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How To Observe Nature
by [?]

There is all the difference between taking a walk simply for exercise, for some special errand, or to enjoy conversation with one’s friends, and the sort of quiet observant stroll I am going to ask my kind readers to take with me to-day.

This beautiful world is full of wonders of every kind, full of evidences of the Great Creator’s wisdom and skill in adapting each created thing to its special purpose. The whole realm of nature is meant, I believe, to speak to us, to teach us lessons in parables–to lead our hearts upward to God who made us and fitted us also for our special place in creation.

In the nineteenth Psalm David speaks of the two great books God has given us for our instruction. In the first six verses he speaks of the teachings of the book of nature and the rest of the Psalm deals with the written Word of God.

We acknowledge and read the Scriptures as the book which reveals the will of God and His wondrous works for the welfare of mankind, but how many fail to give any time or thought to reading the book of nature! Thousands may travel and admire beautiful scenery, and derive a certain amount of pleasure from nature, just glancing at each object, but really observing nothing, and thus failing to learn any of the lessons this world’s beauty is intended to teach, they might almost as well have stayed at home save for the benefit of fresh air and change of scene. The habit of minute and careful observation is seldom taught in childhood, and is not very likely to be gained in later life when the mind is filled with other things. Yet if natural objects are presented attractively to the young, how quickly they are interested! Question after question is asked, and unconsciously a vast amount of information may be conveyed to an intelligent child’s mind by a simple, happy little chat about some bird or insect. This is admirably shown in a chapter on Education in the Life of Mrs. Sewell. I would strongly urge every mother to read and follow the advice there given.

We will now start for our garden walk. We have not taken many steps before we are led to pause and inquire why there should be little patches of grey-looking mud in the small angles of the brickwork of the house. Opening one of the patches with a penknife we find a hollow cell, and in it some green caterpillars just alive but not able to crawl. Now I see that the cell is the work of one of the solitary mason wasps; she brings the material, forms the cell, and when nearly finished lays her egg at the bottom and provides these half-killed caterpillars as food for the young grub when it is hatched, and by the time they are eaten the grub becomes a pupa and then hatches into a young wasp to begin life on its own account. One day I saw a bee go into a hole in the brickwork of the house, and getting my net I waited to capture it; after about five minutes the bee came out and flew into the net. It proved to be a solitary mason bee, and was doubtless forming a place to lay its egg, only, unlike the wasp, she would give the young grub pollen from the stamens of flowers to feed upon instead of green caterpillars. I remember seeing a mass of clay which had been formed into a wasp’s nest by one of the solitary species, under the flap of a pembroke table in an unused room. A maid in dusting lifted up the flap, and down fell a quantity of fine, dry mud with young grubs in it which would soon have hatched into wasps, and revealed their rather strange nesting-place. I have in my collection a very interesting hornet’s nest, which was being constructed in the hollow of an old tree. I happened to notice a hornet fly into the opening, and, looking in, there was a small beginning of a nest. It hung from a kind of stalk and consisted of only eight cells, each having an egg at the bottom. I captured the two hornets, and though I watched for a long time no others ever came, so I imagine they were the founders of what would have been a colony in due time.