Where it all began

Along my daily walk to the greenhouse is a horse chestnut tree. I stooped down, grasping a chestnut in my hand. I rolled it around in my hand just to feel its smoothness, both the texture and the shape was delightful, calling out to the child in me. I have never grown out of learning by touch. I slipped the chestnut into my pocket to bring into the house.

As a child, I had a special treasure box. It wasn’t filled with toys or coins but with, items I had found on my many adventures on the farm. Sometimes the contents would change slightly but always a feather of some sort, snake skin, a block of wood, a cow tooth, and a rock or two. (I had a separate container for my rock collection.)  I was fascinated by these things and couldn’t help collecting them. I loved opening my box and taking each thing out one at a time to touch and scrutinize.

The softness, fragility and stiffness of the feather appealed to my child senses. I enjoyed running my finger along the edge of the feather and drawing the feather across my skin on my arm and face to enjoy the smoothness of the feather and the near tickling sensation. I loved watching birds at the feeders and listening to their songs.

Translucent and paper like in texture, the snake skin captivated me. Since I never actually saw a snake while I was a child, there was that thrill of something being hidden, present yet unseen, leaving behind a clue of its existence.  I was curious about snakes and other herp fauna, a curiosity that became a passion.

We were dairy farmers. I grew up in the barn and pastures unafraid of cows, drawn to animals. I was familiar with the way cows chewed their cud, fascinated by the movement of their jaw.  The tooth was intriguing to me; I could hold it and observe the wear from them chewing.

The block of wood was crudely shaped like a pig. It was neither timber nor a piece of tree but somewhere between. I liked it for the shape, texture and smell and it had been a part of a living tree. Trees shaped my childhood, I loved to climb them, sit in the branches, hug them and feel its life flow.

Rocks were very tactual and therefore fascinating to me. They could be so smooth, rough, or sharp. They were beautifully colored, some with interesting patterns. Some rocks like quartz and granite sparkled, attracting my attention. There was something about the earthy, dusty smell of a rock that pleased me.  I think it was because of that smell that I never cleaned or polished my rocks. I developed a fascination in climbing on rocks and appreciating rock formations.

It was these childhood passions, the love of nature that led me to become an environmentalist by degree. My excursions into the woods and the accompanying stories I created shaped me into a writer. I had an eye for beauty and intricacy and a desire to capture what I saw, enticing me to become a photographer.


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