During our annual pre-Christmas trip to Asheville, NC three months ago (how has it been that long?), my mom and I stopped into the Compleat Naturalist. Although, I’ve been coming to Asheville a couple of times of year for the past four years, I’d never been in this charming shop in Biltmore Village before. Pulled in by my newfound interest in bird watching and seeking a good bird book, I walked away with “Virginia Master Naturalists” scribbled on a business card.
After showing me some super fancy binoculars, the owner asked me where I was from. On telling him the name of my hometown in Virginia, he called over a young employee who had just moved from there. In hearing my interest in learning about all things “naturalist” she recommended I look into taking the Virginia Master Naturalist’s course. I am so glad I did.
With barely a glance at the details, I applied to the class and received a partial scholarship owing to my status of “poor grad student”. I probably should have paid more attention when signing up for 90-hour class, but that might have kept me from this great experience! This class makes me feel like a kid again, listening bright-eyed to lectures about weather patterns and topography, getting down and dirty in soil samples and rock classifications, and eagerly journaling every detail. I’ve only been to three classes so far but I love it!
I won’t soon forget the geology lecture. To fully understand how geology is the basis for everything, we went back to the beginning of time-as signified by the far end of a 300-foot rope strong horizontally on posts. Along this rope we hung major world events-beginning with the Big Bang and ending with humans. With the closer end of the 300-foot rope signifying the present day, we hung the placard for “Homo sapiens” at 1.015 inches in…and then looked way down into the darkness (it was 8pm by then) at the flashing light located 300 feet away. Past the dinosaurs (at about 20 feet in), past the oldest rocks in the Valley (at 60 feet in), past blue-green algae and its gift of oxygen, and the first single-celled organisms.
Talk about perspective. We are just a tiny blip in the 4.5 billion year history of the earth. This gives me hope that we don’t have the power to destroy it and that it will go on regenerating long after humans are gone. It also left me questioning “THE MEANING OF LIFE.” What is the point of conservation and earth-friendly lifestyles if we’ll all be gone in the blink of an eye? Well the answer is obvious, the time we have is the time we have…and that’s all we’re going to get. So in that time, we should love and respect the many different species of persons around us. We should ease suffering, bring peace and joy, and revel in the glory of what is NOW.
And let’s not forget that every individual-be they human, chicken, elephant, beetle, or ctenophore (thanks Nat Geo for that one!)-is living their one life too. The only life they have, and we all deserve to live happily and securely during our very, very, very, very, very, very (very, very, very….) short lives.