Sunday, December 2, 2007

Snowy Days?

I've strayed far from the East coast, but there are certain things I still hold on to. Cheese steaks being number one, of course...but not far behind is winter. I love it. I'm talking about a real winter with freezing temperatures and lots of snow! There's just something about it. Needless to say, I was thrilled when the big flakes started falling yesterday. Apparently, it's a rare thing to have snow 'round these parts. I happened to be on campus, working away in the dining hall and had a chance to view it from behind enormous windows. I couldn't stay inside for too long though. I walked around outside, snapped some photos and just enjoyed having the snow fall on me. The silence is complete when the world is covered in snow. Even the deer had a nice little coat. The work waited a bit longer while I enjoyed myself in the snow field.

To top things off, we grads got together for a bit of a party. Funny thing is, I've lived here for 3 months now and hadn't seen the inside of people's cabins. I guess they are one of the few solitary places we have, so people generally aren't interested in playing host. However, we all hosted for 20 minutes while particular beverages were enjoyed. There were themes, there were togas, there was Candyland. Finish things off with a good helping of music and you have a perfect evening.

I woke up to more snow falling, but it was quickly replaced with the rain we know so well. Although, I must say, it doesn't rain around here nearly as much as people claimed before I moved. Granted, the winter hasn't truly set in. I wonder what February and March will bring? We'll see when I get there. First, I have to finish up this semester and go home for a spell! The time has flown by and I feel settled in the place I've found.

Bring on the winter.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Giving Thanks

I have just returned from a 10 day visit back home to Chicago. It had been 3 months since I left for IslandWood and and it was nice to go back home and see my friends and family and my cats. I felt loved and appreciated. I realized who and what really matter to me.

It was both a wonderful and trying time. I enjoyed the moments and feel like there was more time needed to fit it all in. Most nights were quiet except for Sunday's shin dig: fabulous homemade Thanksgiving style dinner with friends, playing a set at the Bucktown Pub for open mic, visiting both old and new haunts and staying out til 5am. I visited North Park Village Nature center-where I have volunteered in native plant restoration work and taught kids Environmental education in the summer. It was wonderful catching up and talking about life in general and Queen Bees. I was amazed how much the landscape changes in 3 months time. I am used to the conifers and Big Leaf Maple everywhere back at IslandWood. I missed the green and the solitude. The pace, the noise, the pollution and chaos wore me down. Life in Chicago seemed chaotic and old hat. I had a chance to escape to the NW suburbs and run in the woods with one of my best friends and her family. We made snowflakes and gingerbread cookies with icing. We talked for hours.

I must admit, I was on the fence about the IslandWood program. It was a combination of stress due to deadlines of upcoming projects as the semester winds down to an end and to family obligations that made me feel like I should be in Chicago and not thousands of miles away. It is also the uncertainty of where I will land after the program is over, after Grad school at the UW, if I follow through in my Masters in Science education. I wondered whether I had made the right decision. Self doubt is a part of the evaluation process of life I suppose.

As all moments pass, so did the doubts and fears. I looked forward to my return to Bainbridge Island. I missed my community, the woods, creatures, sounds, smells and fresh air. I returned to friendly smiles and solitude. I heard a coyote howl, my footsteps on damp grass and gravel and nothing else while I walked home tonight. I want to be present in this moment and make every memory count. I look forward to teaching and being outside the next two weeks, campfires, laughter and learning. My path unfolds exactly as it should before me. I appreciate my mentors, my colleagues, professors, staff, position and surroundings. I am glad I pursued my Internet dream of attending IslandWood.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Much More

I realized this past weekend what IslandWood is meant to be. It's more than a master's degree. It's more than teaching. It's about pure exploration. There's a need for all of us to explore this life we're leading and I've found a great avenue to do just that. For the past 3 months, I've been exploring this path that I'm on. I'm becoming the educator I hoped for, but I'm also becoming something much more. In truth, I'm not sure if becoming is the word I'd use. It's more about discovery. I've overturned stones and found parts of me I didn't know were there. A bit dramatic? Perhaps. It's been a great few months.

I got the chance to visit Portland this weekend with 3 other grads. Needless to say, we had ourselves a grand old time. We checked out a busy market on a beautiful day, dined with friends in the evening and played trivia on the streets. Despite the lack of an advertised hot tub, the hotel treated us nicely with their comfortable beds and high octane showers. They sent us on our way the next morning with a fresh cookie and a wave. The day would be filled with more waves then we guessed.

Off we went on an adventure to the Oregon coast. We snaked our way through the low coastal mountains and into Ecola State Park. It was everything I would have imagined. Rocky outcrops, choppy waves and intense winds. It was beautiful. People spend too much time indoors. That's one of the things I've really enjoyed about my time here so far. We are out and about all day. We live and teach in the outdoors. I wish we had more of our grad classes outside, but that's what happens when you start assigning credits and grades to everything. As we say around here, we've spent time dissecting the wall of green that is the forest and figuring out the pieces to the puzzle.

The day is done and I'm ready for tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


So far we have been learning about the natural history and curriculum at IslandWood. Our grads come from all over the US, so it was important to learn about the native and invasive species that live on or near IslandWood and also in the area, the greater Pacific Northwest. It was our time to find our place here, get familiar with our IslandWood community and the surrounding area. We spent over a month training and preparing to be out in the field with children in grades 4th through 6th, working on our lessons and techniques of sharing Science and the natural world. The schools that come here vary from private to public as do their experiences, background and culture. Our teaching weeks vary in challenges and experiences because of the diversity.

Our group of grads is split into two cohorts. Cohorts rotate teaching and time off. One group teaches one week while the other is off. Our off weeks allow time for a moment to explore, work, or tackle the load of assignments and readings. The weekends are filled with time to enjoy the city or the many festive gatherings that occur on campus or on the island with our IslandWood family. Imagine going to a party at your professor's house filled with food, music, libations and familiar and friendly faces! Top that off with Foosball, Ping Pong and other games, fire dancing, campfires, this group does it right on the weekends.

This week I am team teaching. The group of children Deanna and I are working with is diverse and includes special needs kids. Today we will walk down to Port Blakely Harbor and learn about the people who were on the island originally, how this area grew due to logging and how things have changed since then. Tonight we will have our night hike and trust walk. We will not use flashlights and it is an unforgettable experience. Perhaps we will hear Barred Owls or Sea Lions in the distance. This place is magical and I know the kids truly enjoy the experience they have here. So, off to breakfast..