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Parts of speech : Adjective
Derivatives : unexplainably
My Word List
Parts Of Speech
What is a true naturalist?—How to start a collection—Moth collecting—The Herbarium There is nothing in the world that will bring more pleasure into the life of a boy or girl than to cultivate a love for nature. It is one of the joys of life that is as free as the air we breathe. A nature student need never be lonely or at a loss for friends or companions. The birds and the bugs are his acquaintances. Whenever he goes afield there is something new or interesting to see and to observe. He finds— "——tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, Sermons in stones and good in everything."
To love nature and her mysteries does not necessarily mean to be some kind of a queer creature running around with a butterfly net or an insect box. A true naturalist is simply a man or boy who keeps his eyes and ears open. He will soon find that nature is ready to tell him many secrets. After a time, the smell of the woods, the chirp of a cricket and the rustling of the wind in the pines become his pleasures.
The reason that people do not as a rule know more about nature is simply because their minds are too full of other things. They fail to cultivate the power of accurate observation, which is the most important thing of all. A practical start in nature study is to go out some dewy morning and study the first spider web you come across, noting how wonderfully this little creature makes a net to catch its food just as we make nets to catch fish, how the web is braced with tiny guy ropes to keep the wind from blowing it away in a way similar to the method an engineer would use in securing a derrick or a tall chimney. When a fly or bug happens to become entangled in its meshes, the spider will dart out quickly from its hiding place and if the fly is making a violent struggle for life will soon spin a ribbon-like web around it which will hold it secure, just as we might attempt to secure a prisoner or wild animal that was trying to make its escape, by binding it with ropes. A spider makes a very interesting pet and the surest way to overcome the fear that many people have of spiders is to know more about them.
There is no need to read big books or listen to dry lectures to study nature. In any square foot that you may pick out at random in your lawn you will find something interesting if you will look for it. Some tiny bug will be crawling around in its little world, not aimlessly but with some definite purpose in view. To this insect the blades of grass are almost like mighty trees and the imprint of your heel in the ground may seem like a valley between mountains. To get an adequate idea of the myriads of insects that people the fields, we should select a summer day just as the sun is about to set. The reflection of its waning rays on their wings will show countless thousands of flying creatures in places where, if we did not take the trouble to observe, we might think there were none.
There is one very important side to nature that must not be overlooked. It consists in knowing that we shall find a thousand things that we cannot explain to one that we fully understand. Education of any kind consists more in knowing when to say "I don't know and no one else knows either" than to attempt a foolish explanation of an unexplainable thing.
If you ask "why a cat has whiskers," or why and how they make a purring noise when they are pleased and wag their tails when they are angry, while a dog wags his to show pleasure, the wisest man cannot answer your question. A teacher once asked a boy about a cat's whiskers and he said they were to keep her from trying to get her body through a hole that would not admit her head without touching her whiskers. No one can explain satisfactorily why the sap runs up in a tree and by some chemical process carries from the earth the right elements to make leaves, blossoms or fruit. Nature study is not "why?" It is "how." We all learn in everyday life how a hen will take care of a brood of chicks or how a bee will go from blossom to blossom to sip honey. Would it not also be interesting to see how a little bug the size of a pin head will burrow into the stem of an oak leaf and how the tree will grow a house around him that will be totally unlike the rest of the branches or leaves. That is an "oak gall." If you carefully cut a green one open you will find the bug in the centre or in the case of a dried one that we often find on the ground, we can see the tiny hole where he has crawled out. Did you ever know that some kinds of ants will wage war on other kinds and make slaves of the prisoners just as our ancestors did in the olden times with human beings? Did you ever see a play-ground where the ants have their recreation just as we have ball fields and dancing halls? Did you ever hear of a colony of ants keeping a cow? It is a well-known fact that they do, and they will take their cow out to pasture and bring it in and milk it and then lock it up for the night just as you might do if you were a farm boy. The "ants' cow" is a species of insect called "aphis" that secretes from its food a sweet kind of fluid called "honey dew."
The ten thousand things that we can learn in nature could no more be covered in a chapter in this book than the same space could cover a history of the world. I have two large books devoted to the discussion of a single kind of flower, the "orchid." It is estimated that there are about two hundred thousand kinds of flowers, so for this subject alone, we should need a bookshelf over a mile long. This is not stated to discourage any one for of course no one can learn all there is to know about any subject. Most people are content not to learn anything or even see anything that is not a part of their daily life.
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