I was born a century too late. Naturalist was a respectable occupation in the mid-nineteenth century. Observing, writing about and drawing wild things kept Victorians scurrying around the countryside and the globe.
People as unalike as Beatrix Potter and Charles Darwin were naturalists before they were authors. Potter still charms children with The Tale Of Peter Rabbit and Darwin’s discovery of evolution still infuriates many parents.
I was born in the middle of the twentieth century when naturalist jobs evolved into specialized academic disciplines requiring advanced degrees. Neurophysiologist, theoretical physicist, stellar astrophysics. Electron microscopes, particle accelerators and orbiting space telescopes are tools of the trade. Not just curiosity and keen eye anymore.
A Sense Of Place
My house sits on a secluded cul-de-sac two miles east-northeast of downtown Salt Lake City, as the hawk flies. It’s about seven miles due west of Red Butte Canyon Research Natural Area. RBC is described on its website as:
[A] protected, near pristine canyon entering [the] Salt Lake Valley…. [It is] one of the few remaining undisturbed riparian ecosystems in the Intermountain West.
Between the Natural Area and my house is a large swath of green space formed by foothills, the sprawling University of Utah campus, enormous Salt Lake City cemetery and city parks. My property is a small buffer. Beyond is the historic Avenues neighborhood. Wildlife funnels into what family calls my nature preserve.
I’m unlikely to write children’s classics or join scientific expeditions. No electron microscopes will fight for space on the writing table. Urban naturalist came, well, naturally though. I’m set with computers, a drawing tablet and a steady stream of critters. No need for equipment to peer into deep space or the molecular innards of cells.
Hope you’ll enjoy the short posts and sketches as much as I enjoy the wildlife in my life. No matter where you live, bet there’s wildlife in your life too.