As summer camp winds down, I walk along the trails and feel pangs of nostalgia. This is due in part to the normal process of leaving a place; as I visit my favorite spots for possibly the last time, memories of the past year flash through my mind. But the nostalgia is heightened by the fact that the Ridge looks much like it did when I first arrived.
I and my fellow school year naturalists began our journey almost exactly one year ago, on a foggy August afternoon that hid many of the treasures we were soon to discover. One of our first activities after moving in was a raspberry picking excursion. As I eat the few stubborn raspberries still clinging to the bushes (the crop ended earlier than last year), I recall with a grin that we optimistically packed three one-gallon ice cream buckets with us, and filled each one no more than an inch. I take a stroll to the lake and see that the asters and pearly everlasting I admired on day one have returned and are in full bloom. I spot a bright orange lobster mushroom bursting through the soil and recount my first mushroom foraging experience. Fuzzy black, white, and yellow caterpillars munch on alder leaves. I struggle to recall the name of caterpillars, but a year of learning has buried that particular fact.
During the rare quiet moments when I am sitting in my room, I hear cedar waxwings “zee”ing to one another as they flit between the mountain ash trees outside my window, impatiently waiting for the berries to ripen. I remember my first uncertain phenology journal entries documenting the waxwings’ behavior, and am happy to note that both my journaling and observation skills improved over the year. It became less daunting and more thrilling to document the changing of the seasons and the accompanying shifts in flora and fauna as I invested myself in the Wolf Ridge community.
It is easy to pack my bags and hug my coworkers goodbye and feel that this is the “end”. But when I see familiar flowers, berries, and birds resuming their August activities, I see that this is just another beginning. If Wolf Ridge has taught me nothing else, it is that change is inevitable, constant, and necessary for life. Some species may not be here all the time, but that does not mean this place is not their home. I overhear some of the summer naturalists, soon to be school year nats, excitedly talking about their future plans, and smile knowing that they will pick up where I left off. And when I return, things will have changed, same as usual.
Cedar Waxwing photo credit: