours a day. Nature? Maybe. But here are some photographs of nature in my backyard, in the middle of this great, green wilderness I call home.

Tom planted this row of apple trees when we first moved into this house back in 2003. They were twigs, really, from the Arbor Day Foundation. We had a couple of years where the deer just nibbled them down to nothing, and Tom was afraid that they would die. But no, last year, we had our first couple of apples, and this year, they are positively loaded down with apple blossoms! Love those delicate pink and white flowers on the tiny branches.

Our backyard looks a little wild in spring, with its purposely neglected back acreage. We just let the wildflowers and trees grow. On a day when I need to get outside, walking through our yard can be just what I need to make me feel a little more in touch with the natural world around me.

And yes, this is natural, too. As natural beings, we rely on other organisms for food. This is the head of one of Tom's deer from last winter, wired into a tree while it decomposes. Tom uses as many parts of that deer as he can. The hides are turned into pillows, rugs, or blankets. The meat will last him and Colden through the winter.

Last but not least, my little man playing outside. To him, nature is everything. I love that his preschool places an emphasis on experiencing the outdoors. They don't need a lot of fancy playground equipment - a couple of big rocks for climbing, a huge sand pit for digging, a big open field, and a forest full of trails. So lucky that he gets to do this every single day. Where I grew up, experiencing "nature" like that was reserved for the long drive up to the environmental education center.

More of my thoughts on nature later, particularly about how they pertain to be continued!

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