Welcome to 2023! Another calendar has been used, another red journal finished and safely tucked away on a shelf and newness has taken over. I place a brand new desk blotter calendar on my office desk, I unwrap a brand new red journal and begin to enter all of my almanac data and I crack open a new black journal so I can punch “2023 vol 1” on to its cover. These sorts of rituals are particularly satisfying for my and I take immense pleasure sitting in the silence of an early morning house and poring over the information recorded in years gone by.
Before I opened up this new document I decided to look back at my first column of 2022 to get the exact wording on last year’s resolutions and this is what I found: “So here is my resolution for 2022: I won’t let the paperwork pile up. I will make sure that I process my photos in a timely fashion, which will allow me to keep my website up to date and that nagging little voice in my head quieter than it has been. Like many resolutions this sounds really simple, but if I actually do it I will benefit greatly. Now let’s see if I can follow through.” A year later I can definitively say that I failed miserably.
As of the writing of this column I still had a backlog of photos going all the way back to August.
However, I did manage to take more photos in 2022 than I had ever taken in any previous year. The funny thing about these columns is that there is a curious element of time travel involved in them. I’m writing about the end of 2022 before the I actually experience the end of 2022. By the time this column reaches you I will have hit 23,000 photos for the year, but as I write I am still about 400 photos short of the mark, so I don’t know what the subject of that milestone photo actually is yet.
Anyway, I think that a resolution about getting paperwork done is a little boring anyway. Surely there must be something a little more interesting to focus on than that. As an example, perhaps it is time to see about working on the botany catalog of my property that I have been thinking of. I have six acres of land that is covered in a mixture of lawn, old field and forest. Perhaps it is time that I take an inventory of the different plant species that live within the geopolitical boundaries of what I temporarily call “mine.”
This is a daunting prospect because of the sheer magnitude of the project. Cataloging the trees would be the easiest because there are so few species that I would have to deal with. Beech, birch, maple and oak are all simple enough to identify. Then there are the slightly more challenging hawthorns, buckthorns and alders. And don’t even get me started on the difference between hornbeam and hop hornbeam!
Then you shift into the realm of the forbs and the grasses; non-woody plants that grow and die back every year without leaving “permanent” stems like trees and lilac bushes. Six acres of land could host hundreds of different species and finding them all would require an enormous amount of time, effort and discomfort. The ferns and the mosses would represent the final straw. I’ve got books, but the mosses in particular could actually represent the tipping point for pure madness to take hold of me.
Yet, there is an entire branch of botany called “bryology” that is focused purely on the mosses, liverworts and hornworts of the world. My poor computer is underlining all of these words in red because it doesn’t recognize them.
Well, I think I might be able to find a happy medium here. Perhaps what I will do is dedicate myself to identifying all of the plant species that can be found along the edges of my trails. These trails pass through meadow and forest and emerge into areas that I maintain as lawn. I realize that this might be a little more than I can chew, but I am going to go for it. 2023 will be my year of botany! I will continue with the photography of wildlife, but I will make a conscious effort to aim my lens at plants more often. Time to break out the close-up lens!
A secondary resolution will be to make an improvement on my general paperwork and correspondence. I like going outside and looking for interesting things, but I am not quite so good at sitting down at my desk and working on emails and whatnot. That being said, I am also getting tired of my afternoon routine and I think that I might enjoy dedicating an hour a day to “clearing off my desk” after getting home from work. If I can just do it long enough to make it a habit, then I will never stop doing it.
So, dear reader, I wish you the happiest and most prosperous 2023. I am personally filled with optimism about the coming year and I think that the project that I have initiated will bear fruit. I might even give myself the added challenge of alternating between plants and animals every other week, but that is going to take a little more thinking. Since I can’t get down to the Thinking Chair at the moment, I’ll get some fresh coffee in my mug, throw a fresh log on the fire and settle in for some imaginings of what might come next.
Bill Danielson has been a professional writer and nature photographer for 25 years. He has worked for the National Park Service, the US Forest Service, the Nature Conservancy and the Massachusetts State Parks and he currently teaches high school biology and physics. For more in formation visit his website at www.speakingofnature.com, or head over to Speaking of Nature on Facebook.