Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Above All Always Stay Curious

“What’s inside that flower Mr. Don?” a little girl asked me as we walked around our butterfly garden. We both stared together into a large, white hibiscus with a pink center. I honestly could not remember when I last looked that long or closely into a flower. My fascination got the better of me and when I didn’t answer right away she looked back at me with her big curious eyes and said, “Well?”

Without going into the detailed anatomy of the flower (which I am not sure I totally remember anyway) I quickly explained that this was where pollination happens and that is how the plants make more seeds to get more plants. She looked up at me again after staring what felt like forever back into the flower. “WOW!” she said grinning ear to ear, that is COOL,” and walked down the trail to join the other kids in the garden. Yes I thought to myself, how very, very cool for sure.

I came to realize many years ago that for some unexplained reason there are just some people that are not interested in the natural world. If a Bald Eagle came down and sat on their heads and built a nest they would just go on ignoring the falling sticks and fish bones that fell around their feet every day. Just so you know I have in no way given up on those folks just yet.

But at the same time I also discovered that there is one very important thing that unifies everyone that cares about and loves nature. Whether it is that young girl in the garden staring into the flower or scientists working on long term solutions for the environment. It is curiosity. It is the very same childhood curiosity that gives all of them the desire and drive to learn more and forever be fascinated and connected with the wonders of the natural world. In fact as I was writing this column I saw on the news that a curious 4-year-old-girl in Palo Alto, California,  found a species of stingless bee that no one had seen in more than 70 years. Now they will name the little bee after her, the Anika Bee. We never know where and how far that magical kind of curiosity will take us.

Still today my first steps into the woods and meadows brings me right back to my childhood curiosity and the many questions that I still search for. Yes, maybe more detailed than my 10- year-old self had back in the day, but still I wonder, why do birds migrate? Where do butterflies go in winter? And for that matter why is the sky blue, or sometimes not so much anymore, still pushes me up the next trail and down a future winding path.

It is my hope that despite life’s ups and downs, triumphs and tragedies, we never lose that curiosity that allowed us to love our first cardinal or get chills when we saw our first eagle. Let’s not let the news of the day, concerns of the future or dissenting disagreement get in the way of wondering how we can help a Monarch, stop climate change or save a stand of trees in your own neighborhood. Then maybe as our curiosity expands our view of the world it will also bring us closer together in a better understanding on how dependent we are on each other.

Stephen Hawking once said, “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”

See you in the Meadowlands.


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