Saturday, December 11, 2010

Standing on the Shoulders of Quiet Giants

When I was 23, I was fortunate enough to land a job living and working at a nature center. It was a dream job for me because I was paid to spend hours and hours outside, working with plants and animals (human and otherwise), learning and teaching about every facet of the natural world in any way that I could envision. Some days found me in a school, draping a corn snake around the shoulders of an eight year old. Others found me in the Adirondacks, on the water with paddle in hand and behind me, a flotilla of canoes filled with adults and children zigzagging back and forth across the water, practicing the strokes that I had just taught them. Many days found me working with volunteers. The nature center depended heavily on volunteers, and this center was blessed with a dedicated core group. Mostly retired, they came from all around to fill various needs, be it trail maintenance, tour guide, gift shop clerk, or greeter. I can’t overstate how much these people gave (and give) in terms of their time, experience, and skill. As a relatively young man still learning how to do my job, they taught me a great deal about how to be a good naturalist and a good person, and I used to tell people it was like having fifty sets of parents. They took care of me in many ways. When I got engaged, they overwhelmed Linda and me with a magnificent bridal shower, and when I left the center to become a teacher, they threw us another big bash, this one a farewell, including generous contributions toward my graduate school tuition. I told them then that it had been an honor and a privilege to work with them, and that I would miss them all terribly. Linda and I didn’t move too far away, but I don’t back get to the center as much as I should. I tell myself that it’s due to the demands of teaching, but I know that’s not entirely true. I did make it back this Saturday, though, because it was the day of the annual volunteer Christmas potluck. I wanted all of these wonderful people to meet Violet – for these people that played such a big part in my young adulthood to see where their influence led. Walking into the center with Violet in my arms, I told her, “Take a good look around this place, kid, because we’re going to be here a lot.”

21 days old


  1. Drat! I am sorry I missed the event and seeing the new family!

  2. Another inspiring entry, I need both, the pictures and the text. It's hard to believe Violet is three weeks old. Gina and I are both enjoying your blog.

  3. Anne - Sorry you missed it, too! Maybe I can talk Linda into letting me bring Violet on my next Audubon hike.

    Tony - Thank you! We, too, can barely believe that it's been three weeks. Violet's growing up so fast - she can already lift her head about 45 degrees. And thanks for turning Gina onto the blog.