My problems were solved when my mother scanned and sent to me my first (and only) herbarium. I went to school in 1987, and upon finishing our first form we’d all got this task, to create a herbarium. My mother and I made it together in 1988, and I must be honest and say that it was actually her who made most of the job, although I did have my share. This, for instance, is the title page with my first-form handwriting. This is a poem by a Russian children’s poet, Valentine Berestov, and it tells of the author’s amazement at seeing different flowers out together in herbarium, even though “in the wild” they probably didn’t know about each other.
I must admit that I never liked biology or botany at school. I might have mentioned on the blog my Biology teacher, who was a Chemistry teacher by her uni degree, and who actually was up to teaching any subject, including History and Law. Her method of teaching, unfortunately, boiled down to reading from a textbook and drawing tables, and naturally perhaps, the lessons were far from engaging.
Believe it or not, but the first time we spoke about the environmental protection was at the English lesson. We had an improvised “environmental press-conference”, over which I presided. I introduced the topics and speakers, from “environmentalists” and “journalists” to “witnesses” of environmental catastrophes. The “speakers” discussed at length the pollution, and the green-house effect, and the animal protection, and the global warming. Yet I should be honest again and say that the only thing that has then benefited from such lesson was my English vocabulary, and not the awareness of the environmental problems.
I think in part the problem may have to do with how the subject of Environmental Studies is taught at schools. In those early years at school I had the lessons in what could literally be translated as Naturology. And I can never forget a quiz we had had when we had to answer questions and tick boxes. One of the question was to classify the objects by their nature – “animate” or “inanimate”. Everything was OK, until I saw “flowers”. I thought of photosynthesis, of everything I knew then about flowers, and ticked “animate”. Turned out, this was the wrong answer. To this day I cannot understand, why. If I go from Latin, it makes sense: “anima” is “soul”, and flowers, naturally, don’t have soul. But neither do animals, one would imagine, yet they do belong to the “animate” world.
And just as I was writing this post, I remember about Hans Christian Andersen again. I was sure he had had a tale about the four seasons, but when I went to look for it I found another tale, which I always used love, it is called The Elder-Tree Mother. The elder-tree tea is a great popular remedy against the cold, but Andersen presented the elder-tree as a dryad, whose spirit told the protagonist, a little boy, wonderful stories. Let me quote this passage to you:
And so I looked my herbarium, and I saw things I’ve almost forgotten about, or haven’t recalled for years. Indeed, as the works of some historians would prove to us, Nature is the cradle of our Memory. This Memory is living and surviving, from generation to generation, and if this is not enough to persuade us in the necessity of its protection, what else will?
Hans Christian Andersen, The Elder-Tree Mother (in English)
The same in Russian
The same in Danish
The same in German
For translations in other European languages, check Hans Christian Andersen Centre.
Julia’s Herbarium 1988 Photoset on Flickr.