Like many family members and friends, I have spent much of my adult life indoors. Most of my career revolved around working in an office where I often arrived early and stayed late. I also regularly found an excuse for not exploring the outdoors in my spare time. I bet I’m not the only one who has claimed “It’s too hot!” or “I’ve got too much to do!” or “There’s a show I really want to watch on HGTV!” When I did go outside, it was to play tennis, bike or go for a walk with a friend or my dog. I rarely paid any attention to my surroundings and our world’s other inhabitants — the bugs, birds, aquatic life, animals, plants, etc.
To my surprise, my internal clock started to re-calibrate during the past decade. I now slow down enough to realize when it’s time to welcome the dragonflies, butterflies and hummingbirds to my yard in late summer. Earlier this year, I was elated to sit in my courtyard and witness a sparkling show given by lightning bugs. The fireflies helped me tap into fond childhood memories of summer trips to my grandparents’ home near Kansas City, Missouri. All of these sighting make me realize that I yearn for a more meaningful relationship with nature.
Going Buggy on Vacation
On my last vacation day in Montana, my friend Kaye took me to Missoula. We did a variety of “hip” things, including grabbing lunch from food trucks and listening to an area band perform by the river that runs through the downtown area. Our afternoon included viewing the public art displays, shopping, visiting local art galleries, perusing an independent book store and stopping for coffee.
While enjoying the java pick-me-up, Kaye looked at me and said, “So what else do you want to do?” I thought about it and realized that I had had my fill of shopping and art. Instead, I wanted to do something totally different — indulge my inner child at the Missoula Insectarium.
The museum, which opened in 2015, includes 18 aquariums and terrariums that house 40 species of insects, such as hissing cockroaches, hermit crabs, tarantulas and butterflies. All of the displays include educational material so you can learn more about the Insectarium’s residents and their habitats.
Because we were the only visitors at the time (the school year was just starting when we were there), Kaye and I had museum staff’s full attention. One of the coolest parts of the visit was being given a chance to handle a few insects. Kaye and I didn’t opt to become this friendly with the bugs. Still, I did get a close-up view and a better understanding of a walking stick, a millipede and another critter (whose name I’ve forgotten).
That trip to the Missoula Insectarium engaged my inner naturalist and stoked my inner child’s curiosity. The visit also helped me better appreciate the important roles — including pollination and composting — that these insects play in the viability of our world.
A New I Start Wondering Feature
I believe that I’m not alone in d
iscovering a burgeoning interest in nature at mid-life. Therefore, I’ve asked Liz Summers to join the list of contributors for this website. Liz is a scientist by day, but she often explores nature’s bounty during her down time. In fact, her Facebook page almost always includes a picture of some fascinating find – whether a spider web, flower or insect – that she’s come across. Liz’s first column on nature debuts this weekend and she will contribute future pieces around the middle of each month.
Liz is the latest addition to the list of I Start Wondering’s columnists. She joins Brenda Riojas, who is contributing a regular column on creativity. My goal is to expand I Start Wondering into areas that encourage adults’ curiosity and engagement, especially in mid-life. I look forward to hearing what you think about these new additions.
Here’s to following our wonder!