Naturalists seem to wander a path that is a bit swayed from the norm. Of course that depends upon what is considered the norm. Who is it that decides what “normal” truly is. Maybe the Naturalist is normal and the rest of the world is a bit off beat. The true nature lover is closely connected to the natural world which is often far from the daily lives of most and thus considered offbeat.
If you ask my wife Bev however, she will insist that I am far from normal. How she tolerates my obsession with nature is astonishing at times. I never seem to stop surprising her with the things I bring home from my adventures in the natural world. When I used to do wildlife rehabilitation, if I came home with a cardboard box, I was given the “Now what critter are you bringing home?” look even if there wasn’t an injured animal inside. The surprises now come in many sizes and are not always contained inside a box.
As the two of us came home from some errands in my car and she was unloading goodies from the back seat her comment made me remember what I had left on the floor from a few days ago. “Is that an owl pellet on your floor?” Maybe she forgot the time I had an owl pellet in my cup holder for more than a week. She truly sounded surprised. Or maybe it was just the sound of discouragement in her voice.
One of my abnormal habits is to collect things for identification at a later time. Unfortunately, I don’t always remember that I collected them until a later discovery. I remember the time when I was leading a hike in Zoar Valley in south eastern New York. We came upon an old growth tree and were studying it in amazement when I was asked to identify a pile of scat at the base of the tree. Since I was not familiar with this particular brand of scat we tried to deduce who left it behind by its location, size, shape and contents. Now most “normal” people wouldn’t have even thought about studying an animals scat, much less touching it, but a good naturalist has no fear of the common animal scat. After prodding it with a stick, taking pictures (yes, I have a photo folder of scat on my computer), I came up empty on the identification.
So against my better judgement, I picked up a portion of the scat, rolled it in a leaf and did what any good naturalist would do. I stuck it in my pocket. Of course as what usually happens when I do these things, I completely forgot about the package in my pocket until much later. I don’t recall exactly where we were when I rediscovered the surprise in my pocket, but I do remember it was a public place and Bev was with me.
The look on my Bev’s face was priceless when she asked why I had rolled up leaves in my pocket and I explained what was contained within. She didn’t seemed to be surprised as much as discusted. Needless to say those pants were in the laundry when we got home and I try to avoid scat incidences since then.
Since I was a kid, my pockets have been filled with seeds, plants, bones, scat, sticks, stones, and many other natural items for future discovery or collection. Although I spend a great deal of time exploring nature in its natural form, my curiosity and quest for knowledge will always force me to collect things in the wild for further identification and Bev will continue to shake her head in disbelief.