Sitting around a cozy campfire the first night, I sat on an old log next to people I didn't know. There were about 30 people there from all walks of life. Some were substantial land owners. Some were stewards of conservation areas. Some represented their town or community. So as they went around the circle introducing themselves, I began to feel uncomfortable...as if I didn't belong...that I was not qualified to be there in their company.
Then before it was my turn to speak a woman sitting on the ground Indian style off to my right, leaned over and said, "Those are nice boots. Are they new?" I responded, "Thank you, yes."
Within minutes, she picked up some dirt and began to rub it on my boots. Sitting there motionless I leaned down to her and asked "What are you doing?" Smiling, she said, "There...now they look broken in."
When it was my turn to speak, I remember saying something like, "Hi, I'm JP and after listening to all of you, hearing your backgrounds and expertise, I'm wondering if I should be here at all. We only own a little less than 3 acres, which consists of some wetlands and is primarily forest. I monitor a Bald Eagle nest and send my findings to the state. That's it. That's all I do."
Yes, I stayed for the entire weekend and better still, I belonged there. I represented the small land owner who would take home what I learned and put it to good use.
Last week I was thinking about her...the woman who put dirt on my boots...and texted her. Asking her if she remembered me and my boots, I told her how the Pres and I had eradicated the Japanese barberry, and Oriental bittersweet along with several other invasive plants on our property.
Sending her these two pics, her response was "How could I forget you? You are unforgettable! You're a forest health hero, you amazing Eagle and Osprey watcher!"
Since I last saw her, she got her PhD and is working on her Doctorate...forestry, of course.
seeing, saying, and sharing...