Monday, December 28, 2009


Some things I love, in no particular order:
outdoor activities
outdoor activity gear
planning events
telling people about nature
books and magazines
helping people do things better
learning about other cultures

How do I turn these things into a career?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Peace on Earth

Last week's Snowpocalypse in DC kept people from their last-minute consumerism, held up travel across the region, and gave the federal government a rare snow day. The snow began Friday night and didn't stop until early Sunday morning. It blew sideways at times.

It blocked our gate so we couldn't get out.

It piled up on the fire escape. 

But it was glorious, because for days, the story on tv, in the newspapers, online, was about the storm. We forgot about the health care bill, the ridiculous politics, the big sales on unnecessary stuff, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and focused on what was real, what was right in front of us. We helped each other wipe snow off our cars, we walked to neighborhood bars and puppet shows, drank hot cocoa spiked with Bailey's Irish Cream and Mint, had impromptu snowball fights, and engaged in spontaneous romping. We didn't go anywhere we couldn't walk to, and we spent the days and nights with friends and family, wrapped in sweaters and boots and scarves. For two days in DC, there was peace and love, which is what the holiday season is about, after all.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Nature is so cool

The past six months have included a whole lot of soul searching, after realizing that yet another fork in the career path may not be the right one. After thinking long and hard about who I am and what I want, I went back to 10th grade, when I wanted to be a marine biologist or a zoologist. I have always loved animals. My first word was kitty. I used to read all of those kids' encyclopedias of nature. I wanted to work at a pet store or the zoo or volunteer in the Plants and Animals room in high school. I watched hours of nature shows on PBS and the Discovery channel. I even wrote a letter to Jack Hanna (he wrote me back - I still have his letter). But science was hard and writing was easy, so I strayed toward environmental and travel journalism instead. I guess I thought being a wildlife biologist would be somehow "not cool" or too touchy-feely, but I've still managed to do a fair amount of writing about animals over the years, from articles about endangered species in the lower Missouri River to wildlife fact pages for a conservation NGO. And I still nerd out over random nature facts - on a first date to the aquarium years ago, I happily showed off my knowledge of pitcher plants and my ability to quickly spot animals in their exhibits.

I recognize that switching to a biological science-related career at this point would mean more schooling, and I haven't ruled out getting a second degree. But in the meantime, I aspire to become one of those people who really knows their stuff when it comes to nature and wildlife. So I'm volunteering at the National Zoo and ramping up my knowledge of local wildlife, starting with birds.

And let me tell you, spending three hours on a weekend afternoon talking to people about the plants and animals in the exhibit is bliss. I'm at the Amazonia exhibit, and there is lots to talk about - two floors full of fish, turtles, amphibians, birds, mammals, plants, and more. The best parts are when I get to talk to kids who know SO much about nature! They're as jazzed about it as I was when I was a kid, but I was so shy that I would never have engaged a stranger in a conversation about anything. But these kids know a lot, they're so curious, and they love learning. It's great talking with adults too - they're just as interested as the kids, and equally wowed by all the cool stuff they see. No matter what kind of mood I'm in when I walk down the hill to the zoo entrance, by the time I walk back up that hill on the way home I'm buzzing with happiness.

I could go on for hours about today's volunteer session, about the funny things the animals did, about the rare two-toed sloth sighting, the new bird, the funny fish face. And it's so fun to share that with the visitors who leave behind their cynicism, their adultness, their moodiness, and revel in the amazement of nature.

Speaking of which, I am grateful to the many people out there who share their love and knowledge of wildlife with the world through their blogs (and let us know about it through social media outlets). It's great to see such a strong community of writers and photographers out there, spreading the word that nature is fantastic and reminding us that we all need to pitch in to protect it. Keep up all of the great work!