Wonders from the Natural World


Kitty Smith, Texas Master Naturalist, Indian Trail Chapter

 Wonders abound in nature. Each one is beautiful or interesting. Have you ever pulled a cicada skin off a tree? Or found a bird feather? Or a perfectly formed pine cone?  Have you ever just sat in the grass and found yourself picking a four-leaf clover? Finding sea shells on the beach? Or picked dried grasses? For example, I can’t help myself around rocks. Do you ever go hiking and pick up interesting rocks? I have a rock from almost every hike I’ve been on. Sometimes my finds are gross but interesting like the time I found a very dead, pancake-flat, dried up, leathery toad out in the barn. Weird. Fascinating. Wonderful nature.

I have a “wonders” collection so big it fills two curio cabinets! Imagine my surprise and pleasure to find like-mined folks when I joined the Ellis & Navarro County Texas Master Naturalist program last year. To join, you first complete a 40-hour training program on just about every natural science topic known to man. During my training, the class facilitators, Paul and Charlie Grindstaff – a husband and wife duo who are artists and nature-lovers in the first degree, introduced me to the “Wonder Bowl”. Charlie explained that when Liz Baird, founder of Take a Child Outside Week, was a little girl she would fill her pockets with treasures she had found: acorns, rocks, mushrooms, snails, etc. When her mom got tired of finding these sometimes very messy “treasures” in the washer and/or dryer, she presented Liz with a “wonder bowl” into which she could empty her pockets. Liz could enjoy her treasures and not cause problems for the laundry.  Liz still has her wonder bowl on her desk in her office.

Wonder BowlFor the past three years, Paul Grindstaff, has been presenting TMN trainees with wonder bowls that he turns himself out of tree limbs. His creations are beautiful works of art from nature in their own respect.  So our members get a wonder bowl to fill with wonders! If you don’t have a wonder bowl (or a version thereof) in your home already, I highly recommend this tradition in your own family – regardless of your age. (Please note: I’m talking about wonders from your own property, open spaces or city parks; most National and State parks prohibit the collection of natural specimens so that we all can view and enjoy them.) There is a child inside all of us that can always be awestruck by the wonders found in nature. So, I invite you to release your inner child and bring home the latest thing you have found in nature, something you picked up and thought “Wow, that’s wonderful!” and drop it in your wonder bowl. It can become a family tradition to discover and discuss nature.  It’s all around us all the time; we just have to stop, look and wonder.

Do you think nature should be part of our everyday life, not just somewhere to go on the weekends?  You are invited to attend our free, open-to-the-public, monthly program every fourth Monday at 7 pm at the Red Oak Library, 200 Lakeview Pkwy, Red Oak, TX.  For more information on the Indian Trail Master Naturalist Chapter, contact the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service at 972-825-5175 or visit our website:   https://txmn.org/indiantrail/.

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