Backyardsafari's Blog

Environmental Inspiration in Your Own Backyard

Winter Feelings February 21, 2011

Just a few days ago I was sitting right in this same spot, all of the windows in the house open, letting the spring air blow in, watching the hardened ice packed along the roads melt away. Today I sit and hear the cars splatter cold slush and watch the snow nestle onto tree branches. All of the grass that peaked out on Friday is covered once again.

I would like to be a person who is continuously thrilled by the things around them, no matter what they are. I am very happy, and love nature, and can always find something good in an outing, but when a close friend recently said the name ‘February’ should be changed to “Self-Esteem-Killing Darkness Home Stretch,” I had to agree!

Many times for my job I am in and out of classrooms and teacher meetings, but sometimes, especially in the dead of winter, I work from home. There are a lot of great things about this, but it can also be lonely. Finally, in an attempt to just get over it already, I moved my desk from a dark area of our main room to the second bedroom (until now still filled with boxes from moving 7 months ago) under a window.  It has made a world of difference and I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner! I feel closer to the world and out of my own head. I sit in the sunlight and can see how it changes throughout the day.

One of the things I loved most about visiting southern India was that there was always something happening. People riding by on scooters and bikes, older aunties out for walks in their saris and running shoes, people selling snacks on the beach, a movie set going up, a game of cricket with a ball made from old bike tires.





You might think that someone who loves nature and was raised as far from crowds as possible wouldn’t like being in the middle of this, but I really enjoyed the activity and still miss it just over a year later. My husband had different views of growth and expansion than I did and it’s been a great experience to consider different opinions and evaluate where I stand. I think I have a deeper love of people now than I used to. After all, people are nature too.

I recently read this post from a blog of a couple called “Married with Luggage.”  It is about a couple who ended up selling their belongings and are currently 143 days into traveling the world for as long as their money will let them. I like the post best, though, because they do not start off as people who don’t think they need a lot of things or don’t want a house or car, etc. They got to the point they are now over a few years by thinking carefully about what they really wanted, making lists, and working towards those things.

I am working on my list now. What do I really want? This Mary Oliver quote from “The Summer Day” poem gets around a lot on nature and inspirational blogs, but I have been thinking about it recently–

“…What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

What do I want? I want to live in both worlds–quiet dark forests and bustling streets, lonely stony outcrops and crowded shops. I want to dare to be happy. I want to make and write and teach. I want to see the great natural spaces of the world and I also want to know the habits of the bird living outside my window and the leaves fallen on my sidewalk. I want to be okay with feeling the cold now because next it will be warm and then it will be hot and then it will be cold again, and each is worth experiencing if only because it is my life. This is my only life! I will not have another.




…”the sun

for everyone just
so joyfully
as it rises

under the lashes
of my own eyes, and I thought
I am so many!
What is my name?

What is the name
of the deep breath I would take
over and over
for all of us? Call it

whatever you want, it is
happiness, it is another one
of the ways to enter

– Mary Oliver



Environmental Education Around the Globe March 29, 2010

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The following post is actually an article I wrote for our organization’s winter newsletter.  This newsletter went out to our members, supporters, and government officials in February of this year. Note: There are places in the following post where I took out the name of the different schools in order to respect their privacy.

                           On a busy side street in a city 8,500 miles away from Penns Valley in a low white building there is a man named Dr. T. Sundaramoorthy. This man grew up in the arid Indian state of Rajasthan, where he studied for years under a famous ornithologist before moving to Chennai, the fourth largest city in India. Though he is only one of the city’s 4.43 million residents, he is working tirelessly to make a change in the world around him. I was able to meet Dr. Sundaramoorthy on a recent trip to India in his office at the C. P. Ramaswami Environmental Education Centre, where he is the Head of Biodiversity Conservation Education. During our meeting we discussed the various ways he strives to make students care about the environment, and while the education center is far from Penns Valley geographically, the distance between our ideas about environmental education is considerably smaller. The education booklets put out by Dr. Sundaramoorthy and the education center urge students to conserve resources, reuse materials, use less water, and care for their fellow creatures–all things that we teach to our children here as well.

                         My visit with Dr. Sundaramoorthy was an inspiring one. All people who work to teach future generations about the natural world (be you a teacher, parent, volunteer, or Crickfest attendee) should take heart knowing we are all part of a global community fighting to make the world a better place. I am taking this spirit with me as we move forward through the snow (one of the few things Dr. Sundaramoorthy doesn’t have to worry about) and towards the spring.

                        One exciting new development in education here in the valley is the announcement of a workshop held at the elementary school called “The Planning of Wetlands.” This workshop, organized by our organization and taught by a non-profit company, will give educators the tools they need to create wetland areas on school grounds, and then educate their students about them. This will help our organization continue to be a steward for the local watershed, as wetland areas on school grounds help decrease storm-water runoff, as well as teach children about a vital natural resource.

                       Spring environmental days are fast approaching and the planning process is well under way. I would like to thank you for your help with previous days (as volunteers or by letting children visit environmental areas on your property) and ask anyone who is interested in helping with this year’s environmental days to please contact me! We are always grateful for more helping hands.

                       The association is making progress on the environmental area at one of our elementary schools. An extremely talented local artist has been helping us with the planning stages, and when completed this area will represent the efforts of many different people within the region. The new environmental area will create a space where children of all ages can learn and interact with the natural world, and we are looking forward to creating a place both the school and community will be proud of.

                      In a changing world the challenge to instill a love and appreciation of the environment in children can feel daunting, but we must not be discouraged! Our children, and children all over the world, are interested, and it is up to us to feed their minds and hearts alike with information about the environment. If each of us plays our small role, together we can create a global change. Dr. Sundaramoorthy will keep working in Chennai, half-way around the world, and we must keep working here in Penns Valley.

                   Thank you again for all of the work you have done, and for your continued support of our environmental education program.