Religion and Science: Clash of the Titans, by EJ Fields

As it gets colder and colder I notice increasingly less people out and about on my way to my mandala. The air is crisp and clouds of hot air erupt from my mouth as I walk down the road. I have to keep my hands tucked into my pockets to protect them from the cold. My cheeks are rosy red and my nose is running. I am definitely not a fan of this weather. I reach the entrance back to the waterfall and there is a truck parked there, but no one is inside. On the back there is the typical fish with the word “Jesus” inscribed inside of it and on the other side of the bumper is a sticker that reads “follow him for there is salvation”. Then on a tree near the beginning of the path is a large oak with a fresh cross carved into its bark.

When I was young I attended church with my family, I was born into Christianity. My parents would attend the sermon and I would go to youth group with my peers. We would read passages from the text, eat, and converse about what we read. And as my intellect grew I started to debate what I was being told more every Sunday. I never said anything, maybe because I was intimidated or even unsure if it was true or not. It was all I really knew, I hadn’t explored other religions and we hadn’t been taught about those kinds of things in school so I believed what I was told to be true. At 12 I decided that I was too mature for those types of childish things and that I wanted to attend the normal sermon with my parents.

The pastor was a well off middle aged white man with several children. Everything about him screamed conservative. The sermon began and almost immediately the topic of lecture turned to climate change. He preached for the entire hour and fifteen minutes (I counted every second of it) about how global warming was a lie fabricated by the government and we shouldn’t believe it and trust in “Gods plan”. After that sermon I decided I didn’t want to attend church anymore. I came to the realization that (in my opinion) religion is something that has to be self-taught and not preached. I read the entire bible and did a lot of research over the next two years before I decided that Christianity isn’t for me. I still don’t identify with any certain religion but I do consider myself agnostic.

I identified very well with Martin Kaplans excerpt in moral ground: “Will religion guide us on our dangerous journey?”. He poses a series of questions about how religious leaders around the world. We rely far too much on the power of religion and fail to wake up and see what is actually happening around us to this strong but fragile planet.

“Religions are the most ancient formulators of culture and values in the world. They are the primary source of ethics for humans around the planet.”

Much mainstream religion serves to give humans a reason to follow what is ethical. There needs to be some sort of reward for everything that we do. Whether it be a promise of  reincarnation or a form of heavan. This world will never survive if that is the way we keep living.

In my ideal world religion and science are one and the world is observant of our planet and respectful towards what their deity has granted them. As Kaplan words it: We hope that our religious faiths will provide the needed leadership so that societies and nations will respond with willpower and vision to reduce the suffering…”

The Baby Seal, by Catherine Morse

It was chilly out today. It was a very brisk walk to my spot with the wind causing tears to stream down my face. Winter is definitely coming. More and more leaves are falling off the trees leaving only a brown and dull forest scene. I see less birds now. Only the occasional one flying way up high is what I get to witness. I believe all the ducks and geese I once saw have made their journey to warmer temperatures. The only life I can witness now is the occasional squirrel running around frantically for no reason at all. The squirrels here in Delaware are good at that.

I am always conscious of the effect that I have on my spot. This is in large part due to the readings. Most selections bring up in some form how people need to stop having a negative impact on nature. For example, Thomas Berry in “The Great Work” brings up that “[humans] have disturbed the geological structure, the chemical composition, and the biological forms of the planet in a disastrous manner with our population explosion and technological power” (Berry 396). Bron Taylor brings up the same point in “Earth Religion and Radical Religious Reformation” by arguing, “if trends continue (especially increasing human numbers and per capita consumption) there would be widespread breakdown of the world’s environmental and social systems in the twenty-first century” (Taylor 380). While I sit here, I try and make sure I am observant without actually changing anything in fear that I might make the situation worse in any way.

I started to reflect on my choices in life thus far. I started to think about this one time my friend and I saw a baby seal on a beach. We were just walking along and came across this adorable animal. It was low tide so the seal was far away from the water. We wanted to help it so we guided it down the beach probably a good quarter of a mile or so until it finally hit the water. We could tell it was exhausted and thought the best thing would be to get it back to its home. We were really happy with ourselves until about an hour later we looked up some information on seals.

