By Michael Gobert, Naturalist, Allen County Parks
“Observe: to detect, discover, or determine the existence, presence, or fact of that which is being observed. Observant person: one who is quick to notice, to perceive, to notice, to be watchful, to look at carefully and attentively. Observing: to watch, view, or note for scientific, official, or special purpose” (according to Webster’s Dictionary).
Some of you may remember a past article I wrote for the Grapevine about Sensory Awareness. The sum of which was about the utilization of all of your senses being an important method to use in learning about nature. I believe that to be a successful observer you must incorporate sensory awareness into the definition of observation. Therefore a new definition of observe might read: “To detect, discover, or determine the existence, presence, or fact of that which is being observed, through the utilization of one’s senses of touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell, and the resultant emotions that arise therein through the experience of that which is observed.” I know that’s long and perhaps wordy, but I like it and it sums a point I would like to make. The art of observing is applied to how you learn from your experience. This behavior of being observant can be applied to any and all environments one might experience, but I am focusing upon being observant of the natural environment.
Why do I believe that being an observant person is becoming a lost art? When was the last time you read, discussed, or thought about this topic? When and how often do you use your skills of observation? I am talking about consciously participating in observational behavior. Consciously, because it requires you to make note of or report what you have observed and share it in some recorded format. We all unconsciously observe experiences in our daily lives. One example would be driving vehicles. Think about something you observed on your drive somewhere today that was out of the norm. Many drivers drive the same route(s) daily. It is practical, repetitive, and often the most efficient route. Having a tough time providing an example? If so, you are not in the moment. You are not consciously being aware of what you are observing. I realize what you observe may not always be worth noting or of interest to others, but that is not my point. To be observant you must be conscious of the moment of which you are observing or experiencing. More importantly one has to constantly practice being observant to be conscious of what you observe. Ultimately this action will become an unconscious behavior, but you will be able to report upon that which you have observed.
Time is another determining factor to the development of becoming a skilled observer. Who has extra time? It does take time to develop this skill. There was a time when time was totally irrelevant to me. That was when the use of it was selfdetermined, and not dictated by conventions or norms of behavior. In those years I was mostly living in the beauty of nature, and travelling through it by hiking, canoeing, or cycling. Determining factors upon my time were food, water, shelter, the weather, and what season and latitude at which I was living. Most of us never experience this freedom or even consider living as such. At one point, in those travels, I had no human contact for over three months. I truly honed my observational skills, since I had the time to do so.
(To be continued....)