After nearly 30 years with the Department of Natural Resources, Randy Hoffman is passing on his love for the natural world to others.
Now retired, the Waunakee resident has published his second book, “When Things Happen,” to help others who want to enjoy various phenomenon such as bird migrations, blooming flowers and meteor showers with a guide for the right times to do so.
The book is dedicated to his grandson, who is not quite 3.
“That absolute curious nature about how everything is working and just the names of things for the youth should be an inspiration to us all to continue learning and maintaining that curiosity throughout our lives,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman, now in his 70s, said he still has that curiosity.
Hoffman’s own interest in the natural world began when he was a child growing up on a dairy farm in west central Wisconsin. The Eau Gallie River valley was nearby.
“I just spent a lot of time around those bottomlands exploring and being curious,” he said.
Unlike other works of phenology, Hoffman’s book doesn’t focus on the first sightings of robins in the spring or blooms of wildflowers but rather a period for these cycles.
“If a person wants to experience the grandeur of nature and finding the first robins, they’re probably missing the fact that thousands can be seen a few weeks later,” Hoffman said.
He hopes the book inspires up-and-coming naturalists to experience the parts of nature that interest them.
Hoffman noted that spending time in nature has both mental and physical benefits. But our appreciation for nature can also help preserve it.
“If you get divorced from nature and then political decisions are made, you are at a loss as to how to respond,” Hoffman said. “If you become in love with some aspect of the natural world, you’re going to fight for it. You’re going to want to keep that around.”
Hoffman said, as a youth, he explored the natural world every day. But many people today have “bluegrass backyards and nothing else, so they’re not really in nature. They’re in sort of an artificial outdoor world, and they don’t have that comprehension of the values that some high-quality natural areas provide,” Hoffman added.
Hoffman said he lives in the center of Waunakee, but working for the DNR in the state’s natural areas program, he was constantly researching outdoor areas.
He described the book as “a culmination of my entire life’s love affair with nature.”
It took one year to write but reflects his 60 years of gathering data.
According to a press release, the book divides each month into thirds, with a primary article focusing on a featured event during that time period and other shorter articles, along with tidbits of information identifying peak occurrences of natural events throughout the year.
Hoffman is also the author of “Wisconsin’s Natural Communities.”
“When Things Happen” is self-published and available only on Amazon. For more information, visit greatnaturewi.com.