Thursday, June 25, 2009

Looking forward, Looking back

Well there's not much I can say about this year that hasn't already been said many times over during these last few weeks. But what I do know is that the journey is far from finished. I am already back on the East Coast and in the full swing of a summer job, but IslandWood's meaning is evolving for me still. As I was packing up my stuff to move back, I came across some papers containing my classmates' written memories of childhood connections with nature. I thought I'd share those memories with you all again (you may recall them from Sarah's child dev. class presentation way back in fall quarter--when the power went out), in the spirit of honoring our beginnings down this path:

At the beach, poking an anemone. It felt cool and squirted water. -Emily T., age 3

Rocky Mountain National Park- I learned that lichens and subalpine plants "grow by the inch, die by the foot" and that plants take 100 years to recover from footsteps. I told everyone who would listen not to step on the plants. -Leilani, age 4-5

I remember sleeping in cabin 2 at Christie Lake Camp with my parents and sister. We ate cupcakes on a rock for Amy's birthday and I can still remember the smells and feel of my mom carrying me down the path at night with the kerosene lantern. -Erin, age 2 1/2

When I was 13 I went on a trip to an environmental learning center with my grandma. We spent a week in the Shawnee National Forest. It was so beautiful there! We went on walks in the woods smelling and tasting plants, canoeing, cliff diving, etc. -Shannon, age 13

Playing "house" under a big conifer at school and using branches to sweep dirt and needles from under the tree. -Renee, age 6

My parents' home is in a rural area. I always enjoyed hiking in the woods behind my house and camping out, both activities gave me a great love of nature! -Amanda, age 4 & up

Picking raspberries at my grandmother's house (and then putting them on top of an angel food cake that we made). -Adena, age 6

With Girl Scouts, my mom and I planted beachgrass in Marshfield, Mass., on a freezing windy rainy day with a group of older kids I didn't really know. It was miserable, but so memorable for me, and made me feel proud. -Kristen, age 7

Creating an imaginary world with its own ecology- plants, animals, interactions- while playing outside. -Susan, age 6-11

Collecting things out of a storm drain. - Heidi, age 10 1/2

Frolicking in the fields, forests, and rivers around my home. -Jon, age 6-9

Seeing a raccoon while camping. -Kendyl, age 10

In my grandpa's backyard building forts out of sticks. -Mike?, age 6-8

Playing games in the dark. I was hiding in a tree and started listening to the sounds around me and asking the tree to help me hide. -Lizzie?, age 10

Camping with my family at Governor Dodge State Park in Wisconsin. -Pat, age 7

Climbing in a tree with my sister outside my house. -Molly, age 6

Exploring the woods and stream behind my barn. And building forts. I read Hatchet, it was awesome!! -Ian, age 8

Hiding in the row of hemlocks in the backyard and pretending it was the wilderness- on Long Island. -Christine, age 7-10

(I couldn't read the signatures of a couple of them, correct me if I attributed wrongly!)

So there we are (most of us). All of us in love the outdoors for some reason or another, and all of us sure that this love has made us better people. And then: all of us determined to find a way to give other children the same chance to fall in love with nature. There is so much that makes us different, but such amazing things that we have in common. I am so proud to have this one thing in common with such a beautiful and inspiring group of people.

For the looking forward part: I am excited! Excited not only for what I get to do next, but for what all my classmates will do next! It will most certainly not be a dull panoply of adventures that will launch forth from Bainbridge Island this spring in the form of the IslandWood Class of 2009. Back in my hometown of Boston, I suddenly have my dream job: NPS Park Ranger on the Boston Harbor Islands-- Spectacle Island to be exact. I get to get people excited about playing outdoors on a capped and reforested old Boston garbage dump now populated with (bear with me, I'm learning...) honey locusts, baby spruces, staghorn sumac, milkweed, deadly nightshade, bayberry bushes, red-winged blackbirds, barn swallows, killdeers, blue mussels, periwinkles, red rock crabs, raccoons, and hundreds of daytime human visitors. And I just got an email update from Sarah Crowley, who is teaching outdoor ed in Alaska for the summer. She writes, "Last night I went down to Horseshoe Lake, my sitspot here, and watched a female moose become fixated on a male trumpeter swan in the lake. It followed him into the water til it was too deep and galloped a bit back to safety. Meanwhile a red backed vole ran between my feet. On my way back to my house I heard our beautiful Swainsons Thrush! They've finally made it!"

I was grinning from ear to ear when I read that. And then I realized: there are 25 other stories that I can't wait to hear from my classmates, and will continue to love to hear throughout my life. This community that we created wasn't built for this one year; it was built for a lifetime, through all of its adventures.

Thank you, everyone. And good luck to the new grads!