Friday, November 14, 2014

Making People Care

I suppose this can be considered a follow-up to my session of shameless gushing previous post about Medieval scholarship and "naturalism." The ultimate point of that post, somewhat delayed and understated, was that no one will care about a natural crisis when we represent it through decontextualized graphics about some far-off place. We need to ground our environmental concerns in the values of our present society.

So I'm going to toss around a few possible ways to do that...


  • Education. I've said it elsewhere on this blog: Education has the power to carry a person's mind to some other place, and teach it to do useful things there.

    During my time as a "naturalist" in this class, I haven't broken my usual routine very much. I haven't visited any forests, or sampled the life forms of any lakes. But even though I was never physically present in those places, my concerns for the natural world have become more urgent, more candid, and better grounded in fact — all because I took this course! Even if our society is entrenched in its own creations, we can use schools to visit the natural world in our minds. If this is done well before the student reaches college, we will have taught him/her this sense of connectedness to the environment as a facet of citizenship.
  • Transparency in the Food Industry. This one is a tall order, and we're unlikely to see the current food oligarchy take any steps to see it through. In lieu of a letter to Tyson or Kellogg, I'll advocate the "Buy Local" movement as a means to this end. Anyway...
    Our society is quick to criticize food or brands that are "synthetic" or "chemically altered," but only as they affect the health of the consumer. If the health of the consumer can be tied to the health of food sources — which it is — people will pursue that problem with the same energy and fervor. And the only way to connect these two issues is by releasing more information about food.
  • Better Graphics. In all seriousness, we need to represent natural crises in a more interesting and meaningful way. Any good public speaker will tell you that maps, charts, and statistics are meant to supplement a presentation. The rest is the speaker. We need local testimonials, local pictures and video, etc.

    Polar bears are nice, and I would be distraught if they went extinct, but the "polar-bear-standing-on-an-absurdly-small-piece-of-ice" image has become a thing unto itself, devoid of any context or relevance.
I have a few more in mind — but to be honest, they're all dependent on so many interrelated factors, to the point of being useless by themselves. 

How can we pursue environmentally-friendly legislation when Monsanto has a "revolving door" installed in Congress? How can we lessen the power of Monsanto-tier companies without some economic sorcery? Should we transition to pure socialism? It's a slippery slope, with dozens of branching paths...

What does my readership (my class) think? Any ... semi-concrete proposals?

Caddisfly Cases

I may have found a new fascination in nature: caddisfly cases.

Unlike certain other "make-your-own-home" invertebrates — trapdoor spiders, hermit crabs, bivalves, etc. — caddisflies are neither hideous nor mundane. They're pretty cool. 

Most creatures that create shells using harvested materials aren't exactly "skilled laborers." Though their shells are functional, they're very crude-looking to human eyes. Creatures that generate their own shells, such as snails, generally make nicer-looking homes for themselves. To my eye, caddisflies combine the methods and source materials of the former group with the technical skill of the latter group. Take a look at this...

The case of a brachycentrid caddisfly

That is a caddisfly case constructed from leaves, grasses, and other soft plant matter. Its sides are perfectly flat, and its opening is a perfect square (Source). Even though it's a little silly to apply a human sense of the aesthetic to the evolved behavior of an insect, that's still remarkable — even among caddisflies. Most cases look like a hodgepodge of random materials, but this looks like a proper structure!

Even more remarkable is that certain caddisflies are known to repair their cases when damage is incurred. My knowledge of these creatures is still very limited, but I'm already making a bit of an informal study of them (when my formal studies don't subtract from my time). Hopefully I was able to supplement the class's knowledge, just a little bit.

If not, I'm not all that concerned. I'd still be interested, regardless.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Proto-Naturalists and Proto-Science

Does anyone remember the good ol' days, when religion and folk superstition had all the answers? The peasants would gather around the measly kitchen fire, bowls of pease porridge in their laps, and reminisce about friends who had been stricken with the Black Death for their sinful ways. During Lent, the lords and ladies would dine on fish — and its closest natural relative, the chicken — in observance of the Lord's fast.

