I have been lucky enough to spend a good portion of my recent class time in the Black Forest! Not only am I outside of a typical classroom setting, I am outdoors, hiking through fall foliage, and back in time for lunch. The “Black Forest” is not quite what I had pictured; it is not a dark, creepy forest one might expect to see in a Halloween movie feature. It is a gorgeous setting full of mixed tree species and hills and valleys that form a picturesque backdrop one might think of as “foothills in Europe”.
As a class, we have been looking at the natural progression of the forest, and how vegetation changes based on location in the forest, in relation to elevation, and based on climatic factors. Although much of the forest is “natural”, there is no part of it that has been untouched by humans. In the last century, the majority of the forest was cut down in order to establish the surrounding area, and to make charcoal. As a result, most of the forest is planted, with some nonnative species. As gorgeous as nature is and can be, it is also important to realize the human impact on the nature, and what we consider to be and identify as “natural”.
They say not to compare new places with places you have been to before, to take in each new place as a new experience and to soak up every little detail. It is hard not to compare, as humans we like to have personal connections and to familiarize ourselves with new places, making “new” a bit less intimidating, but also not quite as special. The beauty of new places is that there is so much to discover and notice. The more time I spend in Germany (and in the Black Forest, which I have now visited three times!), the more familiar it becomes, and its familiarity is it’s own, rather than familiarity because it reminds me of somewhere else. In the words of Jack Johnson, “you remind me of you”.