Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help.— May Sarton
The transition from working in a fabulous museum filled with boundless inspiration and wonder to my house (which has plenty of interesting objects, but nothing compared to the massive mastodon I greet each morning) was not easy to start. But, as each day comes and goes, I’ve started to gain a new appreciation for the magic hiding in plain sight right in my own backyard.
I picked up the skill of observation early on in life as a quiet child who preferred to watch and listen rather than engage with the world around me. In high school, I picked up a camera and figured out how I could capture and record what I was seeing. I’ve continued both of these practices into adulthood but have since learned how to apply observation to learning and teaching science too!
As I sit at my desk typing this story, I can see all kinds of life and have begun keeping track of the happenings, like a scientist in the field but my field is my yard. Here are some things I have come to observe — There are two pileated woodpeckers that tend to swoop over my house to the west every few days just after lunch. There’s a neighborhood cat who stretches on my porch in the late mornings just as the sun starts to get higher in the sky. I know the garden I planted is in full sun until about 3 pm when the shade of the magnolia tree starts creeping over it. And speaking of the magnolia tree, there is a pair of cardinals and countless squirrels who seem to call that southern beauty “home.” I’d tell you about my lizard friends, but I think I’d be here all day!
When I teach museum camps, I find myself constantly reminding the campers to slow down and look around them. This is especially true when I help with the nature photography camp where the young photographers are always on the move looking for the next cool thing to focus their cameras on. Recently, on a bird photography adventure with a friend, he reminded me of this lesson of waiting and watching as I rushed ahead of him, bored with looking at the same creature for 5 minutes. When I finally slowed myself down, I got the perfect action shot! We laughed as I muttered, “Nature – the longer you wait, the weirder it gets.”
During this time of staying at home, I keep reminding myself that it’s not only okay to move slower than usual, it’s expected. I also have more time to observe all the wonder that’s always been around, I was just moving too fast to notice and appreciate it.
In hopes that others will also take this time to slowly explore their own surroundings, I created a Backyard Bingo game as a fun way to observe and log what’s in your own backyard. Please take a step outside and see what you can find and remember what happens the longer you wait…
This originally appeared in Wonder & Grow, a blog by Chelsea Collison, one of our former Museum educators.