Jerry's Column

Connecting with Nature

Are you looking for accessible nature somewhere nearby? Maybe even in your own backyard? Not a problem. In any form, contact with nature seems to reassure a primal need in us for something outside our influence. And, curiosity about something we have gotten so far away from in our urban lives is a rational mechanism that allows us to feed that sense. To borrow a cliché, nature is in the eye of the beholder. From bare soil to a complex field or grove filled with critters, nature is everywhere if we’re willing to look for it. The question to ask may be ‘How much nature am I looking for?’   

So, on a practical level, how can we answer that question in our own back yards? The answers can be almost limitless and, since that is the topic of this column, be prepared for endless chatter on the subject. And, please let me know what you think by emailing me on the ‘contact us’ link provided on this web site.  

Let’s begin the chatter with an attempt at a short definition of nature as used in this context. By my definition almost anything, from rocks to the most complex biological organism can, in the cosmological sense, be defined as nature and might feed that need for contact with something outside our influence.

Even something as simple as a rock is a part of nature and surprisingly also its own biological micro-habitat. Lichens, the pioneers of the plant family, thrive on rocks breaking them down and providing the foothold for more extensive growth. While putting rocks in your backyard might be a first step in the process, a lot of patience will be required to see natural process results; lichens have way more patience than we do, typically taking centuries to work their magic.

On the other hand filling your backyard with trees, shrubs or wildflowers in hopes of attracting animals might not be your appropriate answer either. While it might provide plenty of contact with ‘nature’ and great outdoor entertainment, it’s hard for the kids to play soccer in a grove of trees and they might need some active sports entertainment, too.

Since this discussion will be exploring the endless possibilities, I’ll leave chatter about some specific possibilities to my next column. Remember that nature is everywhere if we’re willing to look for it. I’ll also look forward to your ideas on the topic. See you then.