And the clergy would spend their time writing and copying passages such as this one:

De tribus principalibus naturis leonis.\ Phisici dicunt leonem\ tres principales naturas habere. Prima natura eius est, quod per\ cacumina montium amat ire. Et si contigerit ut queratur\ a venatoribus, venit ad eum odor venatorum, et cum cau\da sua tetigit posttergum vestigia sua. Tunc venato\res investigare eum nequeunt. Sic et salvator noster, scilicet\ spiritualis leo, de tribu Iuda, radix Iesse, filius David, cooperuit\ vestigia sue caritatis in celis, donec missus a Patre descenderet\ in uterum virginis Marie, et salvaret genus humanum quod perierat.


Translated...

Of the three main characteristics of the lion. Those who study nature say that the lion has three main characteristics. The first is that it loves to roam amid mountain peaks. If it happens that the lion is pursued by hunters, it picks up their scent and obliterates the traces behind it with its tail. As a result, they cannot track it. Thus our Saviour, a spiritual lion, of the tribe of Judah, the root of Jesse, the son of David, concealed the traces of his love in heaven until, sent by his Father, he descended into the womb of the Virgin Mary and redeemed mankind, which was lost.

A cutting-edge study of the natural world, no? This passage is taken from the Aberdeen Bestiary, a Medieval bestiary which once belonged to the library of Henry VIII.

In all seriousness, though, this writing contains something that I'd very much like to see return...

Consider the above "observation" of the lion's tail: According to "those who study nature," the lion uses the tuft of fur on its tail to brush away any traces that it leaves behind. How did the bestiary's writer — or his erroneous source — imagine this? What train of thought led him to that conclusion? This is my best recreation:

Everything was created intentionally by God, right? Therefore, everything in nature has a distinct purpose, whether or not that purpose is visible to humans. Why, then, would a lion have a single tuft of fur on the tip of its tail? What purpose could that serve? Since lions are rare beasts — having eluded the civilized world for so many years one can only conclude that it has adapted to eluding hunters. Perhaps it uses that tail fur to wipe away its footprints? Etc.

For a person with no knowledge of lions beyond their appearance, that isn't so bad. It's actually quite reasonable, if a little silly. And it's reasonable because the author assumed that everything in Nature is important, and that Nature's components work in special harmony. (Here it's "Nature," not "nature.") Today's natural scientists don't follow a literal Creationist theory for how the world came to be, but they still believe the underlined portion very strongly. That's what guided the research behind Darwin's theory of natural selection; that's what motivated Rachel Carson to write Silent Spring.

The Middle Ages were, objectively speaking, horrible — but they were the "good ol' days" in one regard: Everybody, not just the educated scholars of the day, believed that the Earth was a holy thing. I'm not religious, nor do I want to see any religious institution meddling in today's science...

...but I find it difficult to imagine today's environmental crimes in a society that thinks the Earth is sacred. Monsanto Seed Company would be excommunicated faster than you can say "DDT."

So I reiterate what I've been saying in most of this blog's posts: It's hard for normal people to care about hard facts that have been stripped of their societal relevance. The Earth is indeed sacred, but this truth now needs to be supported by reasons from our society. Flashing a color-coded map of the hole in the ozone layer — with temperatures and percentages and distant projected dates isn't going to make people care.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Emerald Ash Borers

Earlier this week, I partook in a ghost tour event here on Transylvania's campus. Using the bench in front of the Kissing Tree — a very old ash tree, and a very striking local landmark — as a stage, I told the one-hundred-percent true story of how the attempted murder of Constantine Rafinesque took place under that very tree. Seriously, though; it happened.

The scene of the crime, now the potential scene of another.

Anyway...

Soon afterward I learned that yet another invasive insect, the Emerald Ash Borer, has recently infiltrated Kentucky. Already I've grown rather fond of the Killing Kissing Tree, and so I've been doing some research on how to preserve it. The results have not been promising...

According to a 2005 tree survey cited by UK's College of Agriculture, EAB activity remains confined to certain "hotspots," yet those hotspots include the streets of Lexington, Kentucky! Though I haven't seen much of an effect on downtown trees — apart from the unrelated bacterial blight of Triangle Park's Bradford Pear trees — the recent announcement that all of Kentucky is now a regulated area for EAB infestation has me worried. If the entire state is now at risk, one can only conclude that the "hotspot" EAB populations have expanded, yes? And if they expanded, they must be reproducing more effectively — which suggests to me that these spots are even "hotter" than before. 

Is my reasoning sound? Is this just conjecture?