Apparently, seals are left in certain spots by their mothers on beaches where the babies are supposed to remain until the mom gets back. Obviously, my friend and I start freaking out now that we just killed this baby seal because we led it back to the water too soon separating it from its mother. We had thought we were doing the right thing but now feared we just made that situation so much worse.

This is one of the biggest struggles I am finding with the environment. I feel as though I am helping when in reality I may be making things worse. This is most likely due to ignorance just because I am unaware of how most life functions in nature. To make things more complicated, all I hear today is how humans should be making a conscious effort to make the environment better. The hardest part for me is finding that line where we have to stop doing so and let nature take back the reigns. Because what I think is right, such as helping a little animal back to its habitat, may make things worse in the environment.

I think one of the most important things we could do is educate people on how nature functions and where we should draw that line between what efforts people are making versus letting nature take back over. The thing that is difficult about that is that I do not think anyone knows where that line is. Until we can conclusively define where human efforts need to go and stop, we are going to find much difficulty in getting our planet back to the way we want it.

Pura Vida, by Teddy Straus

The smell of day old bonfire hits me as I ride through White Clay. Something about the smell of a bonfire is comforting, something familiar that I know all to well. The smell of bonfires is also one of the many scents of fall and it is definitely fall in this part of the world. This morning it is surprisingly warm for November and I excitedly put on shorts for my bike ride to White Clay- taking every chance I can get to capture the warmth before we plummet into the deep freeze of winter.

Today it is abnormally quiet with the only sounds coming from the river and from an airplane thirty thousand feet above me. Not even the sound of squirrels rustling through the leaves or birds flying in the morning sun are here this morning. The trees are barren yet surprisingly the river is not choked with fallen leaves anymore and it is now flowing at a rapid pace with no debris to slow it down. Although the trees no longer have leaves, green grass pokes up from under the fallen leaves on the riverbank. I guess nobody told them that winter is coming.

As I turn my attention back to the river I notice that the water level has dropped a significant amount this week and that many rocks are now forming island chains dotting across the river. Interestingly, some rocks are jagged and sharp while others are more rounded over- probably from the constant weathering that they are exposed to.

A breeze slowly rolls in and with it comes birds- little flycatchers and what appear to be some specie of chickadee begin flying back and forth over the river- probably just like me- taking advantage of this nice day.

As I continue to sit here (my left index finger going numb for an unknown reason) I cant help but think how much I would rather live a life in nature than in a stuffy city or suburb. Call me crazy but the times I’ve enjoyed life the most have been in nature and with friends. Sure, not all of my times outdoors have been “fun” with countless times being on the verge of tears while stacking hundreds if not thousands of bails of hay- my fingers bleeding right through my leather work gloves. Or doing what I thought was a responsible thing and helping build hiking trails- while at the same time procuring late stage Lyme disease and turning my life into what I consider a controlled downward spiral. But, looking back on all of my experiences, I would rather be cutting and stacking hay than work in an office-doing a job that is meaningless and mind-numbing. Hank Lentfer in “Moral Ground” said that he “want[s] to live a simple, rooted life not because a place of privilege feeds on other people’s poverty, but because meals of venison, potatoes, and nagoonberry pie fill our kitchen with gratitude-crazed grin”(346). That is exactly what I want- a simple rooted life, a life that is meaningful and a life that is connected to what I love, focused on the important things in life.

I am so thankful that countless experiences growing up have taught me the way of life I want to live and what in life makes me happy. Some may think its weird that I enjoy spending my Friday nights in the woods around a bonfire or fishing instead of “turning up” but to me, those things are more important to me and are far more enjoyable.

To quote Dale Jamieson, I want to live “a life worth living” (183). A life that is pure, a life that is close to nature and the people I love. I can live without the drama and complexities that so many people are dealing with everyday. Yep…I’ll be just fine with a simple life.

The Lord Giveth….by Maeve Crimmins

“The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away, but He is no longer the only one to do so. When some remote ancestor of ours invented the shovel, he became a giver: he could plant a tree. And when the axe was invented, he became a taker: he could chop it down.” (Pg. 67)

Aldo Leopold is right; we have become a nation of greedy takers. We are robbing the earth for its land, minerals, timber, oils, and other natural resources. In the processes of taking these things from the earth we have threatened numerous plant and animal species often causing endangerment or even extinction. We are taking enormous amounts more from Mother Earth than she is able to supply us with. If we continue to be greedy takers and strip the earth of its natural resources, we will harm Mother Earth beyond repair.

