Field Notes Friday 0017: Celebrate the Milestones

Come on, admit it: when you’re good, you’re good. You’ve been improving. I’ve been improving. Lets celebrate it!

What brought on this magnanimous and self-congratulatory mood? A simple glance, an outside dining experience, and comparing my abilities and knowledge of only a few years ago with today.

The weather is solidly, blessedly Spring-like today: warm, sunny, with those cumulus clouds that pop up like evenly-spaced cotton balls on a summer day. Of course, I wanted to eat outside when I went to a restaurant.

Halfway through my meal on a shady patio, I glanced unthinkingly around. My eyes flicked past chairs, trees, signs. As if I were the Terminator of Tree Identification, the species names of the two trees I’d barely noticed jumped out at me. It was so fast it wasn’t like a thought process; it was like knowing. in a glance and seemingly without thought, I had identified two trees.

That’s special enough. That’s worth celebrating. But here’s where the comparison gets me exuberant.

When I first saw those trees several years ago, I didn’t even know they were different species, let alone different organisms.

It took me many return visits before I got curious about their bark, their leaves. I hypothesized they were different individuals, but I had no clue what species or how to find out.

Across a span of several years, without concentrating on the effort, I ran into these trees’ relatives in urban and wild settings. I was around other naturalists, interpreters, citizen foresters, and ecologists who confirmed their identity. And then, I started recognizing them. On my own. I’d see the species, and after a few moments’ inspection, mentally categorize them. Applied knowledge.

So being able, after only a few years, without cogitation, to know a species at a glance, and from such a slender view and at a distance, is like suddenly realizing you can speak a second language. I am ecstatic. A richness is opening up to me as I learn about the life all around me.

How are you improving? What skills or knowledge are you gaining that you can celebrate RIGHT NOW? All of life is a journey, a process – don’t wait for perfection to enjoy the application of your knowledge and skills. Perfection will never come, but improvement can be a constant source of joy.

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One thought on “Field Notes Friday 0017: Celebrate the Milestones

  1. Dear Happy Naturalist, thank you for writing well about the joy of learning at any and every age. I too am a life long learner. I marvel with you over your KNOWING the trees. I’m working on that as well as bird song which my dear friend In Louisiana has an ear and a mind for.

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