Let Nature Open Your Eyes, Mind and Heart

blog dragonbly

Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly

Years ago, I read Natalie Goldberg’s 1996 book, “Long Quiet Highway: Waking up in America” and it changed my life.

Her teacher, Zen master Katagiri Koshi, helped her to understand that she must slow down in order to really see what was right before her eyes by paying full attention, noting particular details, using specific names – adult male cardinal instead of red bird – elm rather than tall trees. I suddenly recognized my own very shallow and superficial knowledge of Nature – of the very world in which we live.

Not long after reading the book, I traveled to South Carolina’s Huntington Beach for a day of bird watching with an Audubon group. Although it’s been 20 years, I’ll never forget my new feeling of awe as the leader and other group members pointed out and named at least 40 different birds – all sizes and colors – some rare visitors to this coastal preserve.

More recently, I’ve been spending time with my family and friends at a small house beside the Broad River. The diversity of trees, scrubs, butterflies, birds, snakes and wildlife clearly demonstrate how little I still know of this kingdom in which we live.

The SC Midland’s Master Naturalist Program, one of many programs of the SC Wildlife Federation and coordinated by Clemson University, provided my most recent foray into the woods and fields with a group of 19 fellow explorers and nature lovers. This amazing class – one day each week taken over 12 weeks – provides students with invaluable training and unique opportunities. We used our new macro hand-lenses to examine the tiniest wildflower and insect. Binoculars captured the shy owl and fleeting dragonflies –  brought the leaves of tall trees into view. Everyone with a camera stayed busy. Our teachers, all experts in their fields, clearly loved everything they shared with the class.

  • How often do you go outside to watch the sunrise, listen to awakening birds, feel dew under your feet, or smell blossoms opening to the new day?
  • When did you last see the moon high above or feel the cooler night temperatures?
  • Is the only time you stop to appreciate our amazing earth and all of its inhabitants when you go on vacation?
  • The next time you take a walk, hike or explore outdoors, take your journal and a pen along. Jot names, sketch shapes, describe what you see, hear, feel, smell or taste.
  • When you return, spend at least 10 minutes writing what you observed about your walk and about yourself. Reread your thoughts before you put them away. You may be surprised to notice what you notice!!

Today is not too early to begin to make friends with our world again. I just hope it’s not too late!

PS: I just published a small book of photos taken by members of our Master Naturalist class. Take a look by clicking http://blur.by/1o9OkXc

To Register for the next South Carolina Master Naturalist Class, click: www.scwf.org 


  1. Janie Kerzan on July 9, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    Thank you for this beautiful reminder! I walk my dog each morning at 6 am and it is often the highlight of my day because I see the sunrise, pileated woodpeckers, crows (my favorite!), worms, flowers and unique trees on my journey. Though I take the same route each morning, no 2 mornings are the same. It centers my mind by reminding me that I am one of many beings that call this place home with challenges, successes and needs to address in the day ahead.
    Thanks Susan!

    • Susan Hendricks on July 17, 2014 at 1:14 pm

      Your comments are always so beautifully expressed, Janie. I appreciate them and YOU very much!!

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