Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Out of the House, Out of my Head

I drove out to Cibolo Nature Center this morning to take a class preparatory to monitoring a heron rookery. I was a bit late because it's ages since I've been out there and the directions on the website leave something to be desired (it's Business 87 you want), but this should be something I can do and I'm glad I went.

The trouble with getting on top of the house and yard is that the attempt to do so doesn't get me out of the actual house, to which I've been pretty chained since the renovation started. The Sims game was not guiltless, but it was not the whole problem, either. Mere bodily stagnation, surrounded by the same stimuli all day, made the attention ruts hard to get out of. Ironically, by paying attention to herons, it becomes easier to focus on re-organizing the non-fiction.

Jeans may be a harder proposition. The trouble with sewing is, it's not intrinsically interesting to me. I got into it for the practical reason that stores don't stock clothes that fit me. Ever. I believe the last time my figure was fashionable was about 1489; and I'm not talking weight, but weight distribution. Clothes didn't fit when I was a size 10, either. But I'll get to the point I can do it again, now that the brain muscles are getting back into shape for dealing with things outside my own head.

Anyway, a number of questions were asked today by the crowd of volunteers that could not be answered. The data we assemble will be referenced for decades to come by people trying to answer the questions we asked this morning.

This is why volunteers to monitor heron rookeries, and work in archeological sites and labs, and transcribe historical documents, and take species censuses, and sift road cuts for fossils, and track thousands of datapoints in thousands of fields, are needed. Funds are limited. The world is infinite. We don't know - all kinds of things that we ought to know. That would be cool to know. That are vastly important to know, if the last hominid species on earth is going to survive with any kind of quality of life.

And this sort of activity is exactly what we need when we feel stuck in a rut, unable to go forward. Something to shake us up, enable us to be useful, and connect with reality independent of our own habits, egos, and priorities.

I'm not one of those people who goes around volunteering all the time. I generally have an agenda; and sooner or later I'll have to shut myself up in my head again in order to get the next book written (because there's always a next book to be written, even on days when I'm positive I'll never sell another one - that's got nothing to do with whether I write or not). I'm not even a particularly good volunteer when I do it, certainly not the one who becomes the expert in any one thing. But something always needs to be cleaned, hauled, or held, so I'm not often useless, though it's arguable I get more good out of my volunteerism than anybody else.

But I can live with that.


  1. Good for you Peni! We see great blues and whites fly over our house. And there's a low-water crossing where they hang out (even though there's hardly any water in it due to this damn drought.) But I've never seen a rookery. It'd be neat to keep an eye on one. Have fun!

  2. The whites will be great egrets. I can show you a rookery next time you come to town in spring or early summer, if you like - there's an island on Elmendorf Lake, on the OLLU campus, where crowds of cattle, snowy, and great egrets, plus little blue herons, nest every year; and I know of two yellow-crowned night heronries on readily accessible public land here - one on Woodlawn Lake, and one right on the Riverwalk.

    Any of which, by the way, would provide a reasonable retirement or student project for a self-starting citizen scientist. All you'd need would be a scope, a notebook, a time commitment, and the willingness to educate yourself, and you'd be set.