It can be tough to describe yourself as a “naturalist” when so you spend so little of your life actually…naturalizing. I mean, a plumber spends most of his days fiddling with pipes, a artist works his art, a teacher teaches, a banker banks, and a politician—you know what, I can’t even say it. It’s too easy a shot.
It also doesn’t help that “naturalist” isn’t exactly a modernly accepted job description. Or even a widely understood concept. Most people react to my use of the word as if I self-described as some sort of poorly educated biologist. Or maybe a treehugging druidic cultist.
The way I see it, I subscribe to an old and generally obsolete sense of the word: I am someone who interprets all aspects of the natural world in a practical context, and uses that holistic knowledge to educate others. Naturalism is not a substitute for science, or restoration, or farming, or education, but it is a powerful tool to complement those activities. Naturalists are guides, assistants, teachers, and they are always students and observers of the world around them.
For the past few years, I’ve been silent on this blog because I wasn’t using my naturalist skills. Well, maybe I was, but I was also too tied up with failed grad school apps and other writing projects to feel inspired to write about them. Not that there wasn’t crazy story-worthy things going on. I lived on a farm for a while and chased sheep and caught bats. I briefly worked at a zoo. I lived in Puerto Rico and measured trees and fought mongooses. Mongeese? Mongoosae?
Maybe I’ll get around to writing about those retroactively.
But the main reason I’m starting up again is that I’m finally returning to Costa Rica and really putting my skills to work. For a few weeks, I’ll be co-instructing a high-school level field course. Then I’ll transfer over to a long term study on monkeys.
My days will be long and free time will be at an all-time low. But I’ll be writing when I can. After all, I intend for this blog to be a collection of stories from the most beautiful place on earth, an inspiration to other naturalists, and a testament to the human tolerance to humidity, mosquito bites, and ants.