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kottke.org posts about nature

Stopping time by sitting in a forest for 24 hours

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Feb 05, 2020

Jesse Gardner on Unsplash, Yosemite Valley, United States

Mark O’Connell felt like his life was getting busier, faster, he felt constantly short of time, which might sound familiar to many of us. He decided to try a natural treatment by spending 24 hours alone in the forest doing… nothing. Which is exactly the point of this “ritual whereby you stepped out of the flux of the world, in order to gain some perspective on the flux, and your place within it.”

At some point in my late 30s, I recognised the paradoxical source of this anxiety: that every single thing in life took much longer than I expected it to, except for life itself, which went much faster, and would be over before I knew where I was. […]

But it was also the sheer velocity of change, the state of growth and flux in which my children existed, and the constant small adjustments that were necessary to accommodate these changes.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, wilderness retreat groups exist, starting with a week in the woods with the group, and ending with a “wilderness solo” alone with your thoughts and as little as possible to do, some even forgoing meals so they don’t use the prep and eating as distraction.

There was an extraordinary transformative power, he insisted, in the practice of sitting and doing nothing, and thereby slowing your mind and body to a meditative rhythm in nature. […]

And as you become untethered from your accustomed orientation in time - from always knowing what time it is, how long you have to do the thing you’re doing, when you have to stop doing it to do the next thing - you begin to glimpse a new perspective on the anxiety that arises from that orientation. Because this anxiety, which amounts to a sort of cost-benefit analysis of every passing moment, is a quintessentially modern predicament.

A recommend read to see how O’Connell acclimated to the stillness, to observing leaves and running water, and how in just that 25 hour, he saw a change in his perception of time and boredom.

Header image: Jesse Gardner on Unsplash.

The most difficult photographs in nature

posted by Ainsley Drew   Oct 05, 2009

Outside magazine recently asked a handful of nature photographers to discuss the most difficult shots they ever captured. Philipp Engelhorn selected a photograph taken on the frozen tundra of China:

Winters in northern Xinjiang, China, rival those in Siberia: Forty below zero is normal. We’d gone in the fall to find an eagle hunter and make a handshake deal to follow him. But when we actually showed up two months later, he told us he never expected us to return and had no time for us. So we did the worst thing ever and set out by horse-drawn sleigh across the frozen countryside to find an eagle hunter.

The images that accompany the article are incredible and make most day jobs look like an all-day pancake buffet.

New species of ghostshark uses its head

posted by Ainsley Drew   Sep 29, 2009

A new species of ghostshark was found off the coast of California. The odd-looking creature is a bit of an evolution-born exhibitionist: the males float through the deep with a club-like sex organ protruding from their heads. Scientists are unsure why this is the case, though some speculate that it is to grasp the female during mating. The Eastern Pacific black ghostshark joins the ranks of a special group referred to as “big black chimaeras.” This classification is reserved for an ever-growing clique of sea creatures that feature characteristics that aren’t found on other living creatures, though one could argue that the males of many species often combine their sex organs and their heads.

A newt that slices and dices

posted by Ainsley Drew   Sep 28, 2009

The Spanish ribbed newt has an interesting method of dealing with perceived threats. The creature activates its ribcage like mini switchblades, forcing them through its own skin. Even more remarkable, the newt’s highly adapted immune system and collagen-cased bones allow it to heal quickly and without risk of infection, which makes it one job interview away from a position with the X-Men.

Sea lilies

posted by Ainsley Drew   Mar 30, 2009

Crinoids, or sea lilies, are marine animals that resemble plants. Unlike its garden namesake, the sea lily doesn’t stay still, but creeps along to avoid becoming prey for sea urchins and other predators.

It seems they’ve also developed the ability to “shed” their stalk-like appendages.

“It’s the lizard’s tail strategy,” said Baumiller, who is also a curator in the UM Museum of Paleontology. “The sea lily just leaves the stalk end behind. The sea urchin is preoccupied going after that, and the sea lily crawls away.” And the speed at which they move—-three to four centimeters per second—-suggests that “in a race with a sea urchin, the sea lily would probably win.”

When on the move, they resemble graceful spiders in a hurry.

Crinoids are also the state fossil of Missouri, and inspired the design of Pokemon characters Lileep and Cradily.

Forget chimeras, let’s outfit animals with gadgets

posted by Jason Kottke   May 03, 2005

Forget chimeras, let’s outfit animals with gadgets. Ideas include odor respirators for dogs, mice with night-vision goggles, and metal detectors for fish (to steel clear of fishermen’s hooks).

Short series of photos from an Iraqi sandstorm

posted by Jason Kottke   May 02, 2005

Short series of photos from an Iraqi sandstorm.