Day-to-day living offers three perspectives for how we look around, more specifically, how we look backward and forward.
The most obvious would doubtlessly be the physical looking.
When you’re afield, looking back clarifies or even reveals where you have just been — a ponderosa pine savannah, a quaking aspen grove, a cattail marsh. Looking forward presents options for where you are going — a rock outcrop, a wildflower meadow, a mountain pond.
Probably the second most common way of looking would be emotional, based on time.
When you’re walking a trail, you remember all the fun times you walked this trail with your dog, but you also remember the sadness of that last walk before the final goodbye.
Looking back emotionally is an outing along that proverbial memory lane. The joy of discovering a special wildflower here; the fear of a lightning storm there; the sadness of seeing a turtle tangled in fishing line somewhere else.
Looking forward emotionally sets your personal life stage for what is yet to be. The joy of seeing an elk calf stand up for the first time after birth. The awe of witnessing kokanee salmon swarming upstream. The hushed beauty of watching a swallowtail emerge from its chrysalis.
Looking back and forward has an intellectual facet as well as an emotional one.
This is where encountering a pine marten opened your mind to species diversity and ecological connectivity. This is where a swarm of a few hundred thousand painted lady butterflies opened your mind to migration affecting more wildlife than just birds.
Looking back intellectually is a different way of walking that memory lane. It reminds you of how personal experiences with nature produce that gold that does not glitter, that wealth of the mind we off-handedly recognize as knowledge.
As a naturalist, looking backward and forward in a union of physical, emotional and intellectual perspectives produces a deeply personal sense of gratification based on recognizing accomplishment while simultaneously kindling a deeply personal ambition to keep going.
You’ve seen bighorn sheep but never witnessed rams butting heads with those giant horns. You’ve read of those 4-foot long minnows called “Colorado pike-minnows,” but you’ve never seen one. You know the triploid checkered-whiptail is a unique lizard that lives only in Colorado but have never seen one of those, either.
You’ve read the tree books and know six pines grow naturally wild in Colorado and that one of them can live well beyond 2,000 years. But it’s the one pine you’ve never found. Looking ahead, you can imagine yourself finding one and resting your hand against its trunk to feel the gentle throb of time passing.
In all these ways of looking at the living world from your own perspective — your perspective as a naturalist — one reality comes to mind and never leaves.
You’re not done yet.
Monthly nature programs at Loveland Public Library, 300 N. Adams Ave., continue in the Gertrude Scott Room but will also be available by Zoom. Check the library’s website to access the Zoom link. The final Naturalist’s Desideratum program — “The Outcome” — will be Wednesday, Dec. 7, at 10 a.m. The free program sponsored by Friends of the Loveland Library will explore how engaging wildlife enriches daily living as nothing else can.
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