I want to be a budding naturalist

I will be attempting to keep up with a 100-day writing challenge. Today is the first of (hopefully) 100 journal entries here.

Last year, I lived in the same city I grew up in, but a different part of the city. Going on walks and bike rides in that area, I began feeling a different kind of relationship to the place than I used to have. It felt alive and friendly to me, almost like a person I could get to know.

It occurred to me that I could cultivate that relationship by learning to identify the nature of the area. I wanted to be able to go on walks and know a name and a little bit of info for all the plants I was seeing. Part of that motivation came from seeing a geologic map like this one, where all the different locales of rock that make up a region are colored:

I love maps like this, because they give an alternative sense of “what’s really going on” in a place. Maps that show cities and borders can’t really show as well what differentiates one unmarked patch of land from another. I wanted to know the places around me more intimately in these fundamental ways: What are the bedrock and soil made of? What life flourishes here? How does water move through the region?

Using the Audubon Society Native Plants Database, I collected a list of the native flora of the region. I created a flash card deck in Anki, and spent a few weeks memorizing the pictures of about 50 or so plants. On subsequent walks, I was delighted to occasionally find myself able to identify a wildflower or a tree which I had previously never even bothered to look at closely.

It’s time-consuming to make flash cards, but once you have them, memorizing them is just a matter of forming a habit. My ambition is to gradually do the same thing with all the plants, animals (especially birds), fungi, and rocks of my region (and eventually neighboring ones, as well).

Do you have any tips for me about learning to identify nature? Do you know of any good resources for it? Do you know some cool things about nature in your region and want to share? If so, friendly comments are welcome at my Ctrl-C email: gome ​@ ​ctrl-c.club.