As a student of social science, I know how important it is to be observant of the people and spaces around me. I am able to be the most observant when I am alone in a quiet place because I have little to distract me, which allows me to absorb more information and notice little details. I do not have the best memory, so I have found it very useful to keep a notebook with me whenever I am doing observations. I took a qualitative methods course, which helped me develop my observation skills, and I first used a notebook for observations in that class.
I think that Leopold operates in a similar manner when he is observing things in nature. He keeps extraordinary detail, which he is able to do because he keeps a notebook. He is also usually alone in a quiet place when he makes his observations. His essay is remarkably detailed, which makes it interesting to read because you can almost picture being there. I hope to be able to write like that, and I think developing strong observation skills is very important when developing writing skills.
Today I went and sat under my tree (Mr. Bur) for a while, and tried to see how many observations I could make. In the time I sat with Mr. Bur, I counted 22 people who walked by him. It made me wonder how many of those people actually noticed Mr. Bur when they walked by him each day.
Mr. Bur’s leaves are still mostly green, but a few have started to turn a little yellow. I am really excited to see how he looks in a few weeks, as the weather turns cooler. Mr. Bur has furry acorns, but I only counted 12 around his trunk today. The campus arborist, Mark Scott, told us on our tour that the bur oak produces a lot of acorns, but that the squirrels on campus do a pretty good job of collecting them. It is still warm out, but winter is just around the corner. The squirrels are preparing for the approaching winter, and Mr. Bur’s acorns are essential to ensure the squirrels survive the winter.
Different types of qualitative and quantitative data can tell me a lot about how Mr. Bur interacts with the campus and how the campus interacts with him. There was a small amount of acorns around him, which means the squirrels heavily rely on him. Twenty-two students walked by him in the hour I was there, meaning lots of students encounter Mr. Bur each day, even if they don’t notice it. Mr. Bur’s leaves are beginning to turn slightly yellow, which means that fall is coming. Sitting with my tree today was a lot more interesting than I thought it would be. It makes me wonder what types of things he has seen in the years he has been at Dickinson.
Leopold, Aldo. 1949. “A Sands County Almanac.” Oxford University Press.