As I hiked through White Clay Creek State Park this week I came across three deer. The first two deer saw me before I saw them and they darted across the path and up the hill. They stopped at the top of the hill and just stood there for a while watching me watch them. I looked to the bottom of the hill and saw another deer that was much smaller than the other two. The deer at the top of the hill were probably waiting for the baby. I continued on my hike not wanting to startle them anymore than I already had.

When I reached the little bench by the dam I set my backpack down and walked out onto the rocks. The cold water rushed around me bringing with it a chilling wind. The yellow, orange, and red leaves that had fallen into the creek zoomed past me in the current. It reminds me of the way I floated in the lazy river at Water Country as a kid. This thought made me imagine little insects riding on these leaves as they flow down the creek, enjoying their version of an amusement park ride.

On my way home from the White Clay Creek I decided to stop at Lowes and get some flower seeds. I do my best not to be a taker, but why not also do my best to be a giver. I germinated two seeds in a plastic baggie in my window and then planted them in their own pots. They are sitting on my windowsill where they can get plenty of sun. Two days after being planted the sprouts popped up above the surface of the soil. It has been four days since I planted the seeds and everyday that I wake up the first thing I do is water my plants and observe how quickly they are growing. It feels as though these plants are my children, and watching them grow is an extremely mind blowing and fun experience.

“Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets, but humbler folk may circumvent this restriction if they know how. To plant a pine, for example, one need be neither god nor poet; one need only own a shovel.” (Pg. 81)

This quote from A Sand County Almanac is partially what inspired me to want to grow flowers. I am certainly no god or poet, so I guess that makes me one of the humbler folks. The hard part now is that I have to continue to be humble and keep these plants alive.

Craving What We Don’t Have, by Kory Zelen

It’s Sunday at 1 o’clock.  Typically this would mean I would be on my couch watching football. However, my new ritual this semester is to do my nature walks at this time, and I have grown to actually enjoy it a lot. I arrive at White Clay Creek at about 2 o’clock. The beautiful weather really enhances the true smell of fall all around me.

I take a seat on a log with a buddy of mine and we try this whole mediation thing that I have learned to do in class. The feeling I felt was unlike anything else. Since it was so quite except for the natural sounds around me, I felt like I was able to go outside of my body and watch what was going on through my sense of sound. Birds screaming back and forth to one another, squirrels and chipmunks scurrying through the leaves, wind blowing through the trees.

My mind found it easier to escape all the problems and thoughts that were constantly running through my head when we meditated in class. After about 20 minutes of sitting in silence we decided to get up and explore a bit. Of course within 5 minutes of walking around I come across litter, which totally takes away from the nature “high” I was coming off of when I was mediating. Somehow a pop tart wrapper found its way at the trunk of a tree. The faded color of the wrapper told me it had been circulating in this ecosystem for quite some time.

It got me to think what the animals thought of this litter. We see it for what it is, some human being disrespectful toward the forest and having no care for anyone else but themselves. But I wonder when a squirrel comes across it or maybe an insect crawls inside of it what runs through their head. Do they perceive it as just another part of nature that they have not yet came across yet? Or do they see it for what it is and get angry and confused as to why someone would do that?

In discussion in class we talked about finding a cigarette in the lake and what that could represent. I feel like the biggest thing that does is give the perception to others passing by that its ok to litter and behave like that. If someone is walking by and has a little trash in their hand they will be more likely to litter if they see that kind of activity all around them. It’s the mentality of “ how much could 1 more piece of little trash hurt”. With no one there to monitor this action or constantly clean it up, you see how the chain reaction could be so harmful.

Something I thought that was very interesting the Forest Unseen was when Haskell says, “we crave rich variegations of light. Too much time in one ambience, and we long for something new.” What I took from this is that he’s saying humans naturally crave what they don’t have and always looking to move on to something different. I think this is a wonderful quote cause it not only describes how we feel when were surrounded by nature, but it also describes how we feel about almost everything else in life.

