I was afraid that this year, like so many others, I would lose track of time. I was afraid I’d spend all of the fall foliage season behind a computer or buried in a book. I was afraid that in grad school I would have too much homework to do to be able to spend much time outside. But I promised myself: this year I’ll make time. This year I won’t let the seasons change without admiring the gradient between them. This year will be different.
As it turns out I needn’t have worried. This year everything is different. In the Field Naturalist program the brilliantly colored trees form the walls of my classroom, the shimmering late summer sky its ceiling. We bask in the changing seasons, taking advantage of days warm enough to slog barefoot through a bog and roll up our pants to wade in the cool lake. We catch salamanders, admire worm holes, and request the name of every plant we come across. Oh, and everywhere we go we dig a hole.
Our days meander beautifully through each place we go, carefully choreographed to tell a story. We learn how bedrock affects plant communities, how soils here are different from those in the tropics, and how deep the peat is in Chickering Bog (23 feet!). This kind of learning is new to me; learning in which we immerse ourselves in our subject matter completely. I go home each night somehow exhausted and energized at the same time, filling my notebooks with lists of things to investigate further.
As I promised myself, I do make time to go out and enjoy the changing of the seasons outside of class. I take long rambling walks through the woods with my dog every morning and some evenings. The only difference is that now I get to justify it as studying.
Shelby is a first year graduate student in the Field Naturalist program. She enjoys catching toads and salamanders, admiring bugs, climbing talus, and all other explorations of nature.