“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”
― Albert Einstein
Anyone that has routinely studied our natural surroundings by “getting out there,” has a Naturalist’s Eye. Naturalists love to spend time observing and recording natural events; an endangered flower on the prairie, an eagle “watching us” in a park, and a flock of thousands of snow geese landing on a lake. Yes, we’ve done all that and much more as Missouri Master Naturalists.
While Master Naturalists have considerable training opportunities available from many experts, it is with our eyes that we become Naturalists. Our eyes lead us out to prairies, woods and lakes filling our minds with mysterious experiences that become education. Our eyes are open to conservation needs, and that spurs our hands to actively pursue projects to protect nature. Our eyes are the windows through which our hearts receive love and devotion to nature, so we can share it each in our own particular way.
The person who said, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” regarding art must have had a Naturalist’s eye. Many famous painters worked outdoors to capture natural forms. John James Audubon could not have created his famous watercolors of birds without spending so much time observing them in their natural habitats. Claude Monet’s outdoor paintings hang in many famous museums worldwide. He attributed his eye for nature to be his most important accomplishment when he said of himself; “My only merit lies in having painted directly in front of nature, seeking to render my impressions of the most fleeting effects.” Monet was known for dragging his contemporaries, Renior, Sisley and Brazille, also famous artists, on his outdoor excursions. Such famous artists, all with the eye of a naturalist, brought nature to others. Who would challenge that these famous artists were not “naturalists?”
Who is better to become an advocate for conservation of natural resources than those who love and study nature like Master Naturalists? Each of us has particular interests and talents, along with the drive to preserve and protect our natural surroundings. Each of us finds a way to share our knowledge by unobtrusive measures to those whose minds are open to learning along with us. Each of us has our eyes open waiting for the beauty of nature to inspire us. After all, anyone who does not “stand in rapt awe” at the sight of a tiny bug, a delicate flower, or a purple sunrise, must be those who truly have their eyes closed.
Ann Butts has been a member of the Chert Glades Chapter of Missouri Master Naturalists since 2005. She loves "thinking about nature, learning about nature, and respecting nature," through Master Naturalist activities. You can find her photography website and nature blog under Natural Thoughts Photography and Natural Thoughts Blog.