This is shown every time a new iPhone comes out or even buying new clothes. It’s something new and more importantly something we don’t already posses. Sometimes when I’m out in the woods for extended periods of times I also get a little frustrated. Were not used to being in the same “light” for too long. I believe this is due to the fact that we have television and computers that give us the ability to change the “light” that were in with the click of a button. It puts us in power of what were surrounded by, and we all know humans love to be in control.

Love is Earned, by Acza Alvarado

I feel confused about my place in this world. I’m not sure if I should feel entirely disconnected or if I should feel as connected as ever. At the end of the day I am so small compared the rest of the world, but is this actually true? If it only takes one person to change the world then how come I feel this way? Being out in my spot in the depths of Whit Clay Creek doesn’t necessarily help ease these thoughts.

Do the squirrels, birds, frogs, and the other critters and creatures mind me being here? Am I bothering them? To me, this experience is humble and it’s a place for me to get away. How messed up is that? In order to get away and “feel more connected” to a whole different world that is Mother Nature, I have to bombard someone else’s house, completely uninvited. I wonder what this feels like for them. I know that if I saw a squirrel lounging in my house it wouldn’t be the most pleasant experience.  But is it just because they would never want to be in my house anyway? If there is one thing I have noticed throughout this time, it is that animals enjoy their familiar surroundings where as humans strive to get away from them. I’m honestly starting to get bored of my spot. I love it here but it’s just one of those things where if you stay too long in an area you want more from it. It doesn’t satisfy what I’m looking for anymore because I have formed a habituation to it, which is why I’m okay with only visiting it every now and then, not making it my home, whereas Mary Oliver seems to disagree.

When it’s all over, she doesn’t “want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular, and real. I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened or full of argument. I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”  I for one, completely disagree. I want to find myself full of argument. I want to feel myself frightened and still debating my inner thoughts and philosophies because the more one sees, the less they know and if I still feel a sense of uncertainty the day that I die, that means I did something right. A life full of healthy argument is good. Arguing stereotypes and proving myself wrong would be a dream come true. I would love to leave this world having simply visited it because somewhere in the definition of “visiting” is the word temporary. I want to think of my life as visiting this earth rather than having just lived in it because the word visiting means no dull moment.  Think about it. When you go on vacation, you shortly “visit” an unfamiliar place and get to know it. If my life was full of “visiting”, I would want nothing more because to me, it means a life full of new experiences and an exposure to different perspectives of the world.

Also, think about it this way. Visiting home from college is always something to look forward to because home is missed. Once you leave a place, you realize your appreciation for it and spending limited time in this place develops this. Appreciation goes hand in hand with what Mary Oliver depicts throughout her short stories; the theme of how important it is to love and how crucial it is to living a good life. She says so herself that to live in this world you must be able “to do three things, to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go”.  When you spend a limited amount of time somewhere, such as on this earth, you form appreciation, and when you form appreciation, you form love.

First World Problems, by Jessica Rodriguez

The summer after my sophomore year of high school I went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic with my Aunt and her church. I had always been involved in different community service organizations but I was extremely interested in visiting a third world country.

Growing up, my mother always reminded me of how fortunate and blessed I was to have a roof over my head and food on the table every night. Whenever I was bratty, she would threaten to bring me to the homeless shelter to see how hard other people had it. Immediately I would shut my mouth for fear that I would have to go to that unknown and uncomfortable place where poor people had to live.

I felt a great deal of sympathy for those people but it was too hard for me to watch them suffer. As I got older, I invited the idea of seeing how other people lived to help me open my eyes to their struggles. I was no longer fearful of visiting with poor people, I wanted to learn from them and help them in any way that I could.

When we first pulled into the little village where we would be building the church, in the run down van the pastor provided us, I could sense just how little the people who lived here had. The road was not paved and the houses were small and decrepit. However, when I met the adults and children of the community, they greeted our group with smiling faces and I could sense how grateful they were for our help.

The first night they invited us to their church service. Although the service was entirely in Spanish I was taken aback by the amount of faith around me. It was truly a sight to see the love these people had for their community and their god despite their harsh circumstances. If they can be so happy with so little, why can’t we be happy with so much?

