Posted by: Reena Ramos

  • 11/12/2019

In appreciation of not knowing: Letter from the Executive Director

Dear Land Lovers,

Sketch by Mary (Dustin) Gustafson

As many of you know, trees are my primary draw to nature. But I’m also fascinated by many other aspects of nature, including bogs.

While my interest in trees continues to lead me to learn all I can about them, my interest in bogs takes me in a different direction: I like not knowing a lot about bogs. I like that bogs are still more mystery to me than facts.

I like wondering…how deep is the floating mat? How long has it been forming? Is the bottom-most layer hundreds of years old—or thousands? I like not knowing exactly what causes some bogs to be more acidic than others. I like not knowing if I’ll make it out of a bog unscathed. (Bogs tend to offer hazards [to humans] such as poison sumac, rattlesnakes and floating mats’ thin spots you can fall through.)

While I like what I do know about bogs, I don’t want too much information to interfere with my enjoyment of them. I often hear people say, “I wish I knew more about the plants and other things in the preserves.” Loving their preserve visits, they feel that if they knew more, they’d love their visits even more. Perhaps…but perhaps not. I’ve learned to appreciate my ignorance of certain natural systems and things.

For me, some natural things are better enjoyed when not I’m not constrained by either names or in-depth understanding.

I like that nature provides countless things that confuse me. When I know very little about a natural thing, I can directly appreciate what I observe: color, shape, what it’s doing, where it is, etc. However, because such observations add to my knowledge, I never can stay completely ignorant. This helps explain what’s so special when you or I see something new to us—it’s the only time we’ll ever experience it in that way.

So enjoy the discovery, enjoy your ignorance. It won’t last! It’s an ephemeral gift. Once you observe, you learn. Don’t let lack of knowledge keep you out of the preserves. Ignorance can be bliss. I think it’s a great asset to bring along.


Jason Kissel, executive director

P.S. Nature is complex and diverse, so the more you study and learn, there’s always more mystery. Ignorance of nature. Knowledge of nature. Both can leave you delighted, perplexed and enthralled.