I recently took an eye opening journey up to the Aleza Lake Research Forest. After spending hours observing and documenting the environment around me, it made me realize one thing: distance is everything. As you walk up to the research center you see the big picture- low lying shrubbery, flowers, many trees, and some rolling hills. You notice the clouds in the sky, you feel the warm breeze, and you are struck by the beauty of nature all around you. But that’s only a small part of it. Then you get closer, down to the details. You notice the small insects, the tiny flowers, the colorful mushrooms, the young saplings. That’s when you begin to understand the complexity of it all. You get down to earth with nature, and begin to comprehend all the small things just a bit better. Just when you think you’ve seen all there is to see, a microscope is brought out- and it’s there that you discover a whole new world. Parts that could never be seen with the naked eye are brought to life. Distance is key in the science of observation, the closer you look, the more you find.

Getting down to the details /Photo Credit: Lochlan Hermiston

Getting down to the details /Photo Credit: Lochlan Hermiston

As I delved deeper into the forest, I realized that there were so many different living things working together to build an ecosystem. But what really fascinated me, were the fungi. Once you start looking for them, they are everywhere. My eyes were on the forest floor, searching for undiscovered species to observe. It was interesting to see how unique each individual species was. Some were flat, others concave, some small, and others much larger. They came in all different colors and all sorts of patterns. After returning to the research center with our collections, we were able to view our specimens under the microscopes. I was able to see a lot more detail- much more than I could with just my eyes. The distance was everything. It was fascinating learning about many of the mushrooms, how what we see, is just a small part of what they are. I enjoyed hearing about their crucial role in decomposing dead plant and animal matter, how they are dependent on others almost completely. Although a small part of of the ecosystem, I learned that fungi play a huge role in allowing the life around them to function properly.

The collected specimens /Photo Credit: Lochlan Hermiston

The collected specimens /Photo Credit: Lochlan Hermiston

As we left the research forest, I could not help but wonder at what I had learned. I had seen that the idea of distance brings a whole new view. Looking at those mushrooms with the naked eye and under the microscopes allowed me to see the complete picture. It brought a whole new perspective to the beauty of nature. I found that I truly enjoyed every minute out in the research forest. Nature continued to surprise me with new things to discover around every bend of the path. That’s the thing about nature- you cannot fully understand the stunning complexity of it until you get right down to it. As M. Scott Peck said: “Abandon the urge to simplify everything, to look for formulas and easy answers, and to begin to think multidimensionally, to glory in the mystery and paradoxes of life, not to be dismayed by the multitude of causes and consequences that are inherent in each experience — to appreciate the fact that life is complex.”