Arriving at my spot in the woods this week I reminisced about my time with the people at La Casa de Vida in the Dominican Republic. The way that they lived reminded me greatly of the Ladakhi, how full of life they were despite their situation. As I was reading Ancient Futures, I was struck deeply by the ways in which Western influence permeated the Ladakhi’s way of life and destroyed some of the beautiful aspects of their culture.

“The political and economic structures that encouraged mutual aid and interdependence in the village have broken down; in time of illness or other need, a person in Leh is more likely to seek help from relatives in the village than from the strangers on the other side of the wall in the next apartment (Hodge, 2009).” Where there once was strongly knit community ties, there now is greater emotional distance among the Ladakhi as they strive towards a Western way of life.

The people in these third world communities see all of our wealth and material items and think that we are happier because of it. However, they do not how having all of these things affects us emotionally. They also do not see that their way of life, however simple it is, has many emotional benefits.

It is saddening to me that Western culture looks down on these communities in other parts of the world and assume that they are struggling simply because they do not have the money or materialistic items that we do. Neighbors in our wealthiest cities do no know each other and are often arrogant towards one another.

There is virtually no sense of community in an apartment building in NYC. I think it is important that more people travel to these foreign countries and see how the people truly live in these small communities. I think people will begin to realize that our way of life is not the greatest out there and that these people are not truly poor even though they have no money. We should not push our way of life onto other people who have been happily surviving without our influence. Instead of us teaching, we should start becoming learners.

Ode to Squirrel, by Caylen Wolfer

When I took my first few steps outside today, I was very thankful in my choice of jeans and a sweatshirt. If it were only a few degrees colder, I would have definitely been able to see my breath.

Once I was deep into the forest of White Clay Creek, I huddled next to the hickory tree that I sat with every week. I already could note the changes that had occurred since my last visit a week prior. The layer of leaf litter on the ground was much thicker, and the soil was no longer visible. The yellows and oranges of autumn were far more prevalent than the greens of summer in the leaves that still clung on to the branches above. Oh how I loved autumn- it was a shame that it only happened once a year, as I wish I could experience the colors of the flora all year round. It was all the more to cherish though.

As I attempted to observe my surroundings, I was could not focus on much as the howling wind blew strongly through the forest. It not only made it much colder, but the usual light rustling of the leaves was now a loud roar. The song the trees sung was one that could not be ignored. The inclusion of the blend of colors also made the entire forest both look and sound like an uncontrollable blaze.

Down on the forest floor where I sat though, it was much calmer. When I could finally hone in on the ground, I noticed many ferns growing up and around some of the trees. These small fern patches were growing right where the light could bleed through the foliage above, so it was the only place they could possibly thrive in. They flicked to and fro from the breeze, and their waving motion was analogous to that of a deer flicking its tail. I don’t often find plants that amusing, but these ferns made me smile as they danced away.


            I immediately scanned the forest for the sudden rustling, looking for what was in lurking nearby. It had come from another patch of ferns, but it was then I saw a fluffy tail whipping around amongst the ferns. It had just been an eastern gray squirrel rummaging around.

I admit I was disappointed. How thrilling would it have been to see a fox or maybe a deer, but it was just another squirrel. Still though, I have to give the squirrel props for being one of the most abundant mammals in the entire forest. Even more impressive was that squirrels were by far the most well-adapted animals to life amongst humans, especially on the college campus that I lived on.

Being at the University of Delaware, my friends and I just called them UD squirrels. They were far plumper than their brothers in the forest, most likely because their diet consisted mostly of pizza, french fries, and whatever else they could get their paws on. Often, I would go to throw away my trash while I walked to class and a squirrel would be rummaging away inside the garbage can. They were also far from docile- they know that most people are not going to harm them, and that we were the source of much of their plentiful but malnutritious diet. Just a few weeks back two squirrels ran toward me in great haste, and while I expected them to flee from my feet, instead they nearly kicked them.

