by Heidi Meausoone, NTMN Class of 2020
Like many of my peers enrolled in the NTMN program, I always had a passion for the natural world. It began in my early years when I was growing up in the bustling city of Caracas, Venezuela. I was fortunate to live the first years of my life in a tropical, life rich environment, filled with natural wonders, and I didn’t know how lucky I was! Back then, as a kid, I discovered and enjoyed nature in awe, alongside my father who guided me and nurtured that interest.
Fast forward to 2020 (many years and many moves later), I was so happy when I received a confirmation email that I had been accepted in the North Texas Master Naturalist program! I had finally made the commitment to “really” pursue one of my many passions: learning and better understanding the natural world. And then roughly about a month and half later after the start of the program, as we all know, the pandemic hit… Those first months of the pandemic were filled with anxiety and fear of the unknown, tons of uncertainty. Nature became my refuge, my safe place, just as it had for others.
As most of us were physically distanced, my husband and I found relief in our daily walks in nearby parks or longer hikes over the weekend. During those moments, we could find peace and forget about the worries and bad news that we humans are so good at consuming.
My husband and I always shared a love and interest for the natural world, but this inclination only grew stronger during the pandemic as we started paying more attention and listening more to Nature. Truly listening, and by that, I mean engaging all our senses: sight, sound, touch, smell and taste (when possible). Suddenly, a whole new realm of possibilities opened right before our eyes.
At the beginning of the year, we had been lucky to be able to secure a garden plot and whenever we were not on walks, that little plot became our second home. My husband and I would run off to the plot after a long day of work to take care of our “babies”. And as we were experimenting (and still are) as novice gardeners, we also started observing and discovering new insects, birds, and all kinds of small critters I had never really paid attention to. I admit I have limited patience for detail, and I tend to gloss over certain things, but the lockdown forced us to slow down and to be more in sync with nature’s cycles. One day we discovered a Carolina Sphinx moth caterpillar (thanks iNaturalist for answering my question!) munching on one of our pepper plants. Another day, we saw a Green Anole strolling among our Sage plant. Another day, I happened to notice an Obscure Bird Grasshopper on one of our baby vines.
Every little and new discovery filled me and still fills me with JOY! Simple joys, often forgotten in our fast-paced world. But observing Nature, at least for me, is far more than just learning fancy new species names (even though I am growing addicted to it!). That is just a nice little perk that boosts my ego and gives me the illusion of growing a bit closer to the biologist I romantically wish I had become.
The true Power of Nature for me lies in its ability to provide us with insights. Many times, I have experienced synchronicities with nature: the sight of a still Blue Heron tells me that I need to slow down and sit still. Walking by an ant hill reminds me that great tasks require diligent teamwork. The sight of a grasshopper jumping right in front of me shows me that we sometimes need to take a leap of faith forward (cannot jump backward). Or the sight of a delicate butterfly reveals to me the ephemerality of life, and we shouldn’t take ourselves so seriously all the time. The sight of my milkweed flowering for the first time this Spring, when I thought the devastating snow storm had killed it, reminded me that nature is indeed VERY RESILIENT.
Even among great hardship, we can still find moments of pure joy and exhilaration, reconnecting with that part of ourselves we so often put aside or neglect for more “serious” matters. Nature helps me find a pathway and reconnect with that little kid that left Venezuela many years ago, not by choice, but forced by external circumstances. Maybe Nature is the path back to ourselves and helps us grow and evolve in more complete ways.
I sincerely hope and wish to continue learning Nature’s powerful messages and try to keep applying them in my own life and sharing them with others, to the best of my abilities and knowledge.
Until then, see you out there!