By Michael Gobert, Naturalist, Allen County Parks
After learning to be consciously observant and taking the time to observe, a third factor determining one’s ability to become observant is desire. You have to want to learn about your subject with enthusiasm, or a lot of energy. To truly learn about my chosen natural environments I believed it was important to become immersed in that environment. Those three-plus months of no human contact demonstrated such, and a story will emphasize it.
I was camped upon a peninsula, for the cross breeze, on an isolated lake of the Boundary Waters of Northeastern Minnesota, when I awoke to the smells of evergreen, earth, and water. There was a heavy
dew that was nearly frosted from the cold of an early fall morning. Fall is a relatively blip of a season between summer and winter. Winter comes quickly. Virtually everywhere in lake country is below tree-line. A Canadian jay was squawking, loons were calling to each other, walleye and pike were feeding, and a chipmunk scampering were some of the sights and sounds of this morning. I stirred the fire for breakfast water, walked over to the lakes edge, and sat upon a granitic boulder. It was cold but soon warmed as it absorbed the heat from my body. Come evening it will warm me back up by radiating the heat it will absorb from the day’s sunshine. I had the best seat in the house to observe the sunrise. I was soon rewarded and warmed by the suns rays peering over the pine, poppel, birch, hemlock, and balsam fir. I forgot about the cold rock. Juncos, nuthatches, and titmice filled the choir and joined the chorus of the jays. I absorbed this moment for a very long time, until my body said it was time to re-supply our sustenance.
While making breakfast and going through my provisions it became apparent that today would be a good one to forage and resupply. The plan was to diversify the topography of the search areas. I wanted some high ground for nuts, bog and marsh for tubers, and in between for berries, and the few remaining greens. I knew of such a place, and a looked at the map confirmed such only about six miles by paddle. I knew I could paddle there in about two hours’ time, doubling such for the return trip, leaving me 6-7 hours’ to explore and forage. I made ready to go and was soon silently slipping through the sleek brownish/green yet clear cool water of the lakes and streams. Dip, pull, drip went my paddle nearly every three seconds all the way to my goal. Dip, pull, dribble….dip, pull, dribble 20 times a minute, around 120 minutes by the sun’s time, and 14,400 strokes later, I had arrived. I did not notice the strokes, they just happened. Along the way a mature bald eagle and red tailed hawk separately flew by sending their greetings of the day and telling me where they were headed to feed. Three moose were feeding in the backwater marshy area of the river. A family of otters was enjoying a bank slide, and was frolicking in the rapids. They all noticed me, but were not bothered as we were in the same place and in the moment.
As I am writing, I realize that this “day” will continue much longer than the space I have to convey it in. My “day” is a memory from 31 years ago. That memory sounds out volumes about the power of observation experienced with the utilization of sensory awareness. So, are you ready to observe nature? Come join us at Allen County Parks. We have a lot to observe.