Saturday, January 26, 2008

In Search of a Verb

How is it we can describe, actively yet passionately, what we're doing when we're out there looking at and being with—and, yes, studying—the whole of creation? Cultivating a sense of place, surely, and trying to grasp the spirit of the whole, as well as the beings that live and move around us.

The need for a new word was suggested some time ago by one who inspires me whenever we get into the field together. I'm still hoping this blog can create a discussion of what we do "out there" and why it's so important to us! It's often more general than birding or botanizing, but it's definitely not hiking exactly either. Does the lack of an appropriate word make it less real to others, if not to us? If we can't explain it, how can we ask the world to leave room for this experience that engages us, because it's not just about what we enjoy, it's about making space for the wild and all who still try to survive there?

Naturalists have changed. No longer is the gun an essential tool; the camera has perhaps replaced it. Many of us don't call ourselves photographers, though we certainly capture our interests so whenever we can. There are still scientists who are true naturalists, but would most naturalists consider themselves scientists?

Why "Romantic"?

Romantics found this field of science [biology] a modern approach to the old pagan intuition that all nature is alive and pulsing with energy and spirit. No other single idea was more important to them. And at the very core of this Romantic view of nature was what later generations would come to call an ecological perspective: that is, a search for holistic or integrated perception, an emphasis on interdependence and relatedness in nature, and an intense desire to restore man to a place of intimate intercourse with the vast organism that constitutes the earth.

—Worster, Nature's Economy, p.82

But, even capitalized, "Romantic" may be too misunderstood a word to use these days; it's not about hearts and flowers. I'm open to other suggestions. In the past couple of years, this discussion has become more broad and more relevant than ever—the no child left inside, last child in the woods discussion points to the values we've always appreciated and practiced.

I haven't given up. It's a conversation worth having.


fred said...

Though I can't elaborate at length just now, I think this is a worthwhile discussion and know there are many bloggers--some on your sidebar list as well as others--who ask this question and might enter the discussion. I look forward to it.

nina at Nature Remains. said...

SLW--Louv's book is wonderful...and I credit how I see the world from my childhood spent the woods.
After a long day of work (indoors), nothing cleanses and stimulates me more than a slow walk, with time to revel in the intricate beauties.

SLW said...

Thanks, Nina. I think our "kid in the woods" background shaped all of us. Just not sure kids are still getting to do that! Where will future naturalists come from?