Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Those who read my other blog, Sunrays and Saturdays, will know that I have begun to post a number of entries from old journals that I wrote dating back to the 1970's. I had intended those entries to remain on that blog but when I read this one it somehow seemed to fit more appropriately here.

From Journal 1 - 03/12/1980

Man has a propensity to name things, to lump things together, to categorise and collect, to recognize similarities. This in turn leads to a fear of differences or at least a blindness. I mentioned previously that my perceptions of the bushlands had heightened in recent years, I now believe that I have still not reached the ultimate in perception; I am not yet one with the bush. My familiarity has bred a love but not yet a oneness. There are at least three stages to our perceptions. Firstly there is that stage in which we see but do not perceive. We, as children, perceive the bush as a single entity. Few children are aware of the differences between a mountain forest and a lowland forest, each are alien and each therefore to be feared.

The second stage manifests itself differently in different people. With familiarity of the bush we lose the fear and begin to gain respect. For some this is enough; for others, myself included, there is a need to recognize elements of the bush, to place names to familiar items like flora or fauna. These people can enter bushland almost anywhere and see something they know, but this kind of cold academic appraisal for some breeds a peculiar kind of contempt.

The ultimate in perception is not where we recognize the similarities but where we can perceive the differences. For the true marvel is not that anything in a category has the same name as any other thing in that category, but that each is different. A spiderweb in one place is not the same as a spiderweb in another, they differ in size, shape, time of day, time of year, whether it is windy or still. The bush is not static as naming things implies and no matter how man times we return to the same place, if we are aware of it’s ability to change we shall never tire of it.


I was in my honours year at university in 1980, studying geography, specifically palynology, which is the study of fossil pollen grains. Before anyone asks, I had collected a core of sediment from a small lake in the mountains of Gippsland in my home state of Victoria. The core was five meters in length and sampled at 5cm intervals and looking at the distribution of fossil pollen throughout the core I was able to determine a vegetation history for that area that stretched back beyond 30,000 well into the last Ice Age.

As an aside, I completed that thesis in 1981, at a time when it was hand typed and the diagrams hand drawn - interestingly doing a search on google tonight I came across several references to that thesis, and found that the work I commenced there has been expanded upon by many subquent researchers, not only in palynology, but sedimentology as well. And it is gratifying to know that the name I gave that small basin in 1979, Caledonia Fen, is widely used and has become a site of significance in the vegetation and climatic history of Australia.

So I was exposed to a whole new world during those years, learning the taxonomy of plants and enjoying the fact that when I did go into the bush I could identify plants that a few short years before I would not have given a second glance to.

Study had a profound effect on my curiosity, I yearned to know more and I enjoyed the way my perception of things was changing. When I read this post I wondered when that curiosity became stifled, when the boy’s excitement became the man’s practicalities. Have I really gotten to the point where the wonder of the bush has left me, or has it just been cloaked in responsibility and shelved because the pressures of marriage and fatherhood intervened?

It is time to rediscover wonder, to appreciate difference and to try and prevent the categorization of life. Time to remove the blinkers and once more seek knowledge for nothing other than the sake of knowledge.


paisley said...

the last paragraph reminded me,, that yesterday,, the thought passed thru my mind,, that while i was indeed "that person" until now in my life... i am no longer she,, and it is time to move on and embrace the me i have become... as i will indeed be her for the rest of my life....i haven't worked it thru as of yet,, but i will and i am sure i will post it one day...

after i have worked it thru the three steps you mention here....

thank you loz.....

Anonymous said...

Ever since I can remember, I have been curious about, well, everything. And I’ve been devoutly kneeling at the Alter of Curiosity ever since. I reveled in being different and outside the box and in having so many interests – so many things I wanted to just plain know – that I couldn’t even list them all. I loved it. “Like a pig in sh!t,” and the sh!t was my own.

I don’t tap that very much anymore. It’s dulling and I can feel it. And I’m so frustrated at myself for letting that knife go dull with lack of use. Sure, part of that dulling came from the responsibilities you listed, but that can’t be the sole reason.

When, where and why do we lose our sense of wonder?

“…if we are aware of it’s ability to change we shall never tire of it”

Sometimes, I don’t think we ever do, we just lose sight of it’s ability to constantly change.

Great post, Laurie.

Josie Two Shoes said...

"Time to rediscover wonder"... I love that phrase, Loz! It fits where my life is at now too. It can't all be just about survival - there needs to be wonder, and joy and passion - espeically passion! :-)

HollyGL said...

Loz, Your post reminds me of something I actually do on a daily basis. It has become a reflexive thing for me to look out over Lake Michigan at the boats, or at the Chicago skyline, etc... and just appreciate. A long time ago - when I lived in Colorado - I began to make a concerted effort to ...notice. It makes a world of difference, as you know.

Loz said...

Paisley - the trick ir to learn what parts to meld and which to set aside.

Seiche - my theory is our brains fill up. Until we can discover away to tidy the filing cabinet to free up space it's hard to fit any new stuff in.

Josie - it's definitely not just about survival - that's why we do find the courage to move on.

Steph - you're right there has to be a conscious effort to allow yourself to truly see things

Megan Bayliss said...

It is taking me a lifetime to complete my PhD. My thesis is in life - how wonderful it is when we see and feel the difference, diversity and stimulation around us. I grow in curiosity everyday and just love it.
My New Years Resolution is always to make this the year of doing things differently - keeps our life interesting.
Here via the Carnival of Australia.