Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Humans in the Natural World

Smacholdt's picture

 One main connection that I noticed between Monday’s class and my site sits are the presence of humans .We are on a college campus with a densely populated surrounding area, so we have no choice but to come in contact with other people. I’ve been thinking about are the subtle ways that humans have changed the landscape over the past few hundred years. They have build buildings, chopped down trees, planted trees, etc., and they have also influenced the spread of “invasive” species in Morris woods. This is something that I would not have even been aware of, had I not participated in the class. It’s interesting how something as seemingly “natural” as a wooded area, can actually be quite artificial, and greatly influenced by human actions. I feel similarly about the wildflower area. I think that I have the unconscious, and obviously erroneous idea that all plants that I see on campus somehow got there “naturally.” This circles back to the sticky question about what exactly “natural” means. For me, I think that “natural” signifies something that has been unaffected by human activities.

Another idea that I’ve been meditating on since Monday’s class is that of trust. The trust activity made an impression on me because not only did I feel like I really did “get to know my tree,” I was astounded at just how vulnerable I felt without my eyesight in the woods. I can’t imagine doing this trust activity in a more wild environment than Morris Woods. I think I would have been very apprehensive if I hadn’t known that people were just a few feet away.

While writing this post I stumbled across a poem which felt salient so I’ve posted it here. It’s called “Things to Believe in”:


trees, in general; oaks, especially;

burr oaks that survive fire, in particular;

and the generosity of apples


seeds, all of them: carrots like dust,

winged maple, doubled beet, peach kernel;

the inevitability of change

frogsong in spring; cattle

lowing on the farm across the hill;

the melodies of sad old songs


comfort of savory soup;

sweet iced fruit; the aroma of yeast;

a friend’s voice; hard work


seasons; bedrock; lilacs;

moonshadows under the ash grove;

something breaking through


- Patricia Monaghan