The forest-dwellers were not as reckless. David George Haskell, when a squirrel notices his presence in The Forest Unseen writes, “Its head is held tipped up, and the tail straightens parallel to the tree trunk. The squirrel watches. Then trembling waves agitate the tail. The fur on the tail flattens, turning a brush into an undulating fan” (194). The squirrel that I was looking at now was doing just the same, and quickly shot up into the canopy above. What I wish I could have heard was the “thumping” that Haskell describes hearing as a warning signal to other squirrels in the forest, but alas I heard nothing. Even he said that he has “never been quiet close or quiet enough to hear the sudden tapping” (195). I could only wish to be as observant as him- I required much more focus and patience.

I could, however, hear the rustling of other squirrels as at least two others jumped into the trees to join their friend. Their warning system was a very efficient one. I couldn’t help but think back to the UD squirrels though. They barely had enough trees and vegetation to thrive on campus, but they often seemed more solitary to me. If anything, they were far more ignorant of their surroundings. These urbanized squirrels were basically like people, and unaware to the world around them.

Unlike people though, they were not at the top of the food chain, and are still confined to this even on a college campus. During my first year of school at UD, I found the squirrels entertaining- there was even a squirrel nest right outside my window of my dorm room. As I walked back to my dorm one day though, a large pair of wings flew just a few feet above me and many other students that had just come out of class. It was a red-tailed hawk, and in his clutches was a nice stout squirrel, still squirming. The hawk could barely stay above crowd, and I was amazed when it flew into a tree to have its feast. It was a lesson though to the UD squirrels- you are never safe from predators.

And yet even under the continuous threat of hawks that have come to linger around campus now, the squirrels thrive. They can conform to any new environment, and in that respect, I have much admiration for the little rodents. In a world that has become human dominated, they are a clear indicator that nature will always find a way to survive, and even prosper in conditions that many other animals would find unsuitable and uninhabitable. Not the squirrel though. They are here to stay for many years to come.

The Power of Sound, by Tahlia Maron

            Sitting in class a few days ago I meditated for the first time. Many people in my life have suggested that I begin meditation to deal with my anxiety but I have always shrugged them off and never tried. As you counted down to begin, I got a thrill of excitement, yet once I shut my eyes I couldn’t silence my racing mind. Once we came back to the present and discussed our experience I was shocked to hear everyone’s positive feedback and concept of having a blank mind. Leaving class I felt discouraged and rather than being relieved and peaceful I was more stressed out having been lost in my thoughts for such a period of time. The following class when the lights dimmed and I knew we were going to meditate, my palms began to sweat. To my surprise using a new technique and focusing on all of the sounds that I heard completely put an end to my thoughts. I opened my eyes and felt so relieved. I finally had successfully meditated and it was an overwhelming happiness. While I was walking out the classroom door I decided that I would venture to White Clay and try this meditation there.

On my walk over I was very perceptive of the sounds around me, it was like my sense of hearing had just been awaken. The chatter of boyfriend drama and failed exams flooded my ears as I passed by my peers heading towards North Campus. I was picking up on others conversations more intently than I would have wanted and car horns seemed louder than I remembered. Entering White Clay Creek the reduction of noise eased my headache that had developed on my way over. As I hopped onto my island I found a comfortable spot to begin my meditation. While I was closing my eyes I let a giggle escape. The image of myself sitting Indian style in the middle of a creek all by myself trying to meditate was a bit silly but I continued on.

The first sound that I found myself attentive to was rush of the water. I then noticed the close buzz of a fly in my ear. Something that would typically drive me crazy just intrigued me. I heard him circling around my left ear, curious if it was a smell I was omitting or just my presence attracting him. In the distance I heard the rustling of leaves. The scatter of eight tiny feet playfully running across the ground grabbed my attention. Next I heard the splash of something hitting the water. I don’t know if it was just in my imagination but I swear I heard the ripple of the water and the vibration of the object spread across a larger area. Abruptly I was brought back to reality by the deep cough of a man approaching. I noticed that my mind was not completely blank but all of my worries had disappeared and I felt very calm upon standing up. It was the first time in a while that I was at peace with my own thoughts.

