Welcome to The Wandering Trail, a place to think about nature, ecology, and the simple joy of going for a walk. I’m Michael Asbell, an average citizen who likes hiking in the woods, has an education in biology, and is a geek when it comes to nature. I tend to think of myself simply as a naturalist, a student and celebrant of nature and wild places, always asking questions and wanting to know more. My hope is that The Wandering Trail will lead to deeper connections and help us understand our place in the natural world.
When it comes to our home, the earth, I believe many of us earthlings have become profoundly and unnaturally disconnected. For multiple reasons, we have come to view the wild as separate from our day to day lives. We think nature is nice for vacations and field trips, but don’t really see what it has to do with our normal lives. Nowadays, it’s the suburbs, the city, our jobs, financial markets, networks of computers, and a host of other human-made things that we think of when we speak of the “real world.” That’s why we might describe an afternoon walk in the park as an “escape.”
Only a few generations ago our ancestors could tell you where you might find the nearest freshwater spring, when various wild berries would be ripe, and how long since the last rainfall. Many of us today have a vague notion that it might be a good idea to save the planet, but we can’t tell you the name of most of the plants, trees, and wildlife that live in very own our yards. As a culture, we as an American people are profoundly disconnected from nature, and we are the poorer for it.
This blog, which I’m calling The Wandering Trail, is my effort to do something about that disconnect. Whatever your current level of nature knowledge, my aim is to encourage you to step outside, go for a walk, and simply notice nature more.
You may have heard there is a growing body of scientific studies that indicate what most of already know intuitively: Nature is good for us. Whether by gardening, walking in the park, relaxing at the beach, or traversing vast wildernesses, nature is good for us. I can personally testify that time in nature is vital to my own mental health. I find there’s a meditative aspect to my time in nature that’s good for my health in every way—physical, mental, and spiritual. This blog, The Wandering Trail, is here to encourage you to try this medicine yourself.
As an environmentalist, I would suggest there are also good environmental reasons for connecting with nature. I believe that many of our ecological problems are made worse by our disconnect with nature. The plain and simple fact is that it’s difficult (if not impossible) to preserve and protect what you don’t know. You can’t care that there are fewer Wood Thrushes if you’ve never heard one sing. Oh, you might care a little, especially if I do a good job telling you about them. But that in no way impacts you like hearing the song yourself. And so, I offer The Wandering Trail also as my contribution to the environmental movement. I’m not very good at arguing politics (and I won’t often do so here), but I believe I can still make a difference even if all I do is convince you to go for a walk more often.
If you liked my previous blog, Wild Saunter, you should know that The Wandering Trail will replace it. Yes, Wild Saunter was a cool name, but I suspect that for some it was obtuse. For me, Wild Saunter (both the name and the site itself) had become stale. I really can’t explain it other than to say it feels like time for change. The name of this site, The Wandering Trail, comes from my son who decided to make me a sign for the trailhead at our house, and in so doing gave our unnamed trail and this blog an identity.
Before you go, I should mention two more reasons I want to focus on nature, ecology, and walking. It’s just that these things are just plain fun and endlessly entertaining. In childhood most of us know the thrill of exploring in wild places, but somehow we let adulthood beat that joy out of us. I say it’s high time we reclaim that joy. For those who dare see with the eyes of a child, I know the world will always be full of wonder and magic.
I hope you like The Wandering Trail, but even more importantly, I hope it encourages you to reconnect with nature. Please let me know what you think and share with your friends.