With the mild winter that we’ve had, the harbingers of spring may not have the appeal they have had in more frigid, snowy years. Still, the signs of spring’s arrival are always welcome. One of the better outcomes of the pandemic was that it got more of us outside and exploring nature. Happier still, that activity has not subsided, at least it hasn’t seemed so on my walks around our neighborhood and on trails at Batsto and other natural areas.
In this week’s cover story, “Winter to Spring,” Jane Galetto describes some things to look for and listen to in our Pine Barren woodlands this time of year. As always, reading and editing Jane’s article was a pleasure, as she regularly inspires me to look more closely at nature’s treasures.
Having spent the last few years researching and writing about Mary Treat, Vineland’s 19th century resident observer of nature, I have since been more observant on my hikes and outdoor adventures. Ants, plants, and spiders, oh my! Yes, when I look to the ground I now pause to really examine the ant hills and all the critters and plants. Mary Treat has taught me to take nothing for granted in our Pine Barren region and wherever I travel.
In the preface to her popular book Home Studies in Nature, Treat wrote: “A contemplation of Nature, her ways and works, large or small, far or near, in the heavens or on the earth, becomes a source of perennial pleasure, and a true lover of her gracious and unbounded revelations need not travel far in search of them.”
These words are especially useful to residents of southern New Jersey since Treat resided in Vineland (Plum Street and Park Avenue) and explored all over our region. She saw the beauty of our pinelands habitat and professed: “Southern New Jersey has ever-had an irresistible fascination to the botanist, unequalled by any other section in the Union. Picturesque New England, with her charming flowers, cannot equal it, nor the great plains of the West. Even Florida—the land of flowers—must yield the palm to the pines of New Jersey.”
What better accolade can there be than from Treat, who travelled to and studied nature in all those other regions as well as in and around her Vineland home. This spring (April 11) marks 100 years since Mary Treat died and was laid to rest at Siloam Cemetery. My goal in writing Treat’s biography was to have her life and work made known to a world that’s forgotten her and generations who have never heard of her.
Treat lived in an age when even though her work was recognized by her peers, her legacy did not transcend time as well as the legacies of her male counterparts. Her estate and letters—including those regarding important work she shared with Charles Darwin and timeless truths needed in our world of climate change and other environmental challenges—have not been revealed to recent generations.
Mary Treat: A Biography has been available since November. I have several promotional events planned for this year, including a guest appearance at Hammonton Arts Center this Thursday, March 16, from 6 to 8 p.m.
On Saturday, April 15, from 1 to 3 p.m., I will give a presentation at the Vineland Historical and Antiquarian Society. Please see marytreat.com for more scheduled events through 2023.
In addition, I am excited to announce that I will soon publish a children’s book about this inspiring woman ecologist. Treat retained the curiosity of a child in her observations and examinations, as was clearly evident in her articles and the book she co-wrote for children. Faced with today’s challenges, it is imperative that our youngest get an early education and fascination for observing and studying nature. It will be a read-aloud book set up as a coloring book to spark a child’s creativity.
Keep checking marytreat.com for the arrival of Mary Had a Little Zoo.