Purple coneflowers and other native plants in front of house

As a naturalist and lover of natural landscapes, I am always seeking ways of making my home landscape look its best while using native plantings.

It all started 15 years ago when building my house. I was determined to stick with a non-traditional landscape around the foundation of the structure. After all, the house was in a particularly beautiful natural setting so why not use that to showcase native plantings.

photo of rainbow colored paper arranged in a design

I have a confession to make. I am a data nerd. I love a good spreadsheet, seeing all those numbers (data points) neatly arrayed. But I am also an artist. And at first glance those two would seem to be incompatible. But they are not.

light streaming through trees

 “I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house."
Nathaniel Hawthorne


When was the last time you noticed the light? I mean really noticed it. Not the, “oh it’s getting dark, I should turn on a light” notice, think deeper than that. As the days grow shorter, I find myself studying light. As a trained artist and photographer, perhaps that is not so surprising. Photography quite literally means, “Light writing”. But what is light?

If you have watch any television, scrolled through a social media feed or spent a few moments reading tweets, then you know that political ads, opinions, and half-truths have built to a fevered pitch, this first week in November. And depending on the ad, we are told we are facing Armageddon, the next great depression or a raging out of control pandemic. It is enough to make one crawl under the covers and hibernate.

looking up from the ground into the sky between tall trees with green leaves

Sitting in the woods, I hear the sound of fall through the voice of the trees. Trees talk in swooshes, crackles and this time of year in a rustle. One only has to hear this distinctive sound to know the seasons have truly changed. As Walt Whitman wrote, “Go and sit in a grove or woods, with one or more of those voiceless companions, and read the foregoing, and think.” So as I sit here listening to fall, I contemplate the trees.

items from a science classroom. pencils, a beaker, and science textbook

Sitting in Miss Hoover’s seventh grade science class I often thought how magical science seemed. Secrets of how things worked and behaved or how adding one chemical to another changed the color, all of it seemed almost unbelievable. In fact, it was more than just a magic trick. All of it was the result of painstaking observations, questions, experiments and data, always data.

By Joy Clough, Cook County Master Naturalist, July 2020

We think we have five senses: sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste. But there are more: imagination, curiosity, memory, insight, play, and emotions that range from fear to surprise to delight. Engaging our outer and inner senses fosters our health, and nature is just waiting to help us become more alive. 

man and woman fist bumping each other

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” John Muir

What do you think of when you hear the word “community”? Do you picture the town or city where you live? Your neighborhood? A group of people? Did any of you include plants or animals in your picture?

The dictionary definition is “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common”. As someone who trained in community ecology, I look at community in a slightly different way.

woman sitting on a fallen tree stump reflecting

I don’t know about the rest of you, but this year has made me tired of technology and noise. Zoom meetings, Skype chats, cluttered inboxes, social media, cars, trains, and sirens, it never seems to end. In fact, close your eyes right now and listen to the world around you. What do you hear? Are there cars going by? A train? How about air conditioning noises? Your kids playing (arguing over a toy)? Most of us are bombarded every day by a barrage of sounds, information and activities.

question marks on blue, pink, yellow and orange post it notes

“Why”? This just might be the single most recognized question asked by children everywhere. This simple word can open the door to a world of discovery for a child and annoy parents all at the same time. Behold the power of questions.

sense of wonder

One of the books I treasure the most and has made a lasting impression on me is Rachel Carson’s Sense of Wonder. This short book (originally written as a magazine article) is chocked full of memorable quotes and inspiration. For all of us navigating this new “normal” it is a poignant reminder of the wonder that surrounds us every day if we just look. And for those with children in our lives, it is a gentle reminder of the power we have to provide them with the building blocks for a long-lasting sense of wonder, long after childhood is over.

lady journaling outside in a notebook

 “Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

dirt path through trees

By Rose Moore

Master Naturalist – January 2020

One of the greatest pleasures I have in my daily outdoor adventures is discovering new things.

Just because it is winter, there is no absence of wonders to be found.

Recently, on a mild, snow - less morning, I decided to veer off my usual trails and search for signs of life in other areas of the property.