Esteem for the nature lover

Early last week, while sitting in the forest with a pair of binoculars, I was reminded of a radio interview with “writer of the century” Jonathan Franzen, who is acclaimed as one of today’s best thinkers.
In fact, his picture recently was on the cover of Time magazine above the heading “Great American Novelist.”
Part of Franzen’s latest novel takes place just south of us in Hibbing, Mn. and also at a cabin on “Nameless Lake.”
During the interview Franzen talked about the nerdy reputation of his favourite hobby– birdwatching. Apparently he was warned by friends not to become a birdwatcher because it’s “very uncool.”
“Cool is not caring about stuff,” he stated. “To be out there eagerly looking for something with binoculars puts you in the position of actively seeking, and advertising, that you’re passionate about something.”
As a nature observer, I identified with this feeling of “uncoolness.” I’m aware that my focus on nature makes me a bit strange, and when I write about it, I’ll even edit my passion or drop a topic.
This week, for example, I was tempted to write an entire article about nine baby mice that grew up in our pump house. But people justifiably hate mice, so I changed my mind.
I will say, however, that they are the most inquisitive creatures I’ve ever witnessed, especially when they finally were at the stage to frolic in our mess of funnels, tools, and tie-downs.
As well, they’re important animals for sustaining just about any carnivorous and omnivorous animal you can name. These days, the bald eagles are especially reliant on them.
Then I thought about describing the dead flowers which stand resiliently above the snow—some which still cling to bundles of seeds. These seeds will drop, stratify in the cold, and finally emerge as blossoms in the spring and summer.
But do people really want to read about dead flowers?
Then, looking out at an old poplar stand, I thought I’d write about how I love the look of trees after they’ve lost their leaves. They remind me of endless hard-angled sculptures pointing high against the sky.
But I changed my mind about this topic, too. People generally prefer trees in their vibrant state, when they are lush and green.
So, I’m left with this . . . a column with a few strange glimpses at nature. For anyone who walks where others are afraid to tread, and takes time to look at what others don’t see, I hope you realize you’re not alone.
Even the critically-acclaimed writer Jonathan Franzen regularly uses a pair of binoculars.
If seeing nature up close is good enough for a world-renowned thinker and writer, then they are useful to the rest of us also, no matter how “uncool.”
Share what you’re looking at in nature by contacting me at

Posted in Uncategorized