A Naturlist’s Manifesto (Pt. 1): Preamble – Planetary Perceptions

Naturalizing from a cruising altitude of 35,000 ft……

I write this from the cabin of a plane. With three flights to get me from Burlington, Vermont to Bozeman, Montana, it’s going to be a long day and has required an early departure.

Cold River Country

On the first leg of my travels, while still groggy, I find myself gazing intently out the window. Flying at an unusually low altitude this morning, the opportunity for observing the landscape passing by below is outstanding. I peer out in time to spot several bodies of water. Soon I’m able to recognize our approximate location. Long Lake, in the heart of the Adirondacks, stretches out below! It’s all too familiar, having spent many a days wandering around its outlet. The Cold River, which flows into the Raquette River near the outlet of Long Lake, is perhaps my favorite place in the Adirondacks. The wild blueberries in August are a delightful addition to a breakfast of pancakes.

My thoughts quickly shift from that of recalling great memories to the observations at hand. I notice the meanders of the river, the subtle shifts in color and texture of the landscape, the varying shades of green indicating the patchwork of biotic communities below. Those shades of green are about to change to a palate of reds and oranges, the reminder of the changing seasons. The autumnal equinox, Harvest Moon, and current constellations dotting the night sky serve as celestial reminders.

Soon my view begins to be interrupted sporadically by some wispy clouds below. I’m immediately drawn to the extraordinary shapes and textures. I suddenly have this incredible feeling of truly identifying with where I am. No longer is the space abstract. The clouds reflect the interaction of water vapor and air currents at this particular altitude. At this moment I realize how it is so much more challenging to perceive global circulation processes from the ground. From my current vantage point I begin to ponder the difference between the clouds above and below me. Do they represent two different currents? Will those below change more frequently?

We have just reached the shores of Lake Ontario. A fragmented agricultural landscape lines the water’s edge. I can see rows of trees between fields. With the recent issues concerning the health of honeybee populations, I wonder if these farmers are thinking about the importance of their hedges and fields for wild bee populations.  Do they consider what a landscape looks like to a pollinator? That’s certainly an interesting perspective to take, imagining the world through the lenses of our pollinator brethren.

As we begin our descent into the Detroit Metro Airport I scan the urban landscape. I am able to make out the forested parks that most likely serve as refuge for a variety of species amidst a concrete jungle. I spot a stream with its buffer of trees that likely provides a corridor for the movement of fox and possibly coyote.

Staring out at the runway during the layover I am left wondering what is necessary to ensure vibrant human communities and thriving natural communities in an age of rapid urbanization and suburbanization. Perhaps it is our imaginative faculties and perceptual capacities that we need to cultivate on and between the flights of life.

*This is a previous post being uploaded due to a site reconstruction