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Nature is More Awesome than a Video Game

Posted on 12/24/2020
No matter how great video games are they can't beat the great outdoors!

I like video games. I enjoy solving puzzles, and being rewarded for beating the “bad guys”. I appreciate the artistry of the world that game designers build for us to immerse ourselves in. Sadly, though, games don’t allow me to smell the rain soaking into the thirsty soil or feel the textures of the tree bark on my fingertips, and there is no unending path of details the closer I look. However descriptive and interesting the game world is, it is still only in my head that I enjoy it. Video games are fun, but they cannot replace my time outside in our world of infinite visual details, earthy smells, insane spectrums of color, textures of all kinds, and sounds that go above and below a human’s capacity to hear.

When I am outside-- preferably in a space that humankind has not already altered--my mind AND my body are engrossed. There is a never-ending list of questions my mind is asking: How does that work? Why does this that happen? Some questions get answered by my own luck in observation while others are usually a quick internet search away. Either way, those discoveries almost always lead to more questions.

Meadloarks provide natures soundtrack.

My sensory organs are continuously being triggered by a multitude of little experiences while they feed information to my brain. Even though I do not have the capacity for smell that a coyote does, there are still more than enough scents for me to pick up, if I actually try, and if I allow my nose to get close enough. The soil I walk on smells warm and earthy; the leaves I pick and crush release their oils that smell bright and green. With great luck, I can pick up the musky scent of fox urine--not the most pleasant smell to my human nose but definitely interesting and unique!

I don’t have the excellent hearing of an owl, but if I slow down enough to hear above my own footsteps or I sit down and close my eyes, I can hear life. Before I feel it, I can hear the light breeze as it softly rattles the leaves on the trees. If I am near a cottonwood tree, its leaves sound more like a babbling brook or a distant group of humans talking and laughing. The longer I sit still, the more bird and insect species I can pick out. Most of our wild neighbors have a habit of moving away from us lumbering humans as we walk. But if we stay still, and give them a moment to get used to our presence, they come back and continue on with their day. That gives my human ears an opportunity to listen to their songs and calls. My ears are especially adept at picking up bird sounds, and I have never met a human that did not enjoy bird song.

Personally, I am a very “tactile” person, meaning I want to touch everything. I was the bane of my parents and store clerks alike. Nature gives me an immense outlet for touching. For example, loess soil is as silky as bread flour, and when you rub it on your hands, it shimmers in the sunlight. If that same soil is wet, it feels like what I can only describe as “crumbly, dried out fudge”. In botany, the texture of a leaf can even help you identify a plant to species! Each species of plant has a slightly different texture, and the way they feel can change dramatically between their own leaves, stems, and flowers. If a leaf feels rough like sandpaper, plant nerds call it “scabrose”; if it feels soft and wooly like mullein leaves, they call it “tomentose”.

Mullein leaves are quite soft and fuzzy. 

Unless I am teaching, I am almost always at the end of a group when hiking. One reason is that I feel tired. No matter how fit I get that year, it seems I am often tired when I first start a hike. However, once I get engrossed in the details of Nature, my “second wind” seems to kick in. The other reason I find myself trailing behind is that I keep stopping. I need to stop to look at this little flower here, oh and that tiny fungi over there, and did you see that cool texture in the dead tree?!? There is so much to look at! There are so many textures, colors, light changes, and differing contrasts. You name it, and Nature shows it off in too many ways to count!

If you are getting burned out binging on tv shows or video games, get your body outside and use your real sensory powers!

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Winter Fun at Your County Parks (1/1/2021)

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Bid Notice: Narrows River Park Boat Ramp Replacement & Flood Protection Project (12/18/2020)
by Jeff Franco, Deputy Director and Ryan Penney, Narrows River Park Ranger

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