For Release September 1, 1998

Watch the World Around You!

by Chuck Otte, County Extension Agent

Last Thursday evening, in between rounds of thunder showers, there was a fascinating sight. Thousands of dragonflies were moving through the area. I imagine the storms were funneling them into calmer air pockets and pushing them in from the north. As the second round of storms got closer the dragonflies became very concentrated in and around shrubs and small trees where they were obviously going to take refuge from the impending storm.

Saturday I had the pleasure of driving through the Flint Hills to Matfield Green for a meeting. It was a glorious morning and I drove the entire way with the window down and the air conditioning turned off. The hills were finally starting to look like late summer, but they were still amazingly green for the end of August. But it wasn’t so much the looks of the hills that made me realize that autumn was creeping closer, it was the smells in the air. The cool morning air was first filled with the smells of crop fields as I wound down K-57 through Geary County.

The sweet smell of a corn field, the fresh smell of an alfalfa field that was cut the day before and the pungent smell of a milo field streamed by in random order. But as I got to Council Grove and headed south over the hills, the crop fields stayed behind and all I had was the native prairie and the rosiny smells of sunflowers, ragweed and goldenrod. An aroma that you can only understand if you’ve walked or ridden a horse through the pastures in late summer.

Sunday was spent doing odd jobs at the in-laws. The day was filled with an endless flow of insects. Monarch and Cloudless Sulfur butterflies were slowly working their way south after a too short summer in the north. Three or four different cicadas droned on in the trees, shrubs and weeds taking flight in a shrill alarm if I ventured too close. A family of chickadees made their displeasure known when I got too close to THEIR hackberry tree. Grasshoppers of all shapes sizes and colors were leaping from the grass with every step. Insects everywhere were starting to exhibit that restless energy that they seem to develop as summer draws to a close.

Then I sat down and quietly watched the cars buzz by on the highway. I thought about how many people were going down the same roads that I traveled and never saw or heard or smelled everything that I did. They were preoccupied with getting to the next appointment, the next town, the next stop. Hurry here to do this, rush there to do that. School’s started and the kids are busy and next weekend is Labor Day and we have seven things to do in three days....

STOP! I was busy all weekend too, and yet I saw and heard and smelled all those things. Open up your mind to the world outside ‘your’ world. It’s all there, all you have to do is turn on your receivers and tune in to the world around you. I truly have a difficult time understanding how so many people can miss so much of the natural world around them. And unlike so much of the man made world around us the only cost is a few seconds of your time to become aware. My wife and I tried power walking once. It didn’t work because every couple hundred feet there was something we wanted to stop and look at.

During the next seven days try something new. Every day take the time to look, listen and smell. Look beyond your normal boundaries. Examine the plants in your yard up close. Instead of seeing a stand of trees take the extra few seconds to look at the individual trees. Watch a grasshopper on your sidewalk or a praying mantis in your rose bushes. Sit outside your house at sunset and watch birds coming into a roost. Walk out first thing in the morning and let your nose explore for you. It’s a grand world around us and this is a season of rapid change. Each season is different and once it’s gone it’ll never be exactly repeated. Nature has no instant replay so you’ve got to experience it the first time around!


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