Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Faces of Nature: An Introduction

My introductory photo: Me, Meghan, at U.S. Fish & Wildlife's
Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery.
Credit: Derek Neuts/USFWS
Noticing Trees. A good friend once told me that looking at a tree actually correlated with being in a better mood. At the time, I laughed at him, but once this concept was in my head, I started to notice its truth every time I looked at a tree. Think about what could happen in an entire forest! I think this is the point in my life where I actually started to pay attention to nature, and this wasn’t very long ago.

View of the Columbia River Gorge, George, Washington
Credit: Meghan Kearney/USFWS
First Connections. Since arriving in Portland, Oregon three years ago I’ve experienced a number of amazing outdoor places from a local park to the timberline of Mt. Hood. In fact, I was lucky enough to find what I believe is actually the most beautiful place on Earth: The Columbia River Gorge, specifically surrounding the Gorge Amphitheater in George, Washington. I first experienced this unbelievable landscape two years ago for Sasquatch Music Festival. Being that my true passion has always been in the experience of music, the promise of four straight days outdoors full of live music and camping in this place called “The Gorge” drew me right in. Here I made my connection with nature for the first time. I remember the feeling of walking up over the hill leading to what some call “the bowl” (where a grassy hill drops down hundreds of feet to the festival’s main stage), and first looking out over the picturesque miles and miles of rolling hills, clouds, and the gorgeous Columbia River. It’s something you have to experience to truly understand, and that’s what Gorge veterans tell all of the first-timers like me on that day. This was the point in my life where I realized I would rather spend the night in a tent than a house; rather sleep on the grass than in a bed.

Devin, a happy fisherman after catching fish with
his bare hands at the Nez Perce traveling fish ponds!
Watershed Festival, Enterprise, Oregon, June 2012
Credit: Meghan Kearney/USFWS
The Need for Nature. Now I find myself in Portland, Oregon working with U.S. Fish & Wildlife’s Pacific Region Connecting People With Nature team where my main goal is to find those suffering from the same type of affinity for the not-so-great-indoors as I used to have, and provide the opportunity to change their perspective. Being that I myself used to prefer staying indoors playing Nintendo, I’m hoping I have the right skills to reach out to those in need of nature.

Sharing My Story. In a sense, I want to share that story about looking at a tree.  I look forward to witnessing the experience of what I felt the first time I looked out onto the Columbia Gorge expressed on the face of someone else. Whether it be a child catching a fish for the first time or a grandparent who has spent their life inside the walls of a city setting foot on a wildlife refuge for the first time, there is something really special about the moment one realizes that being outside is so much more amazing than being inside. And I know from experience that once it happens, it sticks.

Visitors learn to juggle at Watershed Festival, Enterprise, Oregon
Credit: Meghan Kearney/USFWS
Capturing the Faces of Nature. That brings me to the purpose of this blog. Here, I will be sharing the stories of the different travels I take, and events I attend during my summer with  the Connecting People With Nature team. I’ll be looking to reach out to audiences that typically don’t spend much time in nature, and get them there. In addition, the theme of this blog will be to capture these moments as "the faces of nature." As someone who used to be one of these people, I hope the stories and photos I share will inspire many to take their first steps into nature and find a love there that will last a lifetime. 

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