It's funny how the more time passes between me and an event, is the less I remember. Actually, it's not funny at all. Classic Keren exaggerating. That's how life works. That's where my field notes come in handy. Week 3 was a busy one. We left Seattle bright and early at 8:30 am (give or take) and went on a grand tour around Central(ish) Washington. The details are foggy but first we went East and stopped at a site in Skykomish then North to the North Cascades Institute in Rockport. At the end of the week we went West to a campsite in Mount Vernon and South (partially by ferry) to another campsite in Shelton. According to Google Maps, that's a nine an a half hour trip by car.

The official theme for the week was "Shifting Baselines". We met people who are actively working with the environment. This included park rangers, beaver specialists, grad students in Environmental Education and organic farmers. We talked more about ecological terms like succession, restoration, resilience or keystone species and we could see some of them play out in the sites we visited. Camping was a fun way to end the week because it was my first time actually camping and using a sleeping bag. I like doing these outdoorsy things but I'm also learning my tolerance level for them. The camping wasn't too intense - there were bathrooms on both properties. Despite those amenities, I was definitely happy when we travelled to a site with mattresses, cleaner bathrooms, and less insects.

A large aspect of this program is getting us to talk with people working in fields we might be interested in and seeing how they got to where they are. I like that many of these people took winding roads to get there. We had a talk on Tuesday at NCI. Some of the employees and graduate students sat with us and told us their stories. There was one who knew that he wanted to work outdoors and teach people for the majority of his life so his job at NCI is a dream come true. Another knew he liked the environment but didn't decide to study it until he took a year off and went to an outdoor school in Norway. (He applied to National Outdoor Leadership School or NOLS.) He was studying physics but realized when he returned that he wanted to study something related to the environment. A graduate student said that she started off college as an art major but changed to environmental science. I asked if she still makes time for her art and she said she keeps a field journal and sketches the plants she sees while studying. I like seeing how convoluted other people's paths seemed and then seeing the result of it. It gives me some peace of mind.

At the end of each week, we have a Conservation Conversation. We're given a prompt or question and talk about it in pairs, then fours, and finally as a large group. One of the questions resonated with me because I had been thinking about it throughout the week without knowing it. The question was: What part of my identity and culture has been especially salient this week? I'm going to include photos of NCI - it's a beautiful place. We were surrounded by trees and mountains. My only problem was that I didn't seem as excited as some of my peers. A friend actually screamed with joy on the first day but I couldn't muster up that intensity of emotion. I appreciated the space but I wasn't overwhelmed in the same way. I eventually realized that NCI reminded me of home. This isn't to say that Jamaica doesn't have urban spaces but in most places in Kingston, I can see mountains in the distance and there's quite a bit of green space mixed in - at least in residential areas. From my experience, the idea that there's places where humans are and there's the "wilderness" where nature is doesn't play out in Jamaica.

I had a similar experience of familiarity when we visited the organic farm. Blue Heron Farm in Skagit Valley has been operated by Anne and her husband Michael since 1991. While at NCI, we ate many of her fruits and vegetables because they try to get food from as close by as they can. They call it a "foodshed". Being on the farm and seeing fruits like raspberries and plums grow on trees was fun for me. I usually find those things packaged and imported on Jamaican shelves. I never buy them because why pay money for imported fruit when there are fruit trees in the yard? The farm also reminded me that my grandparents worked on farms so farming played a big part in making me who I am and where I am.

One of the most impactful events was something that wasn't scheduled and initiated by some people in the group. On Saturday night we did a Privilege Walk. We started off in a horizontal line holding hands and an instructor read statements. If the statement applied to you, you stepped forward or backward depending on the instruction. It was a humbling experience. It made me realize privileges I have that I didn't even recognize. I also learned that there's no way to look at someone and think you know their story.

Week Three Summary

Location NCI Environmental Learning Center and Skagit Valