Great Idea #2
Ok, this is probably not an idea you have thought of recently. However, the lowly plant press has changed the way we see the world. These little botanist’s dream-tools have enabled folks to collect and categorize much of what we think of as the natural world. Without them, we wouldn’t know nearly as much about the earth as we do now. In fact, it is quite possible that we would not have much of a sense of that over-arching theory of life on this planet known as evolution.
Last week I went to NYC to the Natural History Museum to see an exhibit concerning the life and work of Charles Darwin. During his famous journey on the HMS Beagle—commanded by Captain Robert FitzRoy, himself an eminent and complicated scientist—Darwin and his associates collected hoards of plant specimens, pressed, mounted, sketched and described them. All of which helped the scientific community to see the patterns and cycles that led to the theory of Natural Selection that gets people so worked up today.
None of this would have been possible without the little piece of technology known as the plant press. It is quite clever, really, just two flat, heavy things. Growing up, I would press leaves between the pages of a large book, for example. I stopped doing this sort of thing a while ago, but apparently the habit stuck with other members of my family.
My brother Dan gave my son a plant press for Christmas this year and we are looking forward to putting it to use on the local flora. Sure, you might say that we won’t discover anything new here in greater suburbia and, in a sense, you are correct! However, how many different kinds of plants can you describe where you live? Do you think there might be more? What the press provides is the same thing that binoculars and a good bird book, or a telescope does. They help us make our own discoveries. They give us a way to connect to the wonder of creation in a way that we otherwise would be unable to. That is a crucial part of our human experience.
Being fully human requires us to question the world around us. We need to find ways to connect to the many truths that we encounter every day. Without that agile questing mind, we can end up missing such glorious facts as evolution and such giddy delights as squished plants. We can fail to respect our environment and each other.
So I say “press on”…