“Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction.”- E. O. Wilson
I’ll be completely honest, I am a person of aesthetic, coming from a place such as Squamish which gives me a heightened expectation to what natural aesthetic is . Natural aesthetic is an experience one feels when they are completely and utterly taken aback from the look of nature. For me, going to the middle of nowhere north of Prince George to involve ourselves in the practice of Natural History was an idea I saw as very underwhelming. I come from a Temperate Rainforest on the coast of British Columbia, I live where waterfalls meet the sea, and where mossed trees grow taller than imaginable.
Although I had an expectation of what kind of natural aesthetic I would see at Aleza Lake Research Forest. I was actually quite shocked at the diversity of everything there. One second we would be in a cabin overlooking a patch of new growth forest, the next we were standing in the middle of an old growth forest collecting samples to observe back at the cabin. I could feel decades worth of old tree needles and other organisms cushion my feet every time I would take a step. I could smell the tacky sap on the side of the spruce trees. I heard squirrels chase each other up and down two trees above their food nest covered in spruce cone debris.
As I took my samples and made my way back to the cabin I was observing the way natural history was shown at the research forest, I realized that I saw natural aesthetic. It wasn’t waterfalls into oceans, but rather lichen covered trees towering over the class as we entered the forest from a meadow where bees (Including my bee Mortimer) and other insects buzzed to collect the last little bit of pollen from the flowers and plants that started to bow to the ground ready for the frost of winter, or in this case Autumn in Prince George.
One of the first organisms I took a look at was Hydnun Repandum, I remember asking Dr. Edgar “What mushroom is this?”. To see him look over the mushroom searching for indications on which species it was made me question how “underwhelming” of an idea this whole trip was. He told me about the characteristics of the fungus, such as the spines which hold spores that they release.
I then moved on to other specimens, such as a Mosquito and a Wolf Spider from the woods. The mosquito was fascinating, with the microscope I was able to see various hairs that surrounded its body that it uses to sense. Its wings were like stained glass, reflecting just enough light to shimmer in the lens. The Wolf Spider was my favourite, it was staring at me the entire time. I’m a person who is not the biggest fan of spiders and I’ll take that fact to my grave, but this spider was literally just standing still giving me a blank stare. Dr. Huber handled the spider (mostly due to me telling him that I hate spiders). In the moments that I spent with this creature I felt like I was practicing natural history. I was observing nature since the moment we arrived at Aleza Lake Research Forest.