“Do you think that the pine cones really like to live outside? Is it really their house?” she asked me.
“Well,” I asked her, “what do plants need to grow?”
“Dirt, water, sunshine and air,” she answered promptly; they had been studying plants at pre-school. “But outside there is just mud.”
“Mud is dirt and water. It will dry out.”
“I’m not sure we get quite enough sunshine in our house.”
“Do you want to plant your pine cones?” I asked her.
“At night? In the dark?”
“Why not? There is a moon,” I replied. And that is how we ended up spending the evening, tossing cups of baby pine cones into the yard and chanting, “Grow! Grow! Grow!”
The next morning, her dad asked where all the pine cones went.
“Home,” replied the young conservationist. We had made a huge leap in understanding that it’s possible to truly care about something with very different needs from your own. And even when it is not aesthetically pleasing it is still beautiful to live side-by-side with functioning nature.
Jensen Montambault lives with her husband, also an ecologist, and two pre-school aged daughters, who they hope will love nature, in Charlottesville, Virginia. A conservation scientist for The Nature Conservancy’s global program, Jensen has nearly 20 years of experience working with environmental conservation in the Americas, Africa and the Pacific, as well as a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary ecology from the University of Florida. She also enjoys tackling home improvement projects and playing outside.
(Image: Pine cones for lunch? Source: Jensen Montambault.)