The fun thing about learning is that it takes many forms. A lot of people forget this. You think learning and what comes to mind is school, books, and being “forced” to do something that you do not want to do. The best learning is done when we do not realize it. When we stop and take a look at the world around us.
I enjoy doing a little hiking and photography. So on this hot July day when I had a rare afternoon to do as I pleased, I decided to indulge in a bit of both. I took myself to a local botanical gardens. I went specifically in the hopes of getting some good shots of the flowers. This meant spending some time in the 5 acres of prairie.
There was an extra appeal to my visit as I recently started reading The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin. The book is about a blizzard in the West in 1888. Laskin starts out by detailing some of the pioneers that were living in the area and why they moved out west. He paints an intriguing picture of the prairie and I was excited to see this little patch to help enhance what I was reading. See my review of The Children’s Blizzard here
It is July and it was about 80 degrees when I got to the gardens at about one pm. It was humid, but there was a cool breeze. Very pleasant in the shade, but out under the sun I was a little miserable and sweaty. I took my time making my way through some of the beautiful gardens and the woods to the prairie. The whole place smelled amazing. If I could wish for anyone to experience this place, it is to know how unbelievably gorgeous the whole place smells.
There were not a lot of people about. The birds were singing and before I got to the prairie I managed to get a shot of a woodpecker who was searching for a snack. I had stopped for a moment to sit down and enjoy the quiet when I heard him. I stood up and crouched down to see him pecking in the tree above me.
When you take the time to walk in and enjoy nature, it is inspiring to see the things around you. For me, taking photos helps me to really stop and focus on the small details. If I had been wondering around not looking for things to photograph, I would have missed the clusters of beetles in the flowers and the butterflies flying around. I would have also missed out on the pure joy that capturing this Monarch butterfly gave me.
When I got to the prairie, I could not help recall the fact that the website had mentioned that it is very common to see four foot long snakes in the grass around the 105 acre property. I will admit to a fear of snakes even knowing that in Michigan most of the ones that I would encounter are not poisonous. I did not see any snakes, I am happy to report. However, I did notice that I found the tall grasses very unsettling. They were easily past my shoulders. Walking around the trails in the grass gave me a great opportunity to snap some photos. But I could not help but think of all the things that could be lurking in the grass. It is a claustrophobic feeling to have this wall of grass surround you.
The prairie was also very loud. There were bugs flying all over the place. Dragon flies, bees, flies, beetles, grasshoppers, and butterflies. The bugs made a lot of noise and I think overall that was the most surprising fact of the whole thing. The variety was amazing. I couldn’t even begin to describe everything that I saw. They were flying on me and across the trails. All over the flowers.
In the center of the prairie they have a viewing platform. The website says that it is the height of what a person on horseback would experience. It seemed higher than I expected it to be, but there is no doubt that I immediately felt better being on the platform. During my time on the platform, there was no one around. I didn’t see anyone on the prairie until I left. So it was very quiet and I had a few companions that chose to entertain me.
I spent about twenty minutes watching these birds fly from plant to plant. Their singing added to the cacophony of insects. It was fascinating to watch them perch and sway on these plants.
When I stepped off of the platform to return home I managed to capture another fun shot of this dragonfly. He was cruising the prairie grass looking for insects. The prairie is a few acres away from the water features on the grounds. So, I was surprised to see him. I just read that male dragonflies tend to be territorial, though. Who knows what he was doing out there, but there were certainly a lot of insects for him to graze on. And I appreciate the fact that he allowed me to enjoy a slice of his territory.
Leaving the grounds I felt very relaxed in the way that can only be achieved by spending a few hours living in the moment and taking in the world around me. I had to come home and identify everything in these pictures with the exception of a few things. I haven’t even done all of it and I will need to add to these images as I figure out what they are. So my official learning of the names of the wildflowers species was a few fun hours on the internet. That is the part that looked like…learning.
The experience itself has given me a deeper and more connected knowledge of the world around me. It has enhanced my reading of the book I am enjoying. Helped to build pictures in my mind of experiences that happened to people over a hundred years ago. It has increased my understanding of what they went through. Watching flowers in various stages of bloom and decay have given me a deeper appreciation of the beauty of the perfect flower. My mom says that when I photograph flowers, I need to pick a perfect specimen. I cannot stop being fascinated by them in various signs of decay. Like flowers, we do not have to be perfect to be beautiful. Watching birds perching on plants in a tall prairie grass may not translate into a real world skill in corporate America. As we learn, we continue to build pieces of the world and put them together. A simple afternoon hike has allowed me to continue to enhance and connect the world around me.
Visit my instagram to see more pictures of my Sunday afternoon walk. Follow me to keep track of my adventures! Go out and explore the world around you!
If you would like to see more of my photography posts here are some to check out!