My thoughts on everything from albacore tuna to zebras
| I grew up in a small town; on the last street in that town. When I walked out the backdoor of my house I was greeted by a carefully tended garden that sloped upward and ended where the toe of an abandoned railroad grade began. In my farthest memories I can still recall a train or two traveling that right-of-way, but for most of my youth it remained abandoned and forgotten. Up and over that railroad grade and in just a few more steps I was in the woods. It was here that I loved to go. Here where I played “Cowboys and Indians”, or “Army”, sometimes with friends, often by myself, using only my imagination. Was that a machine gun nest ahead? Sour apples became lethal grenades in my hands. More than once I threw myself on a “potato masher” to save the lives of my fellow soldiers.
If I wasn’t playing in “my backyard’ (pretty much the whole mountain behind our street), I was looking forward to going fishing with Pop. Weekend trips included fishing rivers and lakes and ponds for just about anything that was in season. It got so that if we didn’t go fishing, something was wrong. Often it was some pressing family matter that the grownups had to take care of, or worse yet, something that involved my sister. You know what I’m talking about, sleepovers, birthday parties, that sort of thing. Girl Stuff.
As I got older, “Army” gave way to just simple exploration of the world around me, Camping occurred, with both my family (sister included) and the Boy Scouts. Hunting was added to my list of outdoor activities and within a few more years my scope of outdoor friends was expanded beyond my family to include school friends and others I met along the way. Memories were formed of good times, sometimes exciting times, even reverent times, that have stayed with me down through the years. As my love of nature and the outdoors grew, my life became more complicated. First, there was high school and then college and finally the working world and eventually a family of my own.
I mostly maintained equilibrium, at least through high school, balancing my outdoor moments with the other so-called necessary things in life. I always knew, deep within, that no matter how difficult or bad things got, all I needed to do was let that backdoor slam shut and within a few minutes I would be lost within the welcome wood beyond. There, peace would return to my soul. Peace as I have never known anywhere else.
Somewhere between high school and college and finally work, the equilibrium started to dissolve. Because of my love for the natural world and probably because I was a child of the late sixties early seventies, I choose environmental protection as a career. What better way, I thought, to give back to the world that had healed a number of my childhood wounds and cradled my soul in tender loving hands.
In retrospect, it was probably not a wise choice. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that I would do things differently if given the chance, just that I did not anticipate the outcome. You see as the equilibrium became unstable with college and the beginning of my career. It has now reached a cataclysmic level some 24 years later. For you see, in my attempt to protect and honor what had nurtured me, I have become lost to it, foreign, dare I say, even unwelcome. No longer can I walk within the woods and feel the peaceful embrace of my soul. No longer can I listen to the ripple of a stream as if it were a childhood lullaby. Each rustle of a leaf, each ebb and flow of a current simply serves to magnify the tension and stress of my chosen occupation, for I cannot separate them. They have become entwined, wrapping themselves together to the very essence of my being. The irony is not lost on me.
Others that I work with do not seem to have this problem. Do not seem to struggle with separating their livelihood from their relaxation. I, for whatever reason, am not so fortunate and it saddens me. Or perhaps they are just better at hiding it. Or maybe they know some secret I don’t. Or maybe it’s just a job to them. Regardless of the answer for them, for me at least, my path has left a void within my soul, an ever-expanding black hole that threatens to suck down all that I know as “me”.
My only hope is that when I retire, I can put behind the struggles of a thirty-five year, sometimes Don Quixote like, career and find the peace of so long ago. I hope, one day, to stand in the wood, with the early morning sun filtering through the canopy, knowing that I have fought the good fight, asking forgiveness for my many failures, and to feel my soul cradled in tender loving hands once more.