Empress Garden, Kavade Mala, Ghorpadi, Pune

Attention is the beginning of devotion

A line of black ants walking around the tree trunk, a spider web on the branches with bits of spider food hanging around, red bugs on of the branches of the tree, a group of Mynas creating a ruckus on the tree, weaver ants building their nest meticulously, squirrels scurrying around looking for food. This is what I get to read every Monday as I enter the data collected by our citizen science volunteers for the Adopt a Tree program*. Their observations always transport me in time and space to the tree being observed and the very minute details happening on and around the beloved tree. It always makes me wonder how a single tree can support so much lifeform and how so many of these things just go unnoticed if not paid attention to. This brings me to the title of this blog, a beautifully written quote by Mary Oliver “Attention is the beginning of devotion”. Only when we start paying attention to things can we be truly devoted and dedicated to it. Be it our work, our relations with people, or an activity as simple as tree monitoring. She emphasized how ‘looking without noticing’ is a problem in this age of distractions. Trees and plants are such living beings that can simply go unnoticed if not paid attention to, but they form such an integral part of the environment.

Paying attention to something helps you slow down and keeps you grounded in the present moment. Once you are grounded in the present moment, free from the worries of the past and the stress of the future you are truly happy. Probably that is the very reason why studies are proving staying connected to Nature is good for your physical and mental well-being. That is also why we feel so at peace with ourselves amidst nature. One of our volunteers made a beautiful video encompassing her experience of tree monitoring and titled it ‘A Peace of me’. And while it was quite witty, I thought it was so true as well. So many people are devoid of this connection with nature that they crave going to places that are far off and serene just to escape their daily lives, and hectic schedules and get some peace. While there’s no harm in doing so it’ll save us a lot of trouble if we look after, nurture, and propagate more such spaces in our backyards. Only when the connection is established will we be able to pay more attention, appreciate nature, and be able to work to preserve it for our good in whatever capacity we can.

*The Adopt a Tree program is a beautiful initiative run in collaboration with SeasonWatch wherein citizen volunteers are allotted a tree which is monitored by them for different parameters of phenology (cyclical changes in a tree) once every week for 15 mins. These observations will help us understand if and how trees are being affected by climate change in the long run. To contribute and become a part of this program contact RRBCEA.

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