A forest person

By: Nicholas Cox

Have you ever been around a kid at age 3 or 4?  At a certain point around this age, any vocabulary they’ve developed is completely lost and replaced with two questions: “What’s that?” and “Why?”. Those kids are my role models. Heck, to any co-workers who’ve demonstrated any bit of knowledge about anything in the forest, prairies, skies, or waters, I am one of those kids.  Sorry about that, but thank you!

I’ve been alive for a while. But really, 2013 was my first year alive, at least in terms of being a “forest person”.  For an entire year, I spent 40+ hours among the trees and grasses and forbs of Minnesota, looking at things, hearing things, and feeling things. I learned that there are trees, plants, birds, bugs, and weather and among each of those exist many different kinds. With four seasons under my belt, I became a “forest toddler” and I decided to do it all again. Just like that kid, I want to know what kind of tree that is, and why it’s there. What kind of bird is laughing at me while I swat mosquitoes frantically? What’s that plant? And that one? And that one? When will it flower? What is that caterpillar going to turn into and which one of these plants is making me so itchy? (Poison ivy is so great! It’s like finally reaching that spot on your back and scratching, except you can get it in easily reachable places and itch that baby whenever you want! Anyway…..)

It’s simply amazing how much can be learned about an environment just by observing it through four seasons. Even more so the infinite questions about its contents and inner workings and the childlike wonder it all instills. For the second year in a row, I’ve witnessed the forest’s first breaths as the trees yawn and stretch their new leaves in the springtime sun. Thanks to my incredible job filled with patient and knowledgeable colleagues, my understanding of our environment is growing exponentially. 

After four more seasons of development as a forest person, I fully expect to be a “forest know-it-all-teenager”. At which point I’ll snobbishly answer any of your questions, even though it’s a stupid question and everyone knows the answer to it, duh. Then one of those questions will blow my mind and I’ll realize I hardly know anything, that the environment I know is just a small corner of the earth, and that the natural world and its inner workings are larger than one can fully understand. Whoa, man. Then, I can only hope, I’ll be on my way to being a forest person, the kind of person that can be trusted to help navigate a path towards reintegrating ourselves with nature.