David Haskell has a pure and beautiful way of observing and dissecting every aspect of nature. I found his awareness of the sounds of the forest paired with my new infatuation with sound meditation to be very powerful. In his chapter Sunrise Bird’s, he reflects on this music the birds contribute to the forest. While reading his words, “The song seems to pierce through from another world, carrying with it clarity and ease, purifying me for a few moments with its grace. Then the song is gone, the veil closes, and I am left with embers of memory”, I couldn’t agree more (Haskell 83). His writing is a song with in itself. The melody of the forest melted my anxiety away and left me with a peaceful memory.

Looking Closely, by Meg Krenn

The day that I visited my spot this week was extremely chilly. I went early, at nine o’clock in the morning, and my nose was running and my eyes were tearing from the strength of the wind as I walked. Fall has definitely arrived. There were bare trees and colorful leaves everywhere. The day was absolutely beautiful.

Something that I wanted to work on this week was to observe the not-so-obvious aspects of my spot, specifically living organisms that surrounded me. I always make general observations about the same things, but I tried to notice the aspects that weren’t right in front of me. In the December 6th chapter of, The Forest Unseen, David Haskell discusses how we do not notice or even think about the small creatures of nature, “Unfortunately for the richness of our experience, we live in a strange and extreme corner of the world’s available habitat. The animals that we encounter are so few that also inhabit this unusual niche.” Then he goes on to explain why this is the case, “The first cause of our estrangement is our size. We are tens of thousands of times larger than most living creatures, therefore our senses are too dull to detect the citizens of Lilliput that crawl around and over us.” The idea of bacteria and other living creatures constantly on and around humans has always freaked me out, but I find it interesting as well. There is so much that exists in this world that we aren’t even aware of and it’s so fascinating.

Keeping this in mind, I got down as low as possible around the rock I normally observe on and, trying to not fall into the water, I looked for as many small creatures as I possibly could. In between the rock I sit on and the one directly next to it I spotted spider webs. I looked at the detailed web and saw a little spider up in the corner. I do not know much about spiders, they actually scare me, but it looked so comfy and almost cute curled up in a ball.

Right at that moment, a wasp flew onto my sweatshirt. My automatic reaction was to flick it off so that I wouldn’t get stung, and it stumbled onto the large rock that I was sitting on. Ever since I came back to school this semester, I feel like there are millions of wasps on campus. Whenever I am outside, there is always at least one swarming around me. The wasp now sat on the rock and didn’t move. I watched it while the stinger moved up and down, as if it were breathing. It stayed there for the longest time and this was strange because wasps are always on the move. I wondered if it was injured or maybe it was just tired. I directed my attention back to the spider web. He was still just hanging out in the corner of the web. So I looked at what else was around me.

There were so many leaves all crowded on top of each other due to the current of the water flowing down the river to spill over the waterfall. They were stopped by the rock next to mine in the way of their path. There was some mud and dirt underneath these leaves so I tried to peel them away to see if I could find anything. This was difficult at first because I’m not a huge fan of mud and was afraid of what I might find underneath the leaves. The leaves were damp and the ones that had recently fallen were crunchy, composed of all different beautiful colors. My hands grew colder as I peeled each one back. As I got closer to the mud, I found a worm! The worm wiggled and stretched in the damp leaves. It was so interesting to watch it move because they’re so strong.

While I studied the worm, it began to frustrate me not only that we don’t notice or acknowledge small organisms in our world, but also that most bacteria and other tiny creatures are unable to be seen by our eyes. How are we supposed to be united as one when we don’t even know that most organisms exist? Haskell observes much smaller organisms than every day insects, but this was all that I could see with my naked eye. He closes this chapter by stating, “In the end, it’s not just the diversity of the bestiary that our size and dryness hides from us but the true nature of life’s physiology. We are bulky ornaments on life’s skin, riding the surface, only dimly aware of the microscopic multitudes that make up the rest of the body. Peering below the mandala’s surface is like resting lightly on the body’s skin, feeling the pulse move.” I begin to question if we are disconnected because we don’t care or because there is no possible way we would be able to see or know these organisms unless we studied them. When I was little and playing out in my backyard, I paid attention to these organisms, and now I don’t even realize them. Have I grown not to care? Although I found common creatures, my observations were a start to hopefully one day seeing something different and finding a way to acknowledge these species. Next week I plan to do the same thing and see what I find. When getting ready to leave, I looked down and realized that the wasp was finally gone. He must have just been tired.