Matt: In the article, you give a very specific exercise for observing something that wouldn’t even have to be your own plant, but taking a walk around your neighborhood and doing an observational exercise. Can we chat through that?
Summer: Yeah, absolutely. I’m actually more of a naturalist by training. I went to school for environmental science and entomology. And so when you go out into the woods, you naturally are looking at different individual species. You’re describing the way they look, you’re seeing their interactions with one another.
And I really took that for granted because, as a naturalist, you go out and there are no name tags or plant tags on these things. So you usually start to observe the differences and the way that things look.
Many of us don’t have that skill set—or we had that skill set as a kid and perhaps lost it. So maybe you say, “Oh, that’s a green tree, and that’s a green tree, and that’s a green tree.” And that’s the bulk of our ability to be able to describe it.
However, the act of observation is a little bit more along the lines of helping you learn how to observe and develop a relationship to that living organism. So even if you’re just taking a walk in the park and you say, “Well, that’s interesting. Here’s this tree, it has a more round canopy. And, you know, it seems to be cut on one side and it seems to already start getting yellow leaves over here. And these are a little bit darker green. Why is that?”
Then you start developing stories around that. “Well, perhaps that had to be cut because it’s next to a telephone wire, or perhaps that had a lightning strike. Well, let me take a closer look at it and see if it seems natural or if it was cut by a human hand. Maybe that’s yellow because there’s more sun coming in one side.”
What you’re doing is actually sharing this situation with this living organism, which is not another human being or an animal, but actually happens to be a plant.
And you begin to create these stories. Even if these stories are false or not true, it almost doesn’t matter because that is how you actually form theories and hone your relationships and your understandings of that other organism that you are observing at that moment.