Journals of Ken Norris

     Throughout his life, Ken Norris was a naturalist through and through, writing journals about his research, his classes, and his adventures. He would note the geological shifts of the land, the various flora and fauna, and what he was doing in the area. This would provide a clear, descriptive picture of the nature around him.

     Ken was a prolific writer and speaker in addition to being a scientist and naturalist. His words were an inspiration to his students and others who came in contact with his work. Here are some particularly notable quotes that capture Ken's wisdom, humor and insight. 

In his book, Mountain Time, he provided insight into how he sees the natural world and how deeply it has affected him,

“There is no real difference between what I do and what a little child playing in the same stream bottom would do.  The child and I take in the scene the same way-wordlessly- and before long we both know what is right about this bit of nature…both child and naturalist come to know the actors of the scene, we know how a brief rain will wake up the black patches of desert moss that cling to granite surfaces, making them dark green and lush like velvet.  We come to know that cholla spines will shine in the afternoon sun as if lit inside.  Like carefully aged wine, our understanding, the child’s and mine, becomes more complete with time. “

“I was a naturalist down to my toes and fingertips-teetering between art and science, seeking synthesis.”

"Choose your words with care.  Make them fit.  That’s both science and poetry.”

“I know in my bones that we are all of this home of ours: crickets, columbines, jellyfish, redwood trees, frogs, lichens, desert moss, spiders, and all the rest.  We are relatives. And my kinship with all the earths’ biota, even the simplest flatworm, does not degrade me. Instead, it makes me, and you, miraculous.  I know this because I walk in the midst of beauty and love and a perfection of sand, stones, water, and life.“

"How little we humans sense of the things that must be common concourse in the sky!"

In Natural History Field Quarter, he would reflect in his journal about what they had seen, heard, and felt during the trip and he especially wrote philosophically in the last weeks of the adventure the group had shared. Below he wrote reflections of the togetherness they felt once opening up to each other and the experience of being in this nature, completely open and vulnerable,

"Thoughts at the end of Field Quarter"We now search together, where at the beginning we did so alone. Just as we perceive our commonality of purpose, we grow more accepting of each others diversity.  The poet, the artist, the teacher, and the scientist become equal partners in our seeking.”  (Ken on how interdisciplinary FQ and natural history is)

“Beauty- the mountain clasps me, as it does you, in its peace, touches me with its whispering wind freighted with desert incense, and in every fallen silvered stick, every cone, every shadow and every swooping bird, every musical stone clinking under my feet.  I love this land, and every place we’ve been, to the deepest recesses of all that I am.”

If you are interested in reading a transcript of his journals, contact the Norris Center.