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I Believe in Nature

Nature has always been an inte­gral part of my life. As a wee child, my mother brought me to Drumlin Farm, where I watched the foxes and the wild birds with the rapt atten­tion only a three-year-old can manage. I grew up hiking through the woods owned by the water company. My dog loved to chase the deer there, despite the signs forbid­ding pets. A cozy white blanket of snow fell every winter, the cardi­nals and blue jays bright against it. I have dear memo­ries of a grumpy possum I spied several times in my back­yard, its storm gray fur and bare, wrinkled face.

When I lived in Connecti­cut, I was an avid observer of nature. That changed after I moved to Cali­for­nia. I knew next to nothing about the local wildlife, only that there were lizards instead of chip­munks on my front steps, and my dog wasn’t inter­ested in them. The cawing birds in my yard now had no name; the weather never changed.

I became more than a passive beholder when I started to volun­teer at the Audubon Society. At Debs Park, we work to preserve and encour­age our endemic flora. In the nursery, black chest­nuts hide from the squir­rels and Cali­for­nia buck­wheat strug­gles through the topsoil. Satur­day morn­ings, I report to the super­vi­sor for the day’s agenda. We plant, pot, trans­fer, mist, water, fertil­ize, regis­ter, and weed the plants until they, at age two, are strong enough to survive outside the nursery. On the sun-soaked hills, we dig holes and build berms to catch water. I used to go with friends; we’d chatter and joke as we replanted mint and washed pots. Now only I go, but that’s alright. Nothing compares to the smell of black sage baking in the morning heat.

Volun­teer­ing at Debs Park has taught me the deli­cacy of LA’s chap­ar­ral biome. When it’s 9:30 on a Satur­day morning and I wish I were back in bed instead of digging through rocky soil, it’s hard to see where all the efforts are leading. But when I step back, I see that the plants fostered at the park provide the back­bone of the ecosys­tem. Nature has always surrounded me, from Walden Pond to Sperry Woods. But only since coming to LA have I given back to it, protected her seedlings and nurtured her budding cacti, foster­ing gener­a­tions to come. Insects, shrews, and nuthatches rely on our efforts. Even a bobcat moved in. Like me, he’s found a home at Debs Park among the island snapdragons.

Margaret C.
11th Grade