I've spent a lot of time at a particular park with a lake not far from my house. As I walked the dog there last Saturday I remembered a few stellar moments.
I was once a Park Interpreter at this place. Park Interpreters basically "speak for the trees", to quote the Lorax..They are the communicators and educators for everything that is protected within that park, tangible and intangible. Ecosystems, animals, plants, cultural history.
But let's get away from the higher level stuff, shall we? It's the day to day where all the fun happens.
Take the hundreds, of school kids who traipse into that park on a regular basis every year for educational field trips. Mostly it is challenging, fun and inspiring to create experiences for children to be in nature, but sometimes not. Sometimes it's just absurd.
This particular park is loved by dogs and their owners. Unfortunately, as we all know as with anything, there is a small, but strong contingent of bad dog owners. In short, this princely lot don't pick up after their dogs.
Let me explain the situation as delicately as possible. After seeing one too many small child pick up dog droppings on the trail, which to their minds looked a lot like the Banana Slugs we were encouraging them to pet, we started to patrol the trails early in the morning before the kids arrived.
We did this with an old discarded golf club someone had left behind. We'd jog around the trail, rain or shine (the wet days were the worse for the misidentified-slug handling fiascos) and putted the lonely fecal remnants off the trail into the bush. My teaching partner and I would take turns putting and slow golf clapping the accuracy of the shots from the sidelines. (Note to any errant dog owners reading this: This is not ideal either, but the scope of applying the proper remedy was well beyond what the hours of our day entailed and what our patience allowed for your kind.)
I used to also lead canoe program for all ages on this lake. One particular early morning canoe stands out in my mind. All the sexy wildlife came out for us that day. In every cove we paddled into there was something new. Soaring Bald Eagles, gorgeous Wood Ducks, kingfishers, ospreys, Painted Turtles, River Otters, Minks they all showed their feathered, scaly and furry faces. The lake kicked in too by decorating herself in a lovely mist, not too thick, but just enough to add to the feeling that each siting was like unwrapping a gift. Each time we turned a corner and the mist parted there was something else. It was magical The visitors in all the canoes ooohed and aaahed accordingly.
And then something otherworldly. From out of the mists, just mere metres from the boats came a rowing scull. And in that scull was a famous Olympic rower who had just recently won some serious medals. No one squealed or pointed like they did when Mink pranced over the rocks. They just watched silently as athletic greatness glided past.
To train for these canoeing excursions, I've purposely capsized my canoe so we could practice rescues. I did this weeks before my wedding and ended up getting pink eye, that only cleared up the day before. I'm not blaming the lake. Wait, yes I am.
Finally, one class of kids will forever remain in my heart because there was this one boy. (Teachers will recognize this one boy. He was the one running around bouncing off the trees before we could get the program started). I was standing at the front of the group about to start and he whizzed past me and then darted back in front, hovering like a hummingbird. He read my name tag out loud as though I wasn't there and said to himself, "Zil? What kind of a name is Zil?
This energetic, dyslexic little boy gave me a nickname I still hold today with my Park Interpreter friends.
Remember that olympic rower? Not long after the canoe siting, she ran by me on a park trail with her unleashed dog. He stopped to relieve himself. She kept running. And so the circle of life and this blog is complete.