I want to be a begonia.
    In a week, I’ll be starting my new career as an employee of the world.   I don’t expect to be a medical software developer anymore and will lose my title of “Staff Software Engineer”.   I won’t need a title, but I would still like a position.   “Begonia” comes from The Education of Henry Adams.   A Senator (or maybe it was a Congressman) called him a “begonia” to mean that he was a showy person without substance or value.   Instead of being insulted, Adams was ecstatic.  Not only did he agree, but he was very happy to be noticed.   But Henry Adams was the grandson and great grandson of two American presidents.  He had the panache to pull off being a begonia.   I’d probably start off as a begonia and eventually degrade into a dandelion.  So I’m going to hire myself in to a more normal sounding position.   In a week, I’ll start my new career as a naturalist.
     If you’ve been around me even a little in the last few years, you’ve heard that already.   I really haven’t made a lot of progress in fulfilling my job requirements.  Instead, I just lowered my standards.   So this entry level position requires the successful applicant to be interested in living things that exist currently in the world, interested in how they got this way, curious about how organisms change, and willing to listen to experienced people who have already thought about nature and the natural world.   He should be interested in the world itself, possibly leading to a cursory understanding of geology.   He should know how to read.  He should know some of the differences between a butterfly and a moth.  He should be able to get up early at least twice a week.  
    I plan to keep a journal and write something in it every day, at least one complete sentence.  I am starting late as a writer (I almost said late bloomer, but honestly, how do I know that I actually will “bloom”).   If I have the same luck as a reasonably good writer named Henry David Thoreau, I will still have twenty-five years to write over 2 million words and plenty of time to go camping.    On the other hand, I might not live that long or write that much, but whatever I get to do, I plan to enjoy it and not agonize over it.    If I write something completely stupid, or just plain wrong, I’ll do my best to correct it.  If somebody else notices it and corrects my mistakes, that’s even better.   I will be ecstatic to have been noticed.
     That reminds me of a needed correction that has been eating at me for about a year.   It is about what I wrote in Birds Eat Free related to the Passenger Pigeon.  I was horrified at the unimaginable slaughter of billions of birds and was right on point about that.   What I got wrong was the assumption that these birds had been present on the North American continent in these phenomenal numbers for thousands of years and then wiped out in a relatively short time with the advent of European colonization.   As it turns out, the archeological record of Indian civilizations shows no record of these birds existing in very large numbers.   Their remains are found in reasonable numbers in Indian cooking sites, along with many other species.  The records of early explorers to the continent talk about many wonders, but none of them report huge flocks of Passenger Pigeons.   They do report a heavily settled Mississippi River Valley in the 1600s and a very difficult period before the European settlers could supplant the natives and establish a permanent foothold on the east coast.   So what really happened is obvious, if you think about it for a few minutes (or if you read 1491:  New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles Mann).  The North American continent was heavily settled by an agricultural society who had planted huge orchards of Beech and other fruit and nut trees, along with fields of maize, other grains, squash, beans, and other food plants.   When the initial explorers like LaSalle, Desoto, and the Jamestown settlers moved on or died, they left behind them societies ravaged by new diseases.   Ninety percent of the population died off, leaving massive amounts of food unharvested.   Biological organisms generally reproduce in profligate numbers, ensuring that they overwhelm their predators’ ability to eat them all and also to allow them to increase quickly to match their numbers to the available food supply.    The sudden drop in the number of Indians was followed by a sudden increase of the animals that could get to and eat the newly available food.  The billions of pigeons were very likely the result of the European invasion.   From a biological standpoint, I had completely missed the major elements of this drama.
    From a moral standpoint, I was closer to correct, although I was still left wondering “what made it seem okay to nineteenth century Americans to slaughter animals in such unbelievable numbers?”   Henry Adams helped me with this question, by allowing me to hear the words directly from a person from that time.   About his years as a boy in Quincy, Massachusetts, outside of Boston, he talked about his love of his boyhood adventures in the idyllic pastoral countryside.  He talked about fenced pastures, catching turtles in the marshes, and sunning himself in the pleasant, open lands.    He talked about how the Puritans who were the first wave of Europeans to this region saw the wilderness and the natives that populated it as a wild and dangerous and evil.   Dominating it and taming it was the subject of good works.   Adams described how the New England character that followed the Puritans was just a continuation in kind.   Nature to be enjoyed was agricultural country-side and parkland.   The huge forests of Pennsylvania and Michigan, the minerals of Colorado, the natural resources of a continent were challenges that needed to be dominated and controlled.   The goal at the time was to build a railroad system.   The side effect of destruction of other life and the land itself was not considered a bad thing.   The goal was to turn the wilderness into their model of the Garden of Eden – a fenced and populated country-side with roads and houses and farms.   So they meant well.   They also meant well when they were burning witches.
    So, correction made, I need to get back to what is supposed to be my introduction to my new journal that I plan to begin in a week and update every day.   Your 2015 reaction is probably, “so it’s a blog”.   No.  I don’t think so.   I plan to publish other stuff on my web site, but this I plan to keep on the side and let it grow.   Then after I’m dead, someone can discover it and submit it for a Pulitzer Prize or something like that.   That’s my plan.  In twenty-five years, I’ll get back to you on it.