At any rate, we should take the time to learn the signs of EAB infestation, for the betterment of our dear tree. If everyone is looking out for the tree, even casually or halfheartedly, we should be able to catch any ash borer activity before it's too late. Don't let them distribute their filthy Communist literature in our neighborhood! Better dead than Red — er, Emerald.

_______________________________________

No suggested literature today. If you haven't been able to find some appropriate seasonal literature by this time, I'm sorely disappointed in you.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ramblings on Naturalism

Today I have plenty of ideas sloshing around in my head, but few developed ones. 
Let's just pick one, and see whither it goes...

My last post was about our disconnectedness from nature — from produce, livestock, and natural resources, in particular. Having just read excerpt from John James Audubon's By Himself, this problem is framed in a new light for me. Or maybe it's just a very old viewpoint, just phrased in a different way; I'll let you decide that.

Thomas Cole - "Course of Empire," Part 2

Momentarily ignoring all of his artistic and naturalistic credentials, Audubon was a French-American gentleman of the early nineteenth century. Had he no interest whatsoever in nature, he still would have been within walking distance of nearly-untouched wilderness — for instance, the Ohio River, which Audubon described as it was before the advent of steamboats. Moreover, hunting and riding were popular pastimes among the gentry, and fishing seemed to be a popular communal sport among schoolboys and grown men alike.

In short, these people engaged with nature more directly and frequently than we ever did. They had the means and the free time, and it was much more difficult for them to live completely apart from nature. It was also more "dignified" to indulge in these outdoor activities; nowadays, hunting and fishing carry a somewhat rustic connotation.

A popular sentiment is that technology — computers, iPads, Android SmartBlenders, etc. — distracts us from the value of nature. I suspect, however, that even if these devices were not so widely used, we would still lack the spark that drove Audubon and his contemporaries. 

Our living spaces still have many connections to the natural world, but none that we can readily see. We've grown much more accustomed to thinking of ourselves as enclosed from nature, and we draw clearer boundaries between "inside" and "outside." Audubon went crazy over catfish — but suppose the idea of "catfish" no longer has relevance in our culture? Suppose we can't find catfish anywhere within our own living space?

Perhaps I'm speaking as an ignorant city-dweller. I was born in a city, and allergies have prevented me from venturing too far outside. Even so, it seems to me that the waning interest in naturalism is due to a lack of that which drove early naturalists to the subject.

So, erm, yeah. This was productive and profound.

"TOO LONG; DIDN'T READ" VERSION: Naturalists got interested in nature because they were surrounded by it. Now nature belongs to a niche part of society instead of the mainstream — so we don't have any passionate naturalists like those of yore.

____________________________________________________

Today's reading is, of all things, a Wikipedia article about the tale of "Stingy Jack." From all the versions that I read online, this is actually the most complete.

Using this story to supplement Dr. Atkins' comment on my last post, I'd like to take this time to advocate turnip jack-'o-lanterns. Not only are they a more "ancestral" form, but they're much more portable and versatile; I can imagine a good Headless Horseman costume using a turnip. I mean, look at this thing...


That's an authentic jack-'o-lantern from Ireland, looking more like a shrunken head than many shrunken heads I've seen. Spooooky.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Myth of the Pumpkin

With the trending demand for locally-grown produce, we often hear of "artificial" fruits and vegetables—produce that was grown with hormones, pesticides, selective breeding, or some other invention of the agriculture industry. And we sniff our noses in disdain. 

We tell ourselves that we would never dirty our mouths with volleyball-sized tomatos—or, heaven forbid, something as unnatural as a "Grapple™." We scorn the bagged lettuce, the orange-in-the-plastic-mesh. We wag our fingers at those rascally agricultural companies and their monster-sized farms, and proudly we tote our reusable grocery bags to the local farmers' market. Then we each take a sip of our Pumpkin Spice Lattes™, and in doing so we indulge in the same filthy lie that we publicly denounce!

Yes, my friends, the pumpkin is a lie.

A big, fat liar.
My US Size 10 shoe, for comparison.


First of all, most of our so-called "pumpkin-flavored" treats contain no actual pumpkin; but that's a different problem altogether.

The greater deception, much less well-known, is that the pumpkin itself is a man-made invention. The only "wild pumpkins" are Cucurbita feotidissima, or the "most fetid gourd," a stringy and foul-smelling gourd native to the Southwestern US and Mexico. Actual pumpkins are a cultivated variety of Cucurbita pepo and Cucurbita moschata. In other words, they're gourds that have been selectively bred to be orange and round; any distinction between "pumpkin" and "gourd" is totally arbitrary. 

The only difference, really, is that these basketball-gourds can't survive without human care. They require far too much water, and they're much too vulnerable to certain hostile elements. They're like Henry David Thoreau; they make a show of being "real" fruits that can survive on their own, but they still need someone to bring them a sandwich—er, plant food—on the weekends.

Now, to clarify, I don't object to the cultivation of certain traits in plants. That's simply agriculture. If we don't grow produce to meet our needs, why grow it at all?

What worries me, though, is how far removes we are from our food. This is another trending topic, yes, but the usual argument is: "We don't know where this meat came from." More troubling to me is the following thought: "We don't know what this fruit is, even though it's an integral part of our seasonal culture."

Our schools teach students about xylem and phloem, and angiosperms and gymnosperms, and cells and chloroplasts—but they don't say a peep about the plants that comprise large parts of our daily lives. History and biology are so segregated that to teach the natural history of a plant is unthinkable. Such esoteric, detail-oriented stuff is better left to colleges of agriculture, they say. But I would argue that knowledge of one's surroundings has an intrinsic value. Even if a person isn't going to cultivate gourds for a living, s/he ought to know about the world in which s/he lives. 

Otherwise, if we're living in ignorance of the natural forces that power our society, who is to stop the big agricultural companies (which we oppose so fervently, right?) from fooling us in an even bigger way?

If we can't recognize that pumpkins are not relatives of gourds, but are gourds themselves, what is to stop some company from passing an engineered fruit as a real one? Not an obviously-fake "Grapple," but, say, an "American Apple Squash." They'll introduce it gradually, subtly—and before long, we'll be eating "apple squash pie" alongside pumpkin pie as a national favorite? It's a matter of control, and it seems to me that natural history is our best defense.

Monday, September 29, 2014

My Clash with Wendell Berry

DISCLAIMER: The contents of this post are, frankly, beneath my standards.
I wanted to dissect this conflict of ideas and attitudes, but I just...

I don't know. My natural disgust and annoyance managed to overpower me.
________________________________________________

Unfortunately, this post does not describe an actual confrontation — verbal, physical, or otherwise — between Wendell Berry and myself. I wish that it did. Berry is an interesting thinker, and I would love to engage him on a more immediate level than I can presently.

But that is neither here nor now. 
I don't mean to sound crass, but Berry will likely die before he reads these words.

Instead, I'm going to discuss my disagreement with Wendell Berry as represented by his published writings. I have not read all of his work, but I have read enough to know where he stands in relation to contemporary America. I know of his farmer's lifestyle, his conservation efforts, and his ongoing battle with Kentucky's destructive coal industry. 

That should be enough to engage him in preliminary discourse, no?


"God favors my side, ye heathens. Tremble in the wake of
your imminent damnation. Deus vult." -- (Not) Wendell Berry



As the above non-quotation would suggest, my chief objection to Wendell Berry is not with his actual beliefs, but the way in which he presents them. 

Berry is a "hardcore" conservationist; he uses only the purest methods of farming, lives without Kentucky's coal-powered electricity, and devotes every stroke of his typewriter to the preservation of the planet. Though that lifestyle holds no appeal for me, I can appreciate its merits. How can I not appreciate a person's passionate devotion to an ideal — especially one so pure in principle?

What I don't appreciate is Berry's utter scorn for those who don't align with him. 
I have yet to read a single nonfiction piece by Wendell Berry which does not take a position of unassailable superiority. He's pessimistic, disdainful, dismissive, and sour. After reading his work, you feel like a loathsome pile of waste. According to him, everyone who partakes in the fruits of industry is complicit in large-scale industrial crimes. Is that the mentality of the conservation movement at large?

Perhaps years of fighting the frightful monster of KENTUCKY COAL have made him combative; I can't say, and I don't presume to speculate about that. I can, however, say that I've never encountered a more absolutist-minded writer than Berry — excepting, say, Kim Il-Sung. Is that how conservationists wish to be perceived?

I don't know. Already this post has become a jumbled mess, nothing like the "discourse" I was hoping to have....

My point, I suppose, is that conservationists like Wendell Berry — or, for that matter, people like Wendell Berry — prevent people like me from participating wholeheartedly in the conservationist movement. I'm not a relativist; I believe that objective rights and wrongs do exist. I'm also perfectly willing to admit the shortcomings of my own lifestyle; I will listen to critics. But when judgmental finger-wagging turns to wrathful fist-shaking, I don't feel that fist-shaker and his beliefs are worthy of my respect.

I admit that I've curbed my desire to partake in local conservation efforts, if only to avoid association with people who think like Wendell Berry. I can oppose an institution or a certain culture, but I will not bring myself to despise people by virtue of their native culture, as Berry seems to do.

How many allies has the conservationist movement lost by virtue of one sour apple?

________________________________________________________

Today's reading is not a short story at all, but an essay by yours truly. 
Yes, it's in poor taste to recommend your own school papers — but I really do have more to say about Wendell Berry, and this piece presents those ideas in a neat, structured way. It's a response to Berry's short essay, "Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer."

Ignore the stilted style; pay attention to the reasoning. Stick through it to the end.
Response to Wendell Berry 

Monday, September 22, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: Invaders from the Orient!

This past Saturday, I identified an invasive species -- more specifically, the Halyamorpha halys -- for the no-good foreign pest that it is. Granted, this is probably common knowledge to anyone living in the eastern United States...

It was "breaking news" to me, though, and that's what this blog is all about! Allow me, then, to describe the work of my budding naturalist's instinct, which led me to this discovery.

Ahem.
___________________________________________________ 

Initial contact was made on Saturday, September 20, as I was making a return trip from AutoZone. I had gone there to test my car's battery -- and in order to listen to the AutoZone associate as he tested it, I lowered my driver-side window and kept it open. It remained open from the moment the test began, to the moment I started my car with a brand-new battery; I suspect this is how the invader found its way inside.

Shortly after exiting the lot, I felt a light itch on the tip of my nose. I've had allergies since birth, so I didn't think much of it. I rubbed my nose without a second thought; the itch stopped. 

Then I felt something on my chest -- moving up my chest -- and in that moment, the cause of the nose itch became much clearer. It also became a little uncomfortable. "Unsettling" wouldn't be too strong a word. A stink bug was crawling up my shirt with surprising speed, determined to reclaim its former perch on my face. This is no exaggeration; it really did seem interested in my nose. Twice I brushed it from my shirt, only for it to return with new speed and strength -- aiming for the same spot, my nose. Once it reached my cheek.

I'm hardly squeamish around insects, but I'm not keen to have animals of any kind on my face. Furthermore, if you recall, I was driving at the time. The stink bug was proving to be a distraction and a hazard to everyone on the road.

Eventually, I was able to scoop the stink bug onto my finger, from which it jumped onto the steering wheel. There it seemed content to gaze over a new dominion, carapace lifted high into the air. A few minutes passed in this way, until I was safely able to dethrone Emperor Stink by flicking it out my window.  End scene.
___________________________________________________

This episode, humorous as it was, put stink bugs on my mind. 
When a creature repeatedly flings itself at your face, you're apt to remember it, no?

Then my naturalist's instinct came into play. In contemplating the stink bug, I realized that I had never seen one as a child. I had long since taken their presence for granted -- but when I reflected on my early butterfly-chasing years, I could only conclude that I had never seen a stink bug during any of my backyard adventures. "Have I had contact with an invasive species?" I thought. It seemed likely, and a quick Internet search proved my hunch correct.

The brown marmorated stink bug is a species native to China, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, though even in those places it is regarded as a pest. Apparently, it first became notable in the United States in 2010, when invading populations swelled into states along the Eastern coast -- and eventually into Kentucky. Here it has several lookalikes in the "shield bug" family, each of which I've made a point to identify by looks. 

The brown stink bug, in particular, looks nearly identical to the invader...

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug
Credit to Purdue University

Brown Stink Bug
Credit to Kim Hosen

The trick to distinguishing the invasive pest from the native pest is in the word "marmorated," which means "marbled" or "freckled." Though the brown stink bug does have a freckled white-and-brown coloration, the brown marmorated stink bug has a much bolder pattern that continues up its antennae, and looks very much like marble. If a distinct white band can be seen on each of the bug's antennae, the stink bug in question is of the invasive, brown marmorated variety.

As an unofficial naturalist at best, I have no idea how this distinction can serve the average person. Squish one and save the other? Squish them both, but with varying degrees of animosity? I can't say.

Of course, if the insect in question is desperately clawing up to your face, identification may be a difficult thing -- perhaps not worth your time. That, I suppose, will be the closing sentiment of this post: In the name of ecological soundness, to what extent are we willing to tolerate discomfort, pause our daily human routines, or take additional pains? Is a single insect worth the effort? Again, I can't say. Further field work is required.

___________________________________________________
 
Today's story is another by Roald Dahl, titled "Royal Jelly." I suppose it serves as an outsider's perspective of entomologists and bug enthusiasts -- in addition to being simply interesting. 
 
If you don't mind odd formatting, here is a .PDF for instant reading: "Royal Jelly," by Roald Dahl
It may be slightly abridged. I'm not sure. If you'd rather read it as I did, search for The Best of Roald Dahl or The Complete Short Stories of Roald Dahl. Well worth the expense.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The "Type B" Scientist - an Introduction

Where science was concerned, my seven-year-old self was a master of Doublethink.  I maintained two radically different ideas of how "science" was done — and somehow I managed to keep these definitions totally separate until the peak of my elementary school school career.

The water cycle, photosynthesis, volcanoes, vertebrates and invertebrates...
These were mere morsels to whet the appetite, I thought. Actual science, as conducted by actual scientists, had to fit one of my two preconceived models. For convenience, I'll call them Type A and Type B:

Type A was very much inspired by television — by Dexter's Laboratory, giant cartoon robots, and flashy advertisements for electronic junk. In shiny metal laboratories, Type A scientists stood around enormous computer screens that revealed the secrets of the world to them. They wore immaculate white lab coats, rubber gloves, and indestructible safety glasses. They talked in jargon so dense that it became a language unto itself, known only to the truly enlightened. Through the simple-yet-sophisticated process of placing a petri dish under a laser scanner, these machine-people could understand everything in the known universe.

Type A. You get the idea, yes?
By contrast, Type B is best represented by an old British colonel in a pith helmet, tramping through the wilderness with his machete and his magnifying glass. Type B Science required that its practitioners be more than mere scholars; they had to be explorers and gentlemen and poets and...

They needed to clutch things in their hands, examine them with their eyes. They could read the secrets of the world simply by looking around them. Type B scientists were to nature what Sherlock Holmes was to crime. They did more than mine for data; they produced something beautiful and valuable from that data.

If this gentleman had acted a little less destructively,
he would have been an excellent "Type B scientist."

Anyway...

As time passed, Type A eventually overtook Type B in my mind. Outlandish as it is, the image of Dexter's Laboratory remains more relevant to today's practical science. The old British colonels are irrelevant and unscientific — and not only that, they were filthy Imperialists! Bent on the subjugation of foreign peoples! Glutted by the wealth of foreign lands! Enemies to every rare and beautiful species on this planet!

Who am I to argue with these accusations? According to the perspective foisted upon me by years of schooling — and well, to actual history — most of these old white men fall short of my childhood imagination. If they weren't ethnocentric twits who saw only monetary value in things, they were quack hobbyists whose essays and poems have little to no scientific merit.

Skip now to the present day, two weeks into BIO 1164. Dr. Atkins has been singing the praises of old-style naturalists — the very sort of people who inspired me to shove semi-organic matter under my toy microscope. Moreover, he has shown us that people within the scientific community still value the old "Renaissance Man" approach to nature. What a wonderful feeling! It's validating — and not in the "You were right all along!" sense, but the "Hey, your interests aren't completely worthless!" sense.

In short, I'm very pleased and hopeful.
My dreams of being an old British colonel are still alive and well.

I am, at the time of writing this, sitting on my backyard deck. The air is cool, the trees are glowing green in the early evening sun, and the crickets are chirping all around me. Hopefully this observation fits my blog's quota of actual nature content. Hopefully I'll be able to say more about these things in the future, now that this introductory post is finished and published.

__________________________________________

To close, I'd like to recommend a short piece of literature that relates, if only slightly, to nature or naturalism. This is a trend that I want to continue throughout my keeping of this blog. It may be a short story, a poem, or an excerpt of a larger work; if I can find a link to the text online, I'll post it.

This week's piece is a short story by Roald Dahl, titled "The Sound Machine."
To those who are familiar only with Dahl's children's stories, its style and tone may come as a bit of a surprise. Or it may not. The story can be found on page 33 of this .PDF file. Enjoy!