Monthly Archives: January 2014

Silence

I often wonder if we have lost our ability to sit in a comfortable silence with friends.  I went to Disneyland last weekend (cause what else am I going to do over a three-day weekend).  While people watching as I walked through the lines (because, you know, it’s a 30 minute wait for Pirates) and I noticed that most people were not talking to each other.  Most people in most groups, with a few exceptions of course, were playing on their phones.  There was a lot of Facebook checking, Twitter checking, Instagram posting.  There wasn’t a lot of chit chatting.  And there wasn’t a lot of just sitting in a comfortable silence with companions.

This was something I noticed within my own group as well.  We did chat.  The two ladies I went with are amazing and we had great conversations.  But any time there was a lag in the conversation, out came the cell phones.  Gone was the observing, watching, and just being with the people around you.

I find this very interesting.  Mostly because I wasn’t on my phone a whole.  Of course I still checked into Facebook and posted pictures to Instagram, but I actually set a challenge for myself this Disney trip: no cell phone unless I want to take a picture or someone texts me.  I didn’t quite hit my goal – like I said, I did check into Facebook and Googled some things while in line – but for the most part, I tried to keep the phone in my purse.  With the phone away, I seemed to notice more about the park in general.  I found new Hidden Mickey’s, I noticed more details that I hadn’t seen before, and I even found a small area behind the Tiki Room that I’d never been in before.

I don’t know if this need to check devices all the time is a good thing or a bad thing.  I’m not sure if I got more out of the trip because I didn’t have my phone out all the time.  It might have been a bit more stressful because I wanted to check what was happening with friends and family in between the action of rides and conversations.  At the same time, I do feel like I saw things I would have missed had my face been staring at a screen.  I also kind of miss just standing in line with friends, not having to worry about saying anything but not feeling like I’m being ignored because they happen to be interacting with other friends online.  It’s an interesting dichotomy that maybe reflects the larger polarized opinions of the world.

As I teacher, I see this a lot.  Students don’t like to sit in silence.  They want to listen to their music or check Snap Chat or text their friends two classes down.  There seems to be a need to be connected to everyone all the time.  And if you’re not saying anything important (which, let’s face it, teens rarely think anything that adults say is important) then I’m going to focus on something that is more entertaining to me.  And that’s okay, I guess.  It’s just a changing world with new technologies and new priorities.

Maybe it’s a sign that I’m getting older.  I did just turn 30 after all.  Maybe I just want things to be simpler.  Maybe I just wish for a time when I didn’t have to compete with 100+ friends on Facebook and Twitter.

Or maybe people need to take a small break for devices and appreciate the world around them.


Nature

I’ve been listening to this podcast called Generation Anthropocene.  They do a really great job of discussing human impact on the planet.  There’s a common theme on their podcast: what is nature?

It seems like such a simple question with such a simple answer.  Most people probably picture the plains of Africa or the jungles of the Amazon or maybe the forests of Yellowstone.  In Phoenix, maybe people would think of White Tanks or the Superstition Mountains.  They’re not generally going to think of the park down the street or the vacant lot in their neighbor.

Yep, I’m wildlife

When asked to picture wildlife. maybe people would think of gorillas and wolves and pythons and tigers and lions and bears.  I doubt people would think of pigeons or house sparrows or rats.

Yet those things belong to nature as well.  That vacant lot that just sits between the grocery store and the dry cleaners – yep, that’s nature.  That annoying pigeon that poops all over your patio – yep, that’s nature too.  Those termites chewing into your house – nature.  Those gophers digging holes in your backyard – nature.

In urban America, we are so consumed with our day-to-day lives that we fail to notice that nature is all around us.  All we have to do is look up and observe.  Maybe I’m a bit bias about this – I’m a wildlife teacher after all, but I think it’s important to notice that we are not above nature.  We are not apart of nature.  We are very much a part of nature.  Just because we can manipulate our surroundings doesn’t mean that we aren’t affected by those surroundings.  We need to look up from our iPhones or Androids and appreciate that bee that is flying from flower to flower in the small garden in front of our offices.  We need to see the nests in the palo verde in the Fry’s parking lot.  We need to watch for the Red-tailed Hawk resting on the electric poll.  It’s important.

This semester, my goal is to give my students the tools to notice the wildlife around them.  I think if we can appreciate the little bits of nature around us, maybe we will be more likely to try to save them.  Which means maybe we’ll be better consumers and better voters.

Or maybe we’ll just appreciate the beauty of ants traveling in a line in search for food.  Because for me, that’s enough.


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