First Encounter with the Station

Joy and Jerry have been staying at the stación Biológica Senda Darwin in Chiloe for several days. The schedule of the workshop is so intensive that we had a quite limited amount of time for sleeping. Jerry seems to be going through a change from a child to a teenager. Sometimes, our egos fight against each other. Although in the drawing exercise I said that I take every living as my co-inhabitants, most of the time Jerry is THE co-inhabitant.

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The drawing itself becomes a bizarre and enigmatic experience. In the first place, we are asked to pair a group and sit down in the grassland to drawing the other person. At the same time, we need to think about the other person’s habitat, habit, and his/her co-inhabitant. Alicia and I are in a group. We sit down and Alicia explains what we need to do. She speaks English smoothly which relieves my embarrassment of being incapable of speaking and understanding Spanish. At the beginning, it is awkward to watch another person face to face in such a close distance. That is probably for our previous knowledge of Social etiquette. She is smiling and looking at me. I could not evade her observation. I look at her and she could not evade my observation too. We are experiencing the bizarre experience of changing between a subject and an object. “I” am observing and at the same time, “I” am observed. During the exercise, I try to identify the most apparent appearance, just like the way I identify a plant, to observe the texture and color of the trunk, leave arrangement, flower, fruit, etc. While observing and drawing, I try firstly attend to her face and hair. Her fluffy and slightly curled black hair twists into a braid and drops casually over her left shoulder. There are some adorable freckles on her face. Her eyebrows are slender and compact, and her long eyelashes cover her bright eyes. She smiles like the autumn sunshine, warm and bright. I started to guess her habitat, habit, and co-inhabitant. I began to think about the urbanization level of Chile because I have an impression of more than 80% of the population living in cities, I guess she is one of the 80%. She is engaged in ecology-related learning and research, so I guess she needs to be staying in the field very frequently. Her bright smile makes me feel that she might have a dog or a cat. It turns out later that she has both. This is how I reason through but not randomly guess her 3Hs. After the first stage, we then returned to the class to share our drawing and conjecture with others. I find the sharing process very interesting. We frequently burst into laughter, mostly because of our hilarious paintings and everyone’s effort of trying to capture the most typical feature of his/her partner in some way.

After completing the first round of exercises, we started the second stage. Sitting down by back to back, this time we paint ourselves and finish describing the 3Hs of ourselves. The problem is that I don’t very often look into the mirror. Nor do I take selfies very often with my cellphone. It has been like that I forgot what I look like. I had to memorize what I look like. Soon, I solve this problem by thinking about my appearance, short hair, glasses, and a hoodie. But I don’t know where to put the wrinkles to show my age, on the cheeks or to the corner of my eyes? As I was hesitating, we are called back to the larger group. I did not draw my wrinkles, so this self-portrait is a young female. That is Joy more than twenty years ago. At that time, I lived almost in the field every day. My favorite thing to do was to chase the change of seasons in the hybrid of wilderness and cultivated landscape. During then, the co-residents are numerous trees, crabs and frogs in creeks and Li River, dragonflies, fireflies, aigrette, and owls. Finally, we returned to the class to introduce our self-portrait and our 3Hs. It is a reconnection moment to think about “who I am”.

In general, this is a novel approach to introduce and understand the 3Hs. In previous courses, with UNT students, we have introduced ourselves through presentations to get familiar with the framework of 3Hs. But this time it is a dissimilar and unique way, which allows me to look forward to other possible approaches of introducing 3Hs to new audiences in the future. This also implies that, in the field, the innovative way of education exceeds the traditional classroom education so much that it is hard for the latter to parallel in a way, even though classroom-based education has plenty of merits. The most amazing thing is the feature of immersing learning subjects in such a creative educational environment is a delightful experience in itself. Aristotle once says that eudaimonia is the highest end of a human being and reason is a requisite but not sufficiency to achieve eudaimonia. To be happy, we also need to cultivate different virtues in various scenarios. Now we are in the field. What virtues do we need to cultivate? Within the framework of field environmental philosophy which places an emphasis on the dynamics among the teacher, learner, and their environment, the creativity of conveying information, imparting knowledge, asking and answering questions, and cultivate environmental virtues seems to be infinite. I could not stop thinking about the unique biophysical environment we are in and enjoying the dramatic consonance of this opening process. I could not stop expecting what I am going to learn and experience in the coming days, and how we could cultivate our virtues for the good of both humans and the environment by learning ecology and reflecting on ethics. To sum up a little bit, this exercise has begotten the journey of discovery in many aspects. I have imagined what I can do and what could be expected in an accessible future.

Next, I will briefly share my experience at the Station. If I have to use several words to describe my rudimentary encounter with the Station, I will use three words: awe, link, and intimacy. Awe comes from my observation of the unique biodiversity of the miniature forest. The miniature forest is so generous at showing her beauty. The awe also comes from my preliminary understanding of the development of the Station, of the tenacity of so many people embedding their hard work on the mission of the stewardship. The awe also comes from the understanding of ecological research. Teachers in the station are so knowledgeable. They not only know about the textbooks but also have a comprehensive comprehension of the field. Awe also comes from my observation of students’ enthusiasm for knowledge, learning attitude, and autonomy in daily life.  I visualized the next generation of all different types of professional environmentalists. Awe comes even more from my admiration of the resilience of nature, from organisms to ecosystems, to ecological processes, to the restoration of ecological experiences. This land is no longer a land for firewood, but a place to provide multiple functions of education, research, ecotourism, habitats for so many co-inhabitants, and many other services that we need to explore. The second term is the link. I feel that the day that I arrived at Chiloe, I linked to the person who I was years ago, the beautiful time before I became a graduate student at age 23. In the Station, I have a better connection to Nature, which produces a mixture sense of loathing and melancholy. I will loath a lifestyle that turns accessing to nature into just vocation. I will be carrying on a melancholy because I realize that it is a luxury to have such convenient access to endemic diversity. I also have a better connection with Jerry. We are conducting a collaborative writing project at the Station regarding the entire week. Hopefully, Jerry could have a better connection with nature this time. We hiked a lot when we were in Xi’an and he liked those activities. After moving to Denton, we even seldom walk to any forest due to our intensive schedule every day. I had the worries of Jerry becoming one of those nature deficit disorder kids due to both increased frequency of using electronic equipment and decreased opportunities to access nature. It might be just a bias from a mom who happens to be an environmental philosopher. I expect his staying in the Station connects him with something he aspires. I have linked to many people. I renewed my connection with Terrance, Javi, and “Juan the senior”, built a new connection to “Juan the junior”, Pablo, Christina, Camila, Karina, Alicia, Emma, and many other students, which as networks among people and as a symbol of relationalism are very much appreciated in Chinese culture. The third term is about intimacy. In the old forest, frequently I see several species of mosses, liverworts, hornworts, and lichens that are usually intertwined with each other. That is a world of indifference to the difference between “I” and the Other. Their distributions require me to rethink the philosophy of intimacy. It is also a great challenge to reconsider the real meaning of intimacy. In a time we own a technology and social networks that could connect people, people, and the local environment, people and distant environment, even people and the planet, to what extent this broad connection could carry on this intimacy in all those connections in all different scales without alienate ourselves as individuals, communities, and even larger collectives from the environment? We should learn from mosses. They achieve everything without causing much irritation to the environment. That is Wuwei. Mosses are Taoists.