Hugh Bollinger
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'The Way of Natural History,' a perspective

In the 1950s when I was a kid in LA I had a buddy who would race his bike around terrorizing the neighborhood with me. With excess of energy and curiosity, we saved major attention for explorations of some vacant fields of weeds, wildflowers, and random junk with vistas of the Pacific Ocean. We grew up watching this undeveloped land convert into tidy suburbs and shopping centers. And, even then, I thought this seemed a poor substitute for the wild place he and I loved exploring together. My friend went on to become a talented actor with performances in movies like "Starman," "The Big Lebowski," and "True Grit," and I became involved with environmental science and business away from the coastline. I was reminded of all this while reading a fine collection of essays on natural history -- "The Way of Natural History" --just published by Trinity University Press. [caption id="attachment_4968" align="aligncenter" width="398" caption="The Way of Natural History. Credit: Trinity University Press"][/caption] Natural history has been the foundation of art and scientific curiosity from the chronicles of the Greek historian Herodotus to Leonardo de Vinci's graphic flight designs to Darwin's voyages of evolutionary discovery to Carl Sagan and his quest for the stars, and now into the future. As Thomas Lowe Fleischner, the editor of the new essays, notes in his introduction: "Natural history is a practice of intentional, focused attentiveness and receptivity to the more-than-human world, guided by honesty and accuracy. Simply put, it is paying attention to the larger world outside our own heads." The twenty-two essays were contributed by diverse authors with backgrounds from the sciences, the arts, and spiritual pursuits, deep thinkers from the ecological and environmental spectrum. The master guitarist, Richard Thompson, provides a terrific essay about music inspiration and the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, receives well-deserved attention. The edited compilation would be appropriate for anyone who has ever been touched by the natural world or wants to experience more. Those vacant lots where I adventured among golden California poppies and collected frogs with my friend are long gone. However, I have often wondered if he might have also been powerfully affected by the fragments of a natural world that seemed like a wild paradise to me. WHB
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