Sappho’s Jacket.

(Becoming a Naturalist, part 5.)

Finally the earth grows softer, and the buds on the trees swell, and the afternoon becomes a wider room to roam in, as the sun moves back from the south and the light grows stronger. (Mary Oliver, Owls and Other Fantasies.)

The island of Lesbos was not large for an island, but the largeness of its influence on our world is hard to exaggerate. Sappho preceded Theophrastus by around 300 years and was called by Plato “the Tenth Muse.” The 9 Muses, daughters of Uranus (sky god) and Gaia (mother earth) embodied and inspired all knowledge and creativity in the minds of ancient Greeks, and we hear that deified name in words like museum and music. To find a muse or to behave like a muse is known as musing . 

Naturalists do a lot of that. A naturalist is a ‘sappho’ with binoculars and a ‘theophrastus’ with muddy boots together wrapped in breathable polyurethane. And our musing in the softening spring creates a “wider room to roam in” like the woods of Mary Oliver. The vernal equinox expands our days and our wanderings. Our vernal musings create room to roam inside us. And like our native muses, we bring our friends along.

cub at cold spring swamp

Musing in polyurethane, Cass County, Iowa. Photo by Robert Smith.

Equinox Saunter: A Practicum. Sunday, March 20th. Read more here.

To Be a Naturalist: Citizen Science and Sauntering in the Loess Hills. Saturday, April 2nd. (The Naturalist School early spring session begins.) Read more here.