|Horizontal Fringe in Sunlight|
--Liberty Hyde Bailey (Leaflet 1. What is Nature-Study? 1897)
The beauty of Liberty Hyde Bailey is not simply his scientific gifts, but his gifts as a person of wonder. He was supremely knowledgeable in his field, having written and published over 30 horticulture books and dozens upon dozens of scientific and practical articles. The amazing thing about Bailey is that he was so much more than that. He was a student of life and a gifted teacher. Bailey knew that the first step in learning is observing and appreciating the world around us. It is the development of a sense of wonder that is at the root of a good student. This is the gift that he shared so generously with the world. His sense of wonder is reflected in his photography, poetry and ongoing thirst for knowledge. Bailey never lost his sense of wonder and he shared it with all those around him. He taught us who he was (not just what he knew) and he was a man of great wonder.
Summertime is nature-study prime time. Its a time of natural and easy wonder. You don't need a guide or an expert to find yourself face-to-face with a dragonfly at the water's edge or perhaps a frog hanging out in your window well or a snake sunning himself on the bike trail. And one does not need to know the name of the snake to appreciate its form and structure. (A snake is an amazing animal and one that gets all my attention whenever I cross one's path.) All those encounters stir up, however momentarily, a sense of wonder.
I've been riding my bike on the Kal-Haven trail. I used to wear headphones and rock-out as I rolled down the road. Learning a bit more about birds this year I've stopped listening to my music and have tuned into listening for birds and frogs and other creatures along the way. I don't usually know what I'm listening to, but I am listening and wondering about the sounds. I can pick out a few frogs and a couple of birds. That's nature-study. Lately, I have been admiring grasses. When given time to go to seed, grasses are amazingly diverse and interesting. The grasses above were alongside the bike trail. They were so beatuiful in the sunlight. I named them "Horizontal Fringe." I know they have a scientific name and probably a common name, but to me, they are Horizontal Fringe. And when I see them, I think of them as a grass that I know. . . I see them, admire them and recongize them. They are part of my memory bank and forever known by me. That's nature-study.
I will never be the gifted scientist that Liberty Hyde Bailey was, but his gift was not simply scientific knowledge, it was reminding us of something even more valuable . . . that the world is amazing and everyone is invited into the wonder of it all.