We had the good fortune of connecting with Brit Keeton and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Brit, we’d love to hear what makes you happy.
Spending time in nature, learning, and creating all bring me happiness. Plants in particular bring me joy – there is so much diversity and beauty in the plant world. If you don’t look closely you might think they’re just a bunch of static green things just sitting there, but if you can find the time to be out in nature you start to see that they are these dynamic beings relating to each other, feeding and sheltering birds and animals, and relating to us if we choose to learn about their historical uses.
Learning more about plants expands my sense of awe, and that makes me happy. Botany with Brit started when I realized my partner had plant-blindness. When she looked at plants she saw an indistinguishable wall of green, and I wanted to find a way to explain the magic of these native plants. By not being able to see them as individuals she was missing out on so much wonder. The more I learn through this process of research and translating the information into videos, the more awestruck I am by what a cool world we live in. I hope that by helping to expand people’s sense of awe about plants I’m helping them understand why they should care about preserving the natural world. We need to protect ecosystems not just because they sustain life on earth but also because they are essential to our happiness.
Creativity makes me happy. Making the plant videos has been so much fun because I’m fulfilling my life dream of pretending to be David Attenborough. My mother told me a story about when I was very young, maybe less than 2 years old. She had set me down in front of the television with a nature documentary on and left the room for a bit. When she returned there was a scene of lions tearing apart a gazelle, and she found little Brit sitting there smacking her lips. Apparently I’ve been fascinated by nature from a young age, and the great Sir David Attenborough has been a lifelong hero. I’ve had so much fun since I realized you don’t have to wait for permission to do things you enjoy – even silly things like narrating your own nature videos. Another thing that makes creating the videos feel so playful is the fact that my partner is filming them, so I’m getting to tell my favorite person in the world about something I am excited about.
Happiness for me comes from connecting with the natural world and connecting with other people.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
The Botany with Brit project began as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown in March of 2020. All of a sudden my work as a massage therapist came to a screeching halt, and I was given the amazing opportunity to pause and ask myself what I would actually like to be doing with my time. One of the few joys the pandemic didn’t take away from us was the joy of being outside, and I found myself taking lots of hikes with my partner Coty and blathering on and on to her about the plants.
We started making the videos and blog as a creative outlet – it gave me an excuse to obsessively read field guides and practice writing, and it gave her an opportunity to use her video editing skills and practice recognizing plants. And we were pleasantly surprised by how well-received they were! The videos are an easy-going, conversational introduction to native plants and their ethnobotanical usage. I think people have an innate curiosity about the world around them, and I hope our work helps to feed this desire to learn and to connect more with the plants outside their door.
So far our work has centered around plants here in the Pacific Northwest: fireweed, thimbleberry, devil’s club. There’s an amazing diversity of vegetation here: the forests are lush, green, dripping with moss. But the desert has my heart. I cannot wait to make a Sonoran Desert series featuring creasote, saguaros, ocatillo, barrel cactus! Tucson is where I first fell in love with plants. There is nothing more ecstatic to me than the smell of creosote after a spring rain, and the taste of saguaro fruit is better than any candy.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If my best friend proposed visiting me in the Pacific Northwest in February, I’d say lets go meet in Tucson instead (it’s been raining for months on end here – I wouldn’t wish February in the Pacific Northwest even on my worst enemy)… We’ll camp out at Catalina State Park and take a hike to the Romero Pools, then go visit the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. At least one dinner would have to be at BOCA Tacos on 4th Avenue – they make the most amazing cauliflower tacos. Who would have thought cauliflower could ever taste that good? Then we’d go volunteer with Sky Island Alliance to do some invasive species removal in Aravaipa Canyon. Then eat more tacos. Did I mention the tacos?
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are two people who have been so encouraging and offered so much inspiration in this project: my partner Coty and my friend Helen. Coty is the reason I started writing about plants (in an effort to cure her plant-blindness) and the one who edits all the videos – she’s even started to recognize plants! My friend Helen is an amazing gardener and photographer, and she has taught me so much about the natural world. She generously lets me use her beautiful photos on the blog, and she has a knack for capturing the details of a plant in an artistic way. She can name almost any plant by its scientific name, which blows me away.