Featured Blog: Nature Remains

This week I’m talking with Nina of Nature Remains. Nina lives in an 1835 farmhouse in rural Ohio, transplanted to the south from the northeast just over fifteen years ago. Although she spends most days indoors at a desk job unrelated to the outdoor world, she also grabs boots and camera each day and spends time exploring the natural world around her. A love for everything outdoors, fostered from an early age, and concerns for its preservation, are sentiments she hopes to share through her photography and writing.

Nina, why did you begin blogging?

Until April of 2007, I never knew much about blogs. I probably, in fact, had never even read one. I’d never used a digital camera. Never wrote more than a few words on a page to a friend. And certainly never considered my life’s discoveries worthy of documentation on a site others would see.

But a book on a shelf, Letters from Eden, and a chance to meet its author whose words, though never before heard, were wonderfully familiar, changed all that. Julie Zickefoose read from her work, signed books for the teary-eyed listeners, and invited me to visit…her blog. I’m sure Julie’s the driving force behind many others, too.

So, simply stated, now I blog for 2 reasons:

I love nature, and

I want others to love it, too.

I have a very real concern for the preservation of the natural world. On a local level, from seeing open lands and farmland around me consumed by development or taken over by commerce; to a global scale, where tropical rainforest is destroyed and the polar ice cap shrinks daily. In my lifetime alone, now approaching 50 years, the change is so noticeable, that I worry others’ casual concern may distract us until too much has been lost.

And, although I can’t claim to do work in the trenches of environmental conservation, I can be that person standing, looking up, finger pointing at something lovely–something that others might not know to stop and find there. But by seeing, learn to love.

A quote by Baba Dioum tells of my passion perfectly,

“In the end we will conserve only what we love;
we will love only what we understand;
and we will understand only what we are taught.”

I have the privilege to live and walk each day in a beautiful place, nothing exotic, but, nevertheless lovely—if you look at it, knowing it is so. Places we’ve stopped seeing, in our busy lives, passing quickly by.

Simple places, like the edge of a soybean field or the thin strip of woods separating my neighbor’s land from mine.

Captured, I hope well enough, in photographs and words, that when another reads it, it becomes more–and, either plants a seed or waters one within.

The time spent, each day, toward this end–hours, an honest estimate. Photos are cropped and corrected to represent accurate findings. Facts checked in field guides. Words chosen. Tweak, tweak, tweak.

But, in the end, knowing another has felt it—is my reward.

What’s unique or different about your blog?

I’ve known for a while that I’m different. And although I don’t hold a biological science degree, my parents did— both Ph.D.s. (Which might explain the snakes and frogs, and bugs and slugs, and birds and bees.) As a child, what was ordinary for me, I now know was privilege. So now, life is my laboratory. I am the citizen scientist.

The Walt Whitman quote that I use in my header fits the life I lead perfectly.

“After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, and so on – have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear – what remains? Nature remains.”

And so, I step out from my other indoor world, into Nature each day, as so many others could do. Hiking or canoeing, birding, exploring. What I’m able to uncover, others can, too. I wonder if part of the interest is simply curiosity at what I might find next—this middle-aged woman, wandering her back yard in Ohio, snakes hanging from the rafters of the old country home.

My knowledge has more breadth than depth. And what I don’t know well, I read up on.

I walk a careful line between discovery and sensitivity, wanting to show no disgust at what others find creepy. Touching the essence of their unappreciated world. But, in so doing, urging others to reach for it, too. And hoping they make contact.

How do you promote your blog and attract readers?

Blog promotion is tough, but important–if I’m serious about sharing thoughts and changing attitudes across a wide audience. And, for the time invested, I like to know someone reads what I create.

I’ve installed StumbleUpon buttons, which I’m thrilled (and thankful!) to have some readers use.

And I participate in carnivals when I have appropriate content, and hope exposure in international memes like Sky Watch introduces Nature Remains to an audience that will return another time.

But since all my content is original, it can be somewhat predictable. If it’s winter, there will be snow–nothing sensational there.

Just nature at its finest. That’s the purist in me.

Any comments on being part of the nature blogger community?

The NBN is wonderful. They’re the people you can count on to stop and admire the cool salamander you just found and stay to hear all about it, even if your fingernails have mud under them. Or the veteran naturalists who are eager to help you with an ID, even if you’re missing an obvious field mark.

And, maybe more so for me than others, as I don’t have professional contacts in this area, they’re my support system. The ones who accept me—warts and all, and give advice to the one uncertain of her future and where the 20,000 photos and 400 writings may lead!

Has blogging changed how you think about nature? or how you write?

Absolutely! I’m more eager to explore, knowing there’s someone to share it with—just as a trip is more exciting, having a friend traveling beside you. And I seek newness more than ever—a great motivator to learn.

My vernal pool series of last spring is the perfect example. Two relatively unnoticed spring puddles I’ve walked past on our property for 15 years, never looking beneath the surface… then, discovering salamanders migrating to them on a warm, wet night.

Discovering, because I was watching. Waiting for something to see.

My writing has evolved, too, from something more factual, to what might now be described as more reflective or intimate. I find I struggle sometimes to get the words just right. And comments from readers help me know when I’ve hit the mark.

Ironically, what I toss off quickly, often is loved best.

I’m always hoping I’ve found more than a string of words.

Any words of wisdom for new nature bloggers?

Define your purpose—keeping a nature journal, maintaining contacts with friends and family, sharing artistic endeavors, instructing or educating others in an area of expertise. It’s different for all of us. Then make a space you’re proud of—one that reflects a part of you. The rest will take care of itself.

Anything else you’d like me to ask you, or that you’d like to volunteer without being asked?

Just a big, “Thank you!” for all the behind the scenes effort that the NBN crew puts forth for this community. And for being invited to step off my site for a chat. Getting thoughts into words always makes them more real.

Thank you, Nina.

You can read more from Nina at Nature Remains and see more of her photos in her flickr photostream. Her favorite posts are:

4 Comments

  1. February 23, 2009 at 11:11 AM | Permalink

    Thanks for interviewing Nina. I was excited to learn that she would be featured here. I really enjoyed this.

  2. February 23, 2009 at 9:53 PM | Permalink

    Heather, it was my pleasure. Nina’s a great correspondent, and I learned from our exchanges just as I do from her blog.

  3. February 23, 2009 at 11:13 PM | Permalink

    Wren,

    You certainly did a delightful job of interviewing Nina. She’s on the top of my list of nature bloggers. Not only can she deliver the words, but she delivers life in a lovely way.

    What I like about her most is how she finds joy right outside her back door. We share that in common.

    Thanks, Wren.

    Mary

  4. March 8, 2009 at 10:00 AM | Permalink

    Very late to the party, but this is a gorgeous piece of writing, and the photos just knock me out. I’m so proud to have inspired Nina’s gift to the nature-loving world, and I wonder how many people are noticing more because of her. Hers is a rare and greatly distilled talent.