I am yet another person making a plea for you to put down your phone, one more solicitor ranting about disengagement, because I’m afraid we are all heading toward a world of isolation, not only from each other, but from our environment.

Look down, sure, but not at your phone. Instead, drop your eyes to the ground, now covered with snow, squirrel prints leading from one tree to another, or bobcat prints chasing a snowshoe hare. In the spring, summer, and fall, look down at the earth, the soil mixed with dirt, pine needles, pitch chunks, and lichen. Smell deeply. In mud puddles, you might see a group of male swallowtail butterflies gathering together. Or, you might notice an army of ants on its way home after a raid from a neighboring ant nest.  

While you’re at it, look up. Some people never see blue sky like we do, people born in cities that are so polluted their day starts with gray and ends with gray. As your head is tilted back, you might see hundreds of sandhill cranes flying over the Sierra on their way to California’s Central Valley. If not cranes, you’ll most likely see and hear the protesting squawks of stellar jays or the repetitive “cheeseburger” song of the chickadee.  


Look out in front of you. You might discover watermelon snow, an algae waking up in the spring, squirming its way through ice crystals toward sunlight. Watermelon snow not only has the pink color and grainy texture of watermelon, but smells exactly like the Fourth of July fruit.

What’s missing when we’re focused on brightly lit screens is what we’re missing. Nature is all around us and yet we fail to see its daily workings. Thoreau might have said it best in his most celebrated work Walden, “We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep.” And this was said in 1854!

If you’re primarily focused on a 5.44 x 2.64 rectangle — the dimensions of an iPhone 6 —there’s no telling what wondrous things are occurring all around you: A mule deer grazing on summer grasses, its fawn by its side; a red-tailed hawk plummeting into a dive toward a rodent; a seemingly impossible acrobatic act of a chickadee; or a small tree frog blending in with granite. In the spring, groups of Snow Plants push their way through hard dirt, emerging like cones of bright red sea coral. In the fall, shaggy mane mushrooms burst through, turning inky black in its last stage of life. On a winter morning, I almost walked through a frozen spider web strung from one side of the street to the other, frozen drops hanging like tiny clear snowglobes.

At the very least, put down your phone when walking, biking, kayaking, snowshoeing, skiing. Better yet, leave your phone behind. Work can wait. People can wait. But life changes every second, never repeating itself again.

~ Do you have a question about our region’s environment? Email editors@moonshineink.com.


  • Eve Quesnel

    Eve Quesnel has lived in Truckee for 35 years with her husband Bill, once-upon-a-time daughter Kim-now on her own-and many dogs through the years, currently a Border Collie-Aussi mix. Her favorite pastimes include walking in her neighborhood and nearby woods, hiking in the high Sierra, and reading and writing. Quesnel is now retired from teaching English at Sierra College in Truckee but continues to pursue several writing projects. She is intrigued by the natural world of which she explores and writes about for the column "Nature's Corner" in Moonshine Ink.

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