The best experiences are not only entertaining, but also transformative. During the LMNGBR program, my perception of both the external natural world, as well as that of my own internal self, changed for the better.
Here is how LMNGBR improved my perspective:
1. I experienced the “Zen" of nature in a new way.
The natural world is composed of interconnected systems. Although people are accustomed to separating things with distinguishers like “big” and “small,” nature can challenge these boundaries.
Such was the case during the Mammals workshop at theWaddill Outdoor Education Center where we examined the large “macro” system of the forest, as well as the micro-systems underneath our feet. At one point, the guide had each group member cordon off a hula-hooped sized plot of land from one of the park’s 237 acres. In this small parcel, we were instructed to observe and identify the species within. It turned out to be too much to do in the allotted hour.
After getting eye-level with the bugs and grasses in the tiny plots, the group headed to the towering bottomland forest. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who wondered if the gigantic forest is actually tiny speck to some large and wayward eye. Such a thought, I believe, is indicative of a heightened sense of grand awareness, which is elevating.
2. I learned to better appreciate the temporary.
We spend lots of effort in modern life controlling our environment. Often, changes in home or work life are bad news
But in nature, one cannot help but see the value of change. This truth is perhaps best exemplified in the Louisiana Trillium, a three-leafed flowering plant that is known botanists describe as a “spring ephemeral.” The designation means that the prehistoric-looking plant only pops up for a little while in the whole year. They are early bloomers, emerging in late January and disappearing in April.
When our LMN GBR group would encounter a trillium, there was always jubilation. We would gather to take pictures, and would connect through celebration. This demonstrates how the temporary is often a source of beauty, which brings people together.
3. I remembered that a key to happiness is exposure.
I like to try new things. But I have a tendency to stack the deck by trying things that I already know I’ll like.
As such, I may have never learned to like bugs, frogs, or fish as much if not for the Stream Ecology workshop at Blackwater Conservation Area. Here, you can see multiple types of water bodies in close proximity to one another, all of which are teeming with life.
In the shallow ponds, we saw countless of tadpoles and noisy frogs. On the banks of the nearby lake, we scooped up alien-like dragonfly larvae, crawfish and grass shrimp. Finally, in the Comite River that traverses the park, we got in waist-deep to catch river fish with seine nets, and we also searched along the banks for buried turtle nests.
It was easier to appreciate each creature and habitat by exploring in this manner. The result for me was a reversal of opinion on several slimy and scaly animals. In having my mind changed, I was reminded how easily negative perceptions can be affected by new experiences.
Sometimes, going out into nature can be an escape from modern life. But often, one can learn universal lessons by venturing away from paved roads, and apply these in everyday settings.
For some, the LMNGBR program may be simply a fun and educational experience, but others may take away even more. External exploration often leads to internal discovery, and we are fortunate to have such an adventurous program in Baton Rouge.
To learn more about the LMN GBR program or to enroll, click here.
By John Nettles