“But Roger, why did you tell that principal that we have that program? We haven’t done that before!”
“Well,” he responded, “You could do it, right? You and your staff could offer that, couldn’t you? If that’s what it would take to have a new school come to Woodland Altars, why not say ‘Yes’ and then go put it together?”
I had not operated that way before, and yet, what he was saying made sense. It was that kind of thinking that helped me, in my two years as Program Director at the Woodland Altars Outdoor Education Center in southern Ohio, book more schools for residential programs than had ever been there before. With Roger Cruser’s encouragement, my new staff and I did all sorts of things we hadn’t done before, including host a weekend workshop for local teachers and do outreach programs for the local schools. The students loved our show-and-tell visits to their classrooms with a boa constrictor and a red-tailed hawk. Although animals were quite familiar to these rural kids, most of them had never met people who weren’t killing hawks and snakes, but revering them!
My next Gratitude Post in my series of 60 essays for my 60th birthday, is dedicated to the first group of naturalists I worked with at Woodland Altars Outdoor Education Center.
“Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” Well, really it sounded more like 8 hoots in the dark of night, but naturalists all say the Barred Owl asks that question about dinner!
My outdoor education group, timidly excited on their Thursday night hike, whispered, “There’s one” with eyes wide enough to be seen in the dark. I called back in my believably authentic owl call, honed and practiced during staff gatherings or doing dishes with the students.
It’s ironic that for the first time I’ve been writing my Gratitude Essays on the porch of a cabin in Maine, a camp adventure group with ten canoes is landing at the ramp nearby. How fitting that this is the day I’m writing about the woman who introduced me to my life’s favorite workplace – Woodland Altars Outdoor Education Center.
I had already met Maureen “Mo” Sullivan, a short, cheerful Nature lover with red hair to match her Irish surname, at Camp Blue Heron a couple of summers before. At camp, she was the long-time Dorm Counselor of the girls. She rarely went on the long canoe trips that I led because her job was to keep life flowing smoothly at the base camp in the backwoods of Ontario. And she did! With Nell, the Director, Belinda the Science Counselor, and the male Dorm Counselors Mike and Alec, she brought a consistent atmosphere of fun and exploration to the campers. Sometimes the outings to the swamp and the garnet quarry and the ice cream shop sounded like so much fun, I wanted to stay at camp so I could go too! Continue reading
Mike O’Brien stands out as one of my best friends. It would have made some sense for us to be a couple for more than the few months that we hung out with each other, but there was just something about Mike’s personality, his exuberant self-confidence and drive that I couldn’t match.
I’m not exactly sure how we met. Mike was a unique visitor to the Thomas More College dorm. He seemed to always be there, but he didn’t live there! He lived just a few miles away, but had made friends with Kathy and Mary Jo, two dorm students a year ahead of me. I would see him with the two women joking and making plans, there in the lobby of the dorm. There was something attractive about Mike’s energy and relationship with Kathy. She was considerably taller than he. Mike was just 5’7” tall, but filled the room with his dynamic presence.
“Someone who met you wanted you to have this.” Dr. Gerry, whose last name I can’t remember, was handing me a piece of paper, inscribed with a short verse. “Blue eyes, 98⁰ Fahrenheit” or something like that, it began, then unfolded in the words of a modern Shakespeare in love. What I couldn’t fathom is that these words, according to Dr. Gerry, had been written by another student at the table the day before. “Do you mean, John?” I asked. “I hardly even talked with him! I was just saying hi and being friendly!”
When I told my high school boyfriend, Chuck, that I couldn’t marry him because I needed to meet other men before settling down to marry, I envisioned that unfolding rather neatly. As it turned out, I met a variety of lovely friends who lit me up with romance, friendship, song, and heartache too. I had not anticipated being confused about sexuality, though!
On the very first day of orientation, I met a guy whose voice wafted over me like a warm southern breeze. His Memphis drawl made me want to ask him endless questions, so he would keep talking to me. I didn’t do that, of course, but I wanted to! I was happy to learn that he was a Biology major like me, so I would likely meet him again. Mark would become my best friend in college, the man I most wanted to be with, and yet my most challenging relationship of all!
Dr. Bill Bryant could find anything he wanted on his desk, even though it was piled high with papers, books, and scientific journals. For me, he was the quintessential professional botanist. He could talk about plants, forests, and ecology any time. He loved his homeland of western Kentucky, and he loved the forests even more. I took most of my electives in Biology from him because he was teaching the classes that attracted me most. I wanted to be outside, not in a laboratory, so I picked Botany, Field Biology, and Aquatic Biology for my electives. He taught Genetics, too, which didn’t include any field work at all.
I’m celebrating my 60th birthday with 60 essays of gratitude for significant people in my life. Today, I’m remembering a college professor who planted a seed of Nature Exploration.
I was excited to return to Thomas More College for my sophomore year. I had spent the previous summer mostly outdoors, working as the “Nature Lady” at a Girl Scout Camp. As a sophomore Biology major, I would take the next required courses in Anatomy and Chemistry. I looked forward to another year with my roommate, Kelly, my Physics friend, Donna, and my favorite Biology buddy, Mark.
I’m celebrating my 60th birthday by writing 60 essays of gratitude for significant people in my life. Today, I respectfully remember and thank a favorite college professor for her inspiration and integrity, her enthusiasm and dedication in the field of Biology.
Sister Mary Laurence played a large role in my development as a Biology student, not just in her physical stature but in her intellectual and personal guidance. She taught my first class, General Biology, in my major. That was pretty straightforward with three weekly lectures and two labs. Studying science at the college level was new to me, so I had to study diligently. But, I did ok and pulled through with consistent B’s.
“That leaves Kelly and Regina to be together,” the Resident Assistant was saying as the group of 20 or so freshman women gathered in the dormitory lounge. It was our second week of college and we were all meeting for a roommate shakeup. Although we had each been assigned a roommate who was supposedly chosen for the best match based on our majors, most of us had discovered that we were NOT well matched!
My assigned roommate was a fellow biology major, but that’s about all that Michelle and I had in common. She stayed up late, had a boyfriend, loved talking about clothes and makeup, and wasn’t actually focused on studying. I was pretty much opposite in all of those things.