I have an idea for a campaign. It may go nowhere. It may begin and end with me. It’s been niggling at me for days. And every time I try to ignore it somebody posts something or says something that pushes it to the forefront of my mind.
If you want to read the short version of my proposal or want to share on facebook then go to my next blog post.
Here it is – I propose that beginning at the Summer Solstice (Tuesday 22nd December in Australia.)*
- Take one photo every day for seven days with the last day being the 28th Dec.
- Photos for Seven Days of Wonder have to be of natural wonders. Tiny or large. Animals or plants (cultivated ones included). Birds or insects. Rocks or oceans. Sky or dirt. Nothing man-made (except backgrounds), No pets, No selfies, No people
- The 7 photos are posted at the one time on your own site/feeds (facebook, blog, twitter) anytime in the following week with title Seven Days of Wonder and tag #sdow.
- Comments on posts should contribute to our overall knowledge and wonder of the photos taken eg If Kelly takes a picture of a spider as one of her pictures. Joe’s comments may add the name of that spider, Tom could quote a line from a poem about spiders. Emily could say what the habitat of that spider is.
*If anybody is reading this in the Northern Hemisphere. Then your #sdow can start on the Winter Solstice (either the 21st or 22nd of December 2015).
I know this is the busiest time of year for many but I think that’s what makes it even more important to stop and smell the roses, or, my own version, if your like – watch the tadpoles. The worst of the Christmas rush will be over before you actually have to post your photos. It’s not about taking brilliant photos – but great if you do. Its about noticing and learning. Some of you may be holidaying to exotic locations and post spectacular photos from an SLR camera. Others may concentrate on one corner of their backyard. Some may live in the city and take a picture of a dandelion struggling through the pavement with their phone or an ibis in the park. Wherever you are and whatever you do I have a vision of us all learning amazing things about the natural world by looking at and commenting on each other’s photos.
Why what is the point? To explain this I want to explain what has prodded me to come up with this campaign. Some of the references are rather oblique but stay with me.
- Jamie Oliver’s Ted Talk: At one point in this presentation he plays a video of a group of infants kids from US who cannot recognise common vegetables. Even the ubiquitous tomato is mistakenly identified. This shocked me. But I was impressed with Jamie Oliver’s passion in trying to change this sad state of affairs by education. The theory is recognising whole foods will make kids appreciate them. Make them curious to want to try them. My passion is nature. And I feel the same as Jamie does about food. If people can name things and know them a little better our appreciation and willingness to protect them will increase.
- My realisation that my own sense of wonder had waned: As a child I collected gumnuts and eucalypt leaves and sticky-taped them on an index card system. I wanted to be an expert on gum trees, to be able to identify every tree in the bush around our place. I loved eucalypts and cried when one was chopped down by our neighbours. I know that girl is still inside me somewhere but this girl doesn’t reliably know even one species of gum tree. When I scuba dived in my 20’s and 30’s I regained that sense of wonder for a while when I fell in love with the underwater environment. I took underwater photos of marine life and afterwards would identify and classify the various creatures I’d encountered. This was before the age of the internet so I used my collection of marine life books. I finally gathered enough knowledge to run underwater environment courses with my instructor husband. I had pushed that to the back of my mind until a new facebook friend posted a picture of a nudibranch from a scuba dive she had done several years ago. I had a special interest in these colourful slug-like creatures and I had forgotten about it until that picture was posted. It made me sad that that part of my life was a distant memory.
- Concern about our blinkered existence. Are we so busy looking at screens and absorbing pop culture that we have become ignorant of the world around us. I wonder if I did a little test like Jamie Oliver but instead of vegetables I took in picture of birds. How many children would be able to tell the difference between a peewee (magpie lark), a currawong and a magpie. I suspect not many. And yet if we were paying attention many of us would see these birds every day and we would know they have very different habits and calls. Much has been written about the narcissism of individuals in the selfie generation but are we as a whole race becoming so narcissistic that we don’t recognise other living beings (apart from our own domestic pets).
- The process of writing my middle grade novel. The people in my fantasy world are much more in tune with nature and the cycle of the seasons, the moons and reading the skies. This was my prompt for choosing the summer solstice to start #sdow. This is the day when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky and daylight hours are the longest. But how many of us think about that? Here in Australia our seasons are scheduled for our convenience ie Summer starts at the beginning of December and ends on the last day of February. The true season beginnings and the midpoints of the seasons – the equinoxes and solstices are not taught in schools and pass by unnoticed. We rely on our devices to tell us the weather. Many of us cannot see into the distant skies because man-made structures block our views. We do not see storms approaching or the full sweep of sunsets and sunrise. We barely notice the moon’s cycle. Many of our homes, offices and transport are air-conditioned and heated. Heat, cold and rain are only minor inconveniences. Many of us do not understand the true struggle and the adaptations of the flora and fauna who are subject to the elements or even the struggle of farmers, outdoor workers or peoples in less comfortable living conditions. My aim is to have seven days of wonder to coincide with each of the two solstices and the two equinoxes. I hope our photos will help us get a sense of the changing of the seasons and bring us more in touch with the elements.
- Memories of tadpoles. One summer day when I was about seven I noticed a few of the tadpoles I had in the blue plastic container under the verandah had grown legs and their tails were stumpy. I was determined that I would see the very moment when the tadpole jumped from the container and became a frog. It frustrated me that my tadpoles were dwindling in number and I didn’t even get to say goodbye. I sat by that container for hours and hours (at least that is my memory) Finally I was rewarded. I saw a tadpole crawl onto the rock and flop out onto the ground. That may seem a waste of a day to some but I still feel privileged to have witnessed that moment of transition. We can’t all afford to sit for hours but if #sdow forces us to slow down just a little and notice something that we have never or rarely noticed or appreciated, that will be worthwhile.