Smells are linked to our memories. They follow us throughout our lives - evoking nostalgic emotions and providing comfort. Each smell accompanied by a series of flashbacks, reminding us of who we are and the journeys to where we are. For me, many of these scents are associated with the outdoors. Lilac blossoms. Freshly cut grass. Soil on my fingertips. The perfume that hangs in the air before a rainstorm. And, my personal opus: the smell of autumn leaves.
To me, autumn leaves represent independence and authenticity. Adventure and bliss. It awakens childish curiosity and a carefree attitude. The early cliché memories of raking leaves into piles with my family - only to ruin the piles by jumping into them. My first experience as a botanist - a sixth grade project collecting leaves and identifying the different tree species. My dad driving me around the Cleveland Metroparks with our dog and collecting colorful leaves to press. Songs and campfires at Camp Mi-Bro-Be. Hikes with campers while the leaves changed to vibrant yellows and reds. Colors that seemed even more spectacular because we were away from our hometowns at camp. To the ecology labs during my undergraduate studies - the aroma of autumn leaves filling the air while we measured tree diameters and took our quizzes. These were the moments that led me to be a professional ecologist. These are the moments that flood my mind when I smell senesced leaves on the ground.
As I have progressed in both my career and life, my opus has only grown longer. From beautiful and lonely autumn days conducting research in the forests of New York to camping trips with the best friends a girl could as for in West Virginia. Autumn leaves will always provide a sense of nostalgia and security. They will also continuously provide inspiration and promote curiosity. Inspiration and curiosity that I am eager to share with those who are interested in the natural world.
During my time in West Virginia, I began brainstorming ways to share my enthusiasm with others. I would have dreams of starting a blog (or, more ambitiously, a podcast). Those ideas always fell short though because I wanted something bigger than just a place to share my personal enthusiasm. So, those dreams remained dormant. I have finally realized that what I want is to share my own enthusiasm and also hear from others. I want to foster a community that connects people from all walks of life. A place where anyone interested in the natural world can share their observations, experiences, and knowledge and connect with those who are also interested. Thus, I have created Beasts & Leaves.
As Beasts & Leaves developed in my mind, I decided to start with fairly open-ended submission guidelines and expect that I will probably be the only person posting for a while. Currently, I have listed general guidelines for natural history, ecology, and creative writing contributions; however, I am open to working with authors who are interested in other contributions, such as photo journals or videos. Additionally, I created "Ecologist of the Month" to highlight those who do ecological work. "Ecologist of the Month" will highlight the different types of ecological work various professionals do and the roads they took to get there.
Our planet is so much more than a resource to be used - it is a place to find peace and inspiration. My hope is that Beasts & Leaves will be a fun place to share knowledge, connect with others, and encourage curiosity about the world around us. Please, consider contributing and encourage family, friends, colleagues, and students alike to check it out!