A Hidden Temple
Autumn has been one of my favorite seasons since childhood, and I have always enjoyed seeing the leaves change colors. In fact, one of the biggest reasons I decided to come to Kenyon was the abundance of nature around campus, such as the Kokosing river and the forests through which numerous trails wind.
Recently, I took advantage of one of these trails for the first time in a while. A constant crunch of crisp fall leaves rose from underneath my boots with every step, the wind blowing gently through the treetops and shaking cascades of leaves to the ground. The trees were stunning, many of them golden shades of yellow, vibrant against the bright blue sky. So busy looking at the trees overhead, I nearly stepped on several caterpillars, but thankfully looked down just in time! All of them were fuzzy, some brown and black like the wooly bears I’ve seen before at home, and some white with a black line down their backs. I knelt down and watched as they slowly crept over fallen leaves, absorbed in foraging for their next meals.
As I continued along, I couldn’t help but notice the small scatterings of mushrooms that lined the forest floor, taking over mossy logs and climbing up the sides of trees. Some were so small I could barely spot them, while others were big with wide white tops. The more I looked at them the more fascinated I became by the variety of shapes and colors.
Around me I heard the songs of birds and the whirr of insects singing their last songs before winter settles in. As I neared a creek I noticed the gentle trickle of water as it flowed downstream, dangling my legs over the small bridge above it and admiring the gleam of sunlight off the water. It is moments like these that bring me calm in this chaotic world we now find ourselves in. I’ve come to value taking these small moments in nature to just breathe and remember I am only a small part of a large whole.
As an environmental studies major, I have noticed a common theme in several of my courses this semester: the idea that there is so much to learn from nature. In fact, one of my readings for this week describes the Native American ideology that humans are “‘the younger brothers of Creation’” and have the least life experience among the many creatures of the earth — an idea contrary to much of the Western philosophy that has become so familiar. With this different lens of viewing the world, we discover that we must learn from other organisms and look to them for guidance, “their wisdom [being] apparent in the way they live.” I believe we can learn much from the natural world around us if we only take the time to pay attention. The fuzzy caterpillars, the vibrant golden trees and the soft brown mushrooms — they all have something to teach us, but it’s up to us to find out what that something is.
Kimmerer, Robin Wall. "Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants." Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions, 2020.