July–August 2023

From the Editor

Healthy Obsessions

Nature rewards those who watch it closely.

As a rule, I try to avoid making sweeping assumptions about MCV readers, but I bet most of you will connect with Scott Sharkey’s nature photography, highlighted in the visual essay “Waterlogged.” Like many of us, Sharkey is an avid backyard naturalist who’s spent decades observing and documenting the wildlife in his community. As you’ll see, a marsh near his home in Bloomington is his primary focus and photo subject, and his passion for this unique ecosystem comes through in his striking images. I’m particularly drawn to the green heron photo that opens the article in question. It’s a dramatic shot—look at those dark, lush tones in the feathers— that reminds me of a green heron I once spied at a wetland near my own backyard. 

I can relate to Sharkey’s near-obsessive fixation on his local marsh. For years, I’ve kept a running mental log of the flora and fauna around White Bear Lake, which is only a few blocks from my house. Of recent interest is the pair of nesting loons that arrived in early spring—a welcome sign for the suburban lake. (One even visited me as I took a shockingly refreshing swim in White Bear in late April. Shivering in the cold, clean water, I played “spot the loon” as the bird disappeared, then popped up moments later with lunch.) 

Welby Smith would certainly appreciate Sharkey’s singular focus. For Smith’s new book, which inspired our “Small Wonders” feature, the longtime DNR botanist researched and catalogued Minnesota’s lycophytes—those funky, pine-like plants mainly found in the northern half of the state. The resulting field guide, Ferns and Lycophytes of Minnesota, is a treat for plant geeks and an unintentional call to put your head down (or up, or all around) and closely observe the natural world. I look forward to heeding this call throughout the summer and beyond.

Chris Clayton, editor in chief