Life lessons from nature

One of my favorite things to do is just spend time out in nature during the spring, watching the flowers come into bloom while the wind blows pollen into my face. I also enjoy spending time by lakes, getting burnt by the blazing sun as it reflects off the water and listening to the birds which wake me up at 4:30 in the morning because I have sleeping problems. If that’s not enough to move my spirit, I’ll walk through beautiful fields filled with ticks and chiggers while stepping on mammal dung, and then proceed to push through thorny shrubs while searching for bird nests. Also fun is chasing after falcons who won’t sit still while you try to video-record them. Being a scientist and spending time outdoors is awesome! In case your sarcasm detector is off, I really do enjoy hanging out in God’s wonderful creation.

Male American kestrel in flight

American Kestrels don’t always sit still.

Through all my experiences in nature, I’ve learned a number of life lessons. One is that you should not step on a yellow jacket nest while performing vegetation surveys. The stings hurt, but my skin is so tough that I could hear the yellowjackets  crying as they fizzled to the ground. Nature has other ways of bringing pain into my life though. One time three years ago, I was doing songbird point counts in southern Indiana. While following my gps to the next point, I ran into a sea of rose and berry bushes. Many of the bushes were well over my head and filled with vicious thorns. I tried navigating around the bushes to avoid certain death, but was unsuccessful. I did manage to get stabbed multiple times and trip over a hidden rock and fall into the thorns. After I picked myself up, the daredevil in me managed to find more rocks to trip over and I dove into the bushes a few more times. By this time I was frustrated and bleeding so happy for the opportunity to be challenged. A nearby cuckoo was laughing at me as I tried hacking through the thicket to no avail. After close to an hour, I gave up and retreated back the way I had come. I finished my other point counts but never made it past “Berry Mountain”. Later in the season, one of my co-workers found an easy way to the point from the opposite direction. Life lesson? When pain and struggles come your way, take the easy way out and retreat so that someone else can conquer your challenges. It may not be fulfilling, but you won’t bleed as much.

Yellow-billed cuckoo in tree branch

Cuckoos enjoy watching me suffer

Sometimes when I’m walking outside, I like to imitate the birds that I hear. I actually made some weird noises at a mockingbird two weeks ago in an effort to make it look at me. One of my neighbors overheard my bizarre display and asked me if I was okay. You mean it’s not natural to attempt to communicate with the birds? Other times I mimic woodpeckers, flycatchers, and northern bobwhites. Sometimes the birds actually seem to respond out of curiosity. I also talk out loud to the birds and myself. I saw a research article once that stated that people who talk out loud to themselves can often think more clearly and solve problems easier. I fully believe this to be true because just the other day I solved the schrodinger’s cat paradox AND found the droids I was looking for by talking out loud. Unfortunately, a tree fell in the forest and I heard it, which caused me to be distracted and forget my solution. Life lesson? Being labelled insane is worth it if you have fun talking to the birds. Curiosity is a great trait as well, because you most likely won’t suffer the same fate as the cat.

Eastern Wood-Pewee Photo Red-bellied Woodpecker Photo

A couple of the birds I like to mimic. Eastern Wood-Pewee © Luke Theodorou, Red-bellied Woodpecker © Christopher L. Wood.

More stories about my adventures in nature will be forthcoming. In the meantime, I encourage you to spend time in the great outdoors! May you not be stung by hornets or bitten by mosquitoes or crushed by falling rocks or get stabbed by throny bushes or trip over tangled roots or fall face-first into dung or drop into a pit full of snakes!

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