new crowd, new faces, new insights.
Intro: I volunteer at the forest preserve district of cook county. this morning was a cold, misty morning. Concentrated on the north branch trails of Chicago’s reservations, follow me as I fight with mother nature and myself.
They were already staring at my exhaust less car. feeling guilty about the amount of carbon monoxide I was voluntarily emitting I parked and killed the engine as fast as I could. They were already curious, or so I thought.
Youngblood looked like the rest of us, worn out clothes and a hat to protect us from the sun that wasn’t even visible. He told me to checkout a group on Facebook somethin2030. ‘Twenty thirty’ I pondered, was I being hustled into a life long commitment to the habitat? “yeah its basically people in theirs 20s and 30s who volunteer, but we all come out together and usually afterwards we get beers and get like a barbecue going and just kick back.” …..
there were supposedly two stewards, a husband and a wife. But only one to greet. In his forest preserve jacket (lets call him Jack) and clip board, he appeared to be one with nature. Calm yet excited. I pointed at my black sports cap, which had a aggressive crafted Z right in the front and a smaller one on the back. “ahhh perfect. I will have no problem remembering you now.”
“so is it just Z or is it short for something?” Grayhair asked. unfortunately my Aladin reference didn’t work and no laughs were given. all I could wonder is, how long have these guys been at this? and when will they stop? what compels them to do this?
Prius and her two children pull into the lot a few minutes late. all I could do was stare at her car “that battery powered machine always creeps up on you and yes it can get creepy. but props to her, she isn’t killing the environment like I am.”
The forest preserve jacket (JACK) commenced the meeting “okay folks, today half of us will be seed collecting, and the other half will be chopping down buck thorns.” Saw, loppers, gloves, safety glasses, and I already have my steel toe boots. The excitement at hacking away at living things far exceeds my comprehension, but never the less It was time to attack the jungle.
As we trailed into the forest which I have been riding my bike on all summer long, Jack decided to take a shortcut and leads us in to show us something. “do you know why you shouldn’t stand under a tree during a thunderstorm?” I think he was referring to the storm that I had peacefully slept through. “c’mon guys, Its obvious…” I wish I had a picture to show you, but a massive tree almost 5 stories tall in front us, from head to toe, had been scarred by what I could only describe as the shadow of a lighting bolt. Jack still wasn’t done being cool, he points out the smell of something burning nearby, and just carries on calmly.
we finally see a lady, in the same forest preserve jacket as Jack. So I guess she can be Mama Jack. Mama Jack had a nice warm fire going with tree branches and huge stubs. STOP for a moment, read the previous line again. “this is insanity at its finest, am I witnessing myself volunteering at a program that seeks to preserve the natural habitat, and here were are, lighting shit on fire!??, not to mention am I seriously about to pick up these loppers and start killing living breathing things?”
half way through the day, I am now enjoying picking on a certain kind of plant that I like to call the bully plant. Hacking off his supply of water and nutrients right from root. He blooms fast and overshadows the other natives. Kind of like the struggle of native Americans against the colonial British empire. And I was the natives savior. My armor and my weapons did the talking. “Hey Z!!! we have another Loyola student over here!” I turned quickly to see my Ally in this battle. and there stood a cute innocent girl, a senior majoring in environmental science. she had taken a route that ensures nothing but long travel times and misguided directions. nonetheless, a fellow soldier.
” you should have taken the yellow line train. its much easier and faster. and don’t worry I have my car with me and It would be my pleasure to give you a ride back to the station.” youngblood is next to us as well. He tells me, hes lisenced in bush pile burning and has done several over the past 4 months. he explains “we get protesters every now and then. they have to be more than 30 feet away from us at all times… we’re told not to say anything to them and they just don’t understand what we’re exactly doing.”
There’s a lot going on in all of this, I went from being in the forest battling mother nature, to battling my own thoughts, to understandings the importance of regulation. there are several things you can do to help the environment and the simple characters in this blog are nothing but examples.
as a couple you can volunteer together and enjoy the outdoors.
as a parent, you can drive a Prius and cut down the carbon foot print.
as a parent, you can take your kids on an outing and have roasted marshmallows. (yes the Prius and her kids had marshmallows that we roasted during break.)
As youngsters we can all work together and afterwards have a barbecue.
As a youngster I can get my friends to come along and expand the army of volunteers.
As a human, I can go into the forest and actually inhale the one gas worth inhaling, pure oxygen.
You can take out a lot of your frustration by killing those bully plants. ( professional supervision required)
At least in the Chicago area, there is no better feeling then having the sun shine through the forest and hitting you in the face.
To end it off, I did give my Loyola peer a ride to the station. She loved my car that ironically goes against her entire field of study as an undergraduate, and nonetheless she was very happy to have met me. I think I’m going home to start off my Sunday now. simply put, the days just getting started and I already have so much done and yes!!! this is awesome.