I’ve always wished I could make others understand and feel the strong adoration I feel for nature. I’ve often searched for the right words to convey this deep conviction within me. I was at a nonprofit conference recently and someone conveyed their deep conviction for their cause to me using their story. This is my attempt to convey my love for nature and environmentalism to you using my story.
I grew up in rural West Virginia where I didn’t have much, but I had nature. I was surrounded by awe inspiring hills and valleys and pasture fields. Their beauty drew me outside on most days with my camera where I captured their beauty in different seasons. That beauty wasn’t the only thing encouraging me to leave my house. My home was a hostile place filled with the sound of my parents’ angry voices as they fought daily. I was filled with anxiety about whether my parents could pay our bills or put food on the table.
There was a really unique tree I would climb into. It grew on a steep hillside overlooking our bottom pasture. My mom took this photo of me right before I cozied into my tree where I would sing for hours and sometimes read books. My favorite goat, Syria, accompanied my on the rock next to me. I would occasionally scratch her head and feed her elm leaves, her favorite.It’s hard to explain how much I loved the land around me, but it helps to understand the relief it made me feel. In my house I was always walking on egg shells trying to avoid refereeing another argument while also trying to take control of my parents’ terrible financial situation. The fear would reach a point where I had trouble controlling my racing thoughts and I would become very withdrawn. I left for the land for some clarity. I would go outside and it was like I could switch the lense I was using to view the world. I remembered to breathe and exist in the present.
2008 was a tough year for a lot of people and it was especially hard for my family who relied on a factory job that was outsourced in 2008. I had placed a lot of significance on my sanctuaries on the land around my home and suddenly those sacred places were gone. Our home was one of the many homes foreclosed on in 2008. I lost the beautiful land that had once belonged to me, my escape, and my home. Later that year my parents also divorced. I grieved for many years over the loss of my family and my land. I still carry some pain with me today though it has transformed into motivation towards my work with Friends of Lower Muskingum River.
I suppose it isn’t surprising that I found this job directing a land trust organization. A land trust is a nonprofit organization that conserves and protects land by owning land outright or holding conservation easements. A land trust offers these outright owned properties for public access and protects and ensures restrictions are respected on conservation easement properties. These easements ensure that land with conservation value remains protected even with changes in land ownership.
I know how it feels to lose land that you love and I understand the importance of connecting with nature as a human being. In fact, there is a mcmansion built on the farm that once belonged to my family. Pictures are all I have now to remember how beautiful it was.
As Executive Director of FLMR I want to provide places for people to escape that they know will always exist, a place that will never be foreclosed on, developed, or polluted, places where humans can truly fall in love with land. I want you to help us do this by volunteering, donating, and advocating for land conservation. Please follow our facebook, twitter, and our website Muskingumriver.org to learn more about how you can help Friends of Lower Muskingum River.