landscape painting

a walk in the woods - art or science?

Added on by rebecca kanfer.

This evening I read a rather refreshing article, "Noticing: How To Take A Walk In The Woods," by Adam Woods from the NPR website. The article is framed by a discussion of cultural and individual value - what we see as meaningful in our daily lives; I appreciate the discussion about the value of a simple act such as a walk in the woods. I am responding to the author's notion of what it means to "notice" and "observe" one's surroundings, and would like to interject the act of observing comes from a place of aesthetics and sensationalism before it is brought to one's scientific palette. 

The experience the author speaks of is equally or more so related to a phenomenon that is not quantitative at all. Thoreau, after all, is known for his poetry and writings about nature and beauty, as well as his astute observations and documentation of ecology and founding of 'naturalism'. One might say that he was inspired by nature enough to devote his life to the experience of nature and to understand the function of nature. When in nature, it is likely that one is acting as a scientist and an artist simultaneously. We are part of a culture driven by scientific thought and rationalized by what we can see and prove with logic and spreadsheets. For the record, I am not against the scientific method; in fact I believe that the creative process and imagination can be deepened and expanded with scientific intervention. Thanks to science we have learned to adapt ourselves and nature in a way that industry and culture can thrive, and ecologies are being defined in entirely new ways. With that said, the creative mind is equally important as rationalized thought, and is not used nearly enough.    

The Scientist and the Artist set off together to take a walk in the woods.

The Scientist stops short in front of a small white flower, stunned, and says, "Well my goodness. I can't believe this trillium is already coming into bloom, it must be almost 24 days ahead of its typical blooming period in this zone 4 climate. I must properly document this to share as evidence of global warming!"

The artist pauses to ponder the meaning of this early bloomer, thinking of how the small white flower symbolizes the grace and power one must poses to fulfill his or her dreams and life purpose. He lifts his gaze to his friend and says, "It is truly a miracle which lays here before us, a delicate white blossom that pops out at the eye amid the sea of monotonous browns and grays on the forest floor. Such brilliance it possesses to brighten our pathway in the midst of this month."  

The Artist then pauses to consider what the Scientist has said about regular bloom cycles - eluding to logic and reason of the existence of this flower, and then dismisses it. The same thought process travels through the Scientists mind, but in reverse. The two politely smile at one-another, take a final glimpse at the lone flower and continue their walk down the woodland pathway.