Familiar vs. Unfamiliar

By Sydney Chandler

Who we are is, in part, based on the places we’ve learned to call home and our interactions with each location. The visitor center currently displays “Then and Now: Somali Stories through Art”. Visiting this exhibit prior to exploring the grounds is a great kick start to reflecting on the life experiences we have and the places that host these experiences.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFamiliar Arboretum Landscape

Consider walking Three Mile Drive for the first time. A rock: a lumpy shape, mild color variation, a snowy cover, eroded holes, and ample moss and lichen. For some, this rock might be familiar – memories of past adventures, playground time, or picnic-ing on a sunny day. For others, it’s new. Does this rock fit into your mental picture of home?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA Rock to Observe

Rich biodiversity means that visitors get to experience different degrees of familiarity. For example: tree bark. If it’s familiar, what new detail is present? Perhaps it’s how securely the bark is attached to the tree, that the pieces are large, that moss grows in spots, or that bark grows in layers. And if it’s new, are there connections to make? Perhaps it’s the dark color, the smooth spots on the back-side, or the tree’s size. Regardless of familiarity, more exploration is possible. With continued learning comes increased openness to the unfamiliar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATree bark

Our mental pictures of home are unique. Exploring provides opportunities to dive deeper into the familiar and challenge us with the unfamiliar. It helps us reflect on places we’ve called home. What does home look like for you?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGazing Up a Tall Tree

Sydney Chandler is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

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