Over the course of this past semester I feel like I have gotten back in touch with nature, which has had a lot to do with the observations I have done for this class. I feel as if I have been on a journey to rediscover nature as something that constantly surrounds us, and I feel as if I have achieved that though the area that I chose to observe for the past several months.
At the end of the summer I moved into a new apartment, which just so happened to border a nature preserve, and I adopted a dog. Although reluctant to write blog posts at first, over the course of the semester I have had the chance to observe the area around my apartment complex as I walk my dog. Through this I was able to observe the area at all times of the day and as the seasons changed from late summer, to fall, to winter (or what passes for winter here in Texas, sometimes freezing and rainy, sometimes balmy and sunny). Without this blog assignment I probably would not have taken the time to really look at the natural world around me and would not have taken the chance to really get engrossed in it. But thankfully I have. And over the past few months I have observed and found beauty in things that I would ordinarily not have given a second glance. I have enjoyed watching the seasons change, seeing the leaves fall from the trees, and seeing the comings and goings of the different kinds of resident insects in each season. When it would rain, and in Austin when it rains it seems to pour, I would observe how the sudden excess of water would affect the grounds of my complex, how it would pool on certain sidewalks by certain buildings, creating miniature lakes of rainwater, and turning sections of grass into untraversable mush (I also learned that my dog dislikes rain and stepping through mush just as much as I do).
I remember one night, in particular, when I was out walking my dog after it was dark, I looked up at the sky and it was clearer than I remember seeing it in a long time. I could see so many more stars than usual, it was beautiful. I stared at it for several minutes, probably looking like a bit of an idiot to passerby, trying to remember all the names of the constellations that I know. I remember that same week while my roommate and I were out walking our dogs together I made a point to try and point out the different constellations that I could make out to her. Since then I’ve made a point to look up at the sky when I take my dog out at night and see if it is clear or cloudy, and try and count the constellations or just look at the stars.
Through writing these blog posts I feel as if I have been able to fully see, realize, and pay attention to the natural wonders that surround me everyday. Judging by our class wordcloud, many of my classmates seem to have had similar experiences. Words such as ‘small,’ ‘around,’ ‘see,’ and ‘different’ stand out to me in particular. I feel as if I have learned to really look at the small things that are around me everyday and see them in a different light, and as separate but connected, and integral, parts of a natural ecosystem. Other words such as ‘little’ stand out to me as well. I have gained a greater appreciation for the little things that are a part of nature, but that are still an integral part of an ecosystem, like the changing types of insects that I observed over the past few months around my complex. The ecosystem wouldn’t function, or be, the same without them.
As Aldo Leopold says in the final pages of ‘A Sand County Almanac,’ “it is inconceivable to me that an ethical relation to land can exist without love, respect, and admiration for land, and a high regard for its value. By value, I of course mean something far broader than mere economic value; I mean value in the philosophical sense.” [pg 223] In this closing section he goes on to talk about how we are unable to develop a philosophical value for land, a land ethic, because we are too separated from it in our modern world. Through observing and writing on my observations for this blog, I feel as if I have begun to cultivate something like what Leopold describes, “a love, respect, and admiration” for the the nature that surrounds me, the nature that I would ordinarily pay little attention to. Through doing these observations and this assignment, and through what I have learned in this class, I have gained the tools necessary to begin to do what Leopold is describing, develop a true respect and value for the nature around me, and to begin to change my daily life in order to live more sustainably, to develop my own “land ethic.”