What if I told you I was about to embark on a two-year odyssey,
preparing to battle aggressive foes,
poised to discover buried treasure,
currently meeting a host of allies and trying valiantly to keep their names straight? Would you want to join me? I hope you will!
This particular adventure marks the latest leg of a longer journey which I’ve been on, as I think about it, my whole life, beginning in my childhood in northern Minnesota.
My heart was knit early on to the great outdoors,
catching frogs and garter snakes, fishing with my dad, rescuing wild roses from lots being cleared for new houses, picking wild blueberries with my grandmother, always happiest grubbing about outside.
I was a child in the 70s when the environmental movement was kick-started afresh and I began learning in my small elementary school about the pollution poisoning our air and water, toxic damage which must be alleviated.
Fast forward to a little more than a decade ago when my then-teenage son began asking serious questions about climate change, a concept that was buzzing around the periphery of my mind but which I had not investigated.
His pursuit of facts when information he read seemed contradictory, and his pursuit of undergraduate degrees in Biology and Environmental Studies and of a PhD (nearly finished!) in Microbiology focusing on environmental applications – all of this study and growth and passion and dogged commitment served to open my eyes to the critical need for environmental restoration and environmental justice.
As my awareness increased, a host of others stepped in to teach me more about the glories of nature,
the extent of the damage we have caused to our precious planet,
the terrible consequences of that damage,
the intricate interdependence between every organic and inorganic element of the vast, complex world,
and the solutions we already have for these problems that simply await the willpower of the people to be implemented.
Some of those folks have been teaching me from beyond the grave through their prescient writings, folks like Aldo Leopold, John Muir, Rachel Carson.
Some teach currently in settings around the globe, educating us with the latest and best science, resources, and know-how.
Some are local heroes working to restore health to the land, water, air, wildlife here in the Twin Cities.
These last folks are the ones who have launched me on my new odyssey, and are equipping me for it.
I am grateful for their passion, expertise, encouragement, and patience.
My lifelong journey towards being a faithful steward of the environment has been bumbling, error-strewn, often dominated by downright ignorance, but I am super excited now to have been awarded a grant from the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District to restore to health a significant portion of our almost-one-acre property.
That’s the 2-year adventure I’m embarking on, beginning this month.
It’ll be a scratchy, mucky, muscle-taxing adventure,
but you can join me from the comfort of your own spaces.
Last year we cleared out a forest of invasive buckthorn.
This spring we have begun giving the ol’ heave-ho to more and ever more newly-emerging buckthorn as well as a number of other pernicious invasive plants.
These are the aggressive foes robbing our land of its health.
By this fall we’ll have a large swath of our lot prepped to receive a nice large load of native Minnesota trees and shrubs, and after a further year of vigilance next fall we’ll receive a huge bunch of native Minnesota wildflowers and grasses.
These are the allies I’m learning about,
learning their names and how to recognize them when I see them.
Meanwhile, lying beneath the soil other native species lurk, awaiting the vanquishing of their buckthorn nemesis in order to poke their heads up and grace us with their presence.
That’s the buried treasure I’m after and I’ve already begun to see glimpses of it.
As part of our restoration project, I’ll be devoting about a dozen blog entries over the next couple of years to a travelogue as it were of my discoveries, hurdles, victories, musings. Each of these will also feature excellent, juicy books on topics adjacent to what I’m doing and learning along the way, subjects such as rewilding, biodiversity, wildflowers, and urban wildlife.
If possible, I’ll issue bite-sized nature challenges and links to some educational videos.
My hope is that these will provide a way for some of you to easily patch a bit of environmental education into your home schooling,
encouragement for others of you to think about ways you can help restore the environment in your sphere,
a beckoning for all of us to really see the nature around us with grateful, appreciative, and more knowledgeable eyes,
drawing from it rejuvenation, provision, and joy,
giving back what is necessary for it to flourish.
So, here is this month’s nature challenge:
Take time to awaken your senses to what is around you.
Head outdoors at least four times, setting aside just a short time — 5 minutes, 10 minutes — to target one sense:
Sound: what am I hearing? how does this change at different times of day or night?
Touch: what different textures are here? what can I feel if I go barefoot? if I lie down on different surfaces?
Smell: what do these different leaves, flowers, grasses, rotten logs, etc. smell like?
Sight: what do I see if I spend this whole time looking closely? looking under? looking up? looking inside of?
And here is this month’s reading challenge:
Pick one book about an environmental hero or one book drawing us into the wonders of nature
Here are some suggestions, with links to my original reviews.
10 picture books introducing us to environmental heroes:
The Camping Trip that Changed America: Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir and Our National Parks
The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau
John Muir: America’s First Environmentalist
Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle
Out of School and Into Nature: The Story of Anna Comstock
Rachel Carson and Her Book that Changed the World
Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit
Spring After Spring: How Rachel Carson Inspired the Environmental Movement
Young Water Protectors: A Story About Standing Rock
2 titles for slightly older readers:
Wildheart: The Daring Adventures of John Muir
Nature investigations and appreciation…
For young children:
Nature’s Day: Discovering the World of Wonder on Your Doorstep
Nature’s Art Box
Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature
Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year
For ages 9 and up:
Natural World: A Visual Compendium of Wonders from Nature
Precious Planet: A User’s Manual for Curious Earthlings
The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth: Understanding Our World and Its Ecosystems
Videos you might watch — ages 9 and up:
A 5- minute TED-Ed video about Rachel Carson
A 7-minute video on the life and legacy of John Muir
Any episode in the Our Planet series available on Netflix
Know someone who might like to join our expedition? Share the post!
Congrats to your son! And congrats to you as well, you sound very excited about your adventure. It’s great to have a purpose in life 🙂
Thanks, Bob! Yes, I never have to wonder what to do with my day as long as my back holds out 🙂
What a lovely blog! Congratulations on receiving this grant. May your hard work bear much beauty. And congrats to your son!
Thank you so much!
[…] Quite a number of these handsome fellows have arisen in my scruffy woodland-to-be and I am elated by every one. Come fall they will be adorned by fiery-red berries. If you missed my post telling of my new backyard project and how welcome these gems are — you can read it here. […]
[…] been about a month since I introduced the restoration project we’ve begun in our yard. As the heat of summer bears down on us, I wanted to update you and […]
[…] earlier entries about my backyard restoration project via these links:embarking on an odysseyblisters and buckthornthe slow meaningful work of […]