The last installment of my progress as a Maine Master Naturalist, Tier 1.
Fireworks end with a grand finale of ear-aching noise and blinding flashes. That is nothing compared to the Maine Master Naturalist finale, Tier One. We followed in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark through field and forest, and then put on a display of iridescent beetles, eye-popping sketches of eyebright, and filled tables till they groaned with all the work we have done these past six months. The kitchen tables were also heavy with sweet and savory delights, and though nothing more was needed, Mother Nature honored her bevy of naturalists with an earth-to-earth rainbow.
The Lewis and Clark expedition was a brilliant role-playing challenge for our last Saturday outing. We were divided into teams—yes, Lewis was one team, Clark was the other. I was the Lewis team sketcher, and madly drew the specimens my fellow explorers brought me. We took to our roles, Jim the canopy scout craning neck and calling out creatures passing by on the wing. Wendy our duff scout troweled earnestly into the duff, exposing roots and subsurface beetles and things that crawl.
Photojournalist Hannah was on the spot documenting the team at work as well as specimens as they were discovered. Then there was our scribe, our wordsmith, our master of description, Anna. Her report starts like this: “On a glorious Autumn day and with the grace of God, our expedition set forth to discover, to name, to collect, and to describe the wonders of this forest and land. May we notice all there is to notice with faithfulness and accuracy!”
No paraphrase would do it justice, so here is the entire report, written off the cuff, and proclaimed at the end of our expedition. She wraps up with “Our time-keeper urges all haste – we depart! “
And so, too suddenly, it was over.
Graduation evening came, and we lugged our insect collections, notebooks, models, journals and drawings to be shared for the first time. There was so much to see, read, examine, discuss. There were pressed flowers with delicate lettering, tiny perfect moths miraculously pinned intact by the other Karen, a bird’s nest with pale blue eggs, the jaw of a raccoon, a cigar box of mammal bones, clay models of teeth in a velvet–lined case.
Before I had seen more than the tip of it, it all got packed away so we could have our ceremony. I cried inside like a child given a stick of her favorite candy, only to have it whipped away just as her mouth opens. I think a repeat display with more time is in order. Does anyone care but us? If not, they should. Our work has depth and creativity, but is not intimidating. “Yes, you can do this too,” is the message, with arms wide open. We are just folk clumsily learning to explore. Our group includes a nurse, a writer, a dentist, a vet, a wine seller, an innkeeper, a high school teacher, a web designer, a map maker, a carpenter–we are as diverse as Chaucer’s pilgrims. We are enthusiastic amateurs, and a sharing of our work is an invitation to others to just roll up their sleeves and dive into our world and learn.
The program coordinators are to thank for this, and we made cards for those who put this class together, giving us so much of their time and energy. They cannot possibly fathom what a gift they gave us all.
The ceremony began. Hugs, laughter, certificates… someone said we needed Pomp and Circumstance, and before the words were out of her mouth the familiar notes were coming out of Edwin’s iPad.
“You guys never skip a beat!” Beth exclaimed. And it is true. We click, we share, we push each other to greater levels, and together we learn. There were no tears. We will meet again in January for Tier Two. How many of the original nineteen, I am not sure. We lost one for reasons beyond her control, but I would not be surprised to see the remaining eighteen making the over an hour drive to Fields Pond.
“I’ll just have to close the days there are class,” says Anna, who serves breakfast for the winter people in Bar Harbor.
Me, I am already figuring how to wedge my French Immersion holiday between field trips, and if I can’t, French will just have to wait.
As we gathered for our evening celebration, a rainbow shimmered. It pulled us outside and we drew together to watch as the sun glowed its last warm rays on white birch, quaking aspen and tamarack. The different species were infused with one brilliant golden glow. And so we graduated.
Thanks to Donne Sinderson, who documents the MMNP and supplied all but the fuzzy photos, which are mine. Want to see more? Go to donnesinderson.weebly.com/outingsclasses.html.
If you want the real thing–daily, small, perfectly-sized doses of what’s happening in our world right now, everyday, follow Mary Holland (I do): naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com
For more about the Maine Master Naturalist program: mainemasternaturalist.org