I love this thread. It makes me smile and chuckle to myself. Again, I'm very thankful that I know others that experience the same awkward moments, and revel in the small, but surely successful education that others experience.
It makes me ask myself, where did I get my education from? What made me into this inquisitive person, where did I get over my indoctrinated fear of snakes and all things called pests and vermin? My upbringing was Southern Belle. A "Lady" didn't need an opinion of your own, you were going to be a high-school art teacher (the highest accomplishment imagined from a East Texas town) (think Sheldon Cooper's mom), and you were pigeon-holed into a "style" of person, not an individual. And what girl needed science?
I did come with a tom-boy sense of out door play, splashing in the creek and climbing trees. I think outdoor play is valuable. My dad and mom took me to see the western states National Parks, and we did stop to look at beaver dams and moose and mountain vistas, but not from a scientific view, dad liked photography and I think they were aesthetically pleasing to him. So I grew up at least looking out at natural world, if not actually in the midst of it.
But the main event in my life was when I went away, to a small state college - a teacher's college. There I rubbed elbows with different cultures, different opinions, ideas, and it was life-altering. After a Master's degree, I found birds. I knew I could draw anything I looked at, but I had no idea what was concealed under that cloak of feathers on the large hawks that sat on the telephone poles. The light bulb went off, I can draw, I like animals, why don't I draw animals? That was a self-discovery, no one forced me into it. I found people who liked birds, birders. There was the sense of adventure, the hunt, the getting up at dawn, smelling invigorating fresh air, mucking through marshes and getting all muddy. I went back to school and studied biology and ornithology. I was driven for my own interest, not someone else's, in what went on under the cloak. This began my association with birding tours, and met my husband who was a renown in the field and a marvelous naturalist. We traveled worldwide, worked hard, and the world opened up. So did my philosophy and my tolerance of other ideas, people and culture. I don't think I would have achieved that just on my own.
My point is that by developing friends and colleagues who encourage us, we stretch out. By our actions, others will see that there are other ways to live life, and hopefully they will be encouraged to think for themselves and open their eyes. I was amazed and a little shocked, when Robert Bateman gave a talk in Vancouver, BC, he quoted a statistic that nowadays young people spend seven hours a day in front of electronics. What? How can that be? Since then I have heard other studies that support that number. He asked the audience to "Take a child into Nature". Take a cousin, nephew or niece, or neighbor kid, for a 30 minute walk in a natural environment. A city park with steam, or a prairie field. Absolutely no phones, no texting, leave them at home. (Take their parents too, but the same rules apply.) And not teach or preach, but just be there when they have questions. Let them discover, let them be curious, and the effort will be rewarded, perhaps not immediately. But possibly like Barry's spider on the wall; leave it alone, let it live, it lives here. Any exposure to a positive experience in nature will be noticed. It may take the "creepy" aspect away. We are scared of what we don't know.
I agree that we don't have to lecture "ordinary" people to introduce ideas, they see by our actions that other worlds exist. That can be huge.
We have family that hasn't come out to AZ perhaps our stories of lizards, snakes, tarantulas, and bears may be enough to discourage them. Maybe some day, tho. ... we will always be the "weird ones" to some.
Linda M. Feltner Artist, LLC
P.O. Box 325
Hereford, AZ 85615
On Jan 18, 2014, at 8:37 AM, Barry K. MacKay wrote:
Once we were all around the table, eating dinner, when the girl, then in her mid-teens, gave a sharp intake of breath, pointed a trembling finger up at a corner of the room and said, “There’s a spider up there!” Without looking I said, “Yes, I know, but if you just ignore her she’ll be fine.” Blank stares and surprised looks all around. The mom, my love interest, is now used to this and even gets a bit into it, and dutifully reports her sightings of hawks and owls, and feeds the squirrels who come to the back door (she balks at handing them the peanut, as I do), even giving them names but her friends and colleagues still see me as rather strange. Once, when we went to a staff party, I was sternly told, “Now Barry, you can talk about anything you like, except no politics, no religion (I’m agnostic at best), no science (she meant things like evolution vs creationism), or stuff like that.” Since I know little to nothing about sports, popular entertainment, food, or cars, there wasn’t much left. The weather, even among Canadians, only goes so far. I got a strange look when I invited HER to one of MY gatherings. I was asked if we’d be dancing or playing games or whatever, and I said no. Sigh…another strange look. BUT, she went, and enjoyed herself and continues to do so….talking’s okay, it turns out, even about politics, religion, science and stuff like that. But once, very early in our relationship (I had known her for years, but she was married, and it was only after her widowhood that we linked up…I knew and liked her late husband) she was at the house when…well…let’s put it this way. I was struggling with something and finally turned to her and said, “Here, hold this, but exactly as I am and don’t get it anywhere near your eyes.” “This” was a full-grown Double-crested Cormorant. She gamely did so, but let me know it was not a highlight of her life. (PS….the cormorant had run into some problems, yes, but was ultimately successfully rehabbed back to the wild; and a new book is due about that species, to be published by Yale University Press and illustrated by….yep….)
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