Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Budding Naturalist, Part I: My Mom & Dad

I can't imagine life without nature, life without hiking in the mountains, camping in the desert, swimming in lakes, exploring tide pools.  Because my parents taught me to appreciate the natural world from a young age, my life has been lived largely outdoors, exploring, learning, wondering.  They didn't just teach me how to hike and camp and swim; they taught me to be a naturalist.

My parents are the best parents in the world.  Let me tell you why.

On a road trip with my parents in Grand Teton National Park

                First, they named me after a glorious mountain range, the Range of Light, the Sierra Nevada.  They couldn't have picked a more suitable name.

                Second, they packed me with them all over those mountains in a "baby backpack" when I was still too small of a tot to hike.  I don't remember the first time I went camping and slept in a tent, because that event took place before my first memories were formed.    

                Third, they bought me books.  As a budding naturalist, I loved reading field guides, natural history guides and a magnificent collection of binders known as Wildlife Fact Files.  (At the time, I believed these contained information on every living species on the planet.  Not quite true, but close!)  My first field guide to birds, a Peterson's, was given to me by my dad when I was two years old.  

                Fourth, they took me places.  Lots of places.  They didn't just take me to the woods and to the beach and to the desert to hike and camp.  They took me to museums and interpretive centers and every zoo within a day's drive of our house.  They took me to an open house day at the wildlife care center where I now volunteer.  They took me to wander around inside the science building at the university where I eventually studied and earned my degree. 

                Fifth, they made massive investments in my interests and encouraged my curiosity daily.  They were (are) proud of me, and made me feel like what I love - nature, animals, plants - is important and valuable.  My mom made me a "nature box" in which to store various odds and ends of the natural world I found on outings - rocks, leaves, shells, pinecones and the like.  I still use that box to this day.  My dad got up at 4:30 in the morning with me one day when I was twelve years old to go look for gray foxes because I'd read in my field guide that they're most active at dawn.  We saw an entire pack of gray foxes that morning. 

Backpacking in Yosemite National Park

                My parents are still two of my go-to adventure buddies.  We still go to natural history museums and on hikes; they still buy me field guides for Christmas.  I recently got them both interested in birding.  It was true as I was growing up, and it remains true to this day: my parents are the best parents in the world. 

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