I can’t say I am a natural author. Sitting down for hours, researching and writing is not my natural or preferred pastime. That should not be confused with not having a desire and to research and an inquisitive nature.
Often, before or after a trip, walk, climb, or some other form of adventure, I will spend time researching from books, on the internet or in contact with knowledgeable friends. To me, exploration is not about an ability to list and cross reference numerous facts, it’s about gaining knowledge and insights ‘on the go’. I do cross reference many sources, check out alternatives, but it may be done over a number of sittings, each often no more than an hour, with time thinking and reflecting in between. Slowly, I build a body of knowledge, though I find I can’t recall the detail of how I learnt something or where I found it. I can almost always remember the things I find, see and learn through experience though, usually in some detail.
So, each of us has a different way of learning and exploring. Whilst there is often an emphasis on books and academic style learning, I think for many of us, it’s actually the experiential learning that holds the greatest enjoyment and creates the most lasting memories. Perhaps the ancient forms of information sharing like storytelling and art should play a greater role. As the internet and other technologies develop, I think perhaps we’re reviving this inter-personal form of information-sharing, so that we have a modern age of story-telling. Perhaps it’s most obvious for practical things, e.g. things like reconstruction archaeology and bushcraft lend themselves wonderfully to videos available on YouTube, in a way that seems far more successful than trying to explain such visual and practical topics in writing. Even something like trying to explain a moose in words is quite a feat, why not just draw a picture or use a photograph?
The natural world is a very complex subject, and it’s not only about learning and comparing facts, it’s also about systems analysis, approaches and processes. It’s about relationships over time and space. Concepts like these are often far more easily explained in diagrams and visualisation methods, enhanced by text and written word. This is just one of the ways in which art is a great way to help explore the natural world, more about this to come in other blogs!