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Wild Wildflower Women

October 7, 2011


We love being outdoors – the natural world is our world. Most of us had worked together for over 20 years at a nature center – spent time outdoors, taught children and adults about how the earth works – how plants and animals depend on each other, how sunlight energy recycles through ecosystems, how to use native plants in landscaping, and how to identify and enjoy birds. We had guided ecotourism trips from Alaska to Africa and from the Everglades to Panama. Sharing and interpreting the natural world was our business and our life.

It was “natural” that we would love spending our spare time outdoors also – hiking, birding, going on “nature walks”, discovering and identifying wildflowers, photographing and drawing what we were seeing, keeping journals, traveling to new places and exploring new ecosystems. And it was only “natural” that eventually we would be drawn together as if by a giant green magnet to share this passion for nature in a very special way.

For several years, we have made our gathering together an annual event – an intense week, usually in the spring so we could take advantage of blossoming wildflowers and nesting birds  – watching the natural world renew itself as well as renewing ourselves and our friendships. This last was especially important to us since we no longer live in the same town and communicate via emails.

It works like this: We select a place to go months ahead of time, find out when is a good time to see wildflowers and birds in that area, try to coordinate a date (which sometimes works for all of us and sometimes not), arrange for a place to stay, and finally start making lists of what to take with us. The most important things on our lists are binoculars, cameras, and field guides. Some of us bring big serious cameras, some of us small ones that fit in a pocket.  We bring an iPhone that has bird calls on it and an iPad to download photos we’ve taken during the day. (Thank you, Steve Jobs.)

We all share food and travel expenses and take turns making meals, and occasionally we eat out, have picnic lunches, and exchange favorite recipes. We always have a library with us, since we each have our favorite bird books and wildflower books. Our library also includes mammal, reptile/amphibian, and butterfly books, and novels to read during our down time. And of course, we all bring our individual knowledge of many natural history topics.

Some of us are more assiduous about taking notes than others – some taking detailed descriptions of everything we see, and some never writing down anything. A few are very particular about identifying each and every wildflower we see. Some of us struggle to take a picture of each and every one. One or two of us work hard at tracking down a bird we’re hearing, then striving mightily to identify it.  And some of us are perfectly content to just walk along and just be there – outdoors with friends.

Frances Theodora Parsons, in a book called  How to Know the Ferns, written in 1899, said:

 “At the end of the day, which turned out cold and rainy, and fruitless so far as its special object was concerned, I felt . . .after all, no such expedition . . .is really fruitless. The sharp watch along the roadside, the many little expeditions into inviting pastures, up promising cliffs, over moss-grown boulders, down to the rocky border of the brook, are sure to result in discoveries of value or in moments of delight. A flower yet unnamed, a butterfly beautiful as a gem, an unfamiliar bird-song traced to its source, a new, suggestive outlook over the well-known valley, and, later, a sleep pleasant with all the influences of long hours in the open air – any or all of these results may be ours, and go to make the day count.”
Note: My column about birds will be in tomorrow’s Palm Beach Post, Oct. 8, 2011.





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One Comment
  1. Sandi Pray permalink

    Lovely! We all want to be ‘wild wildflower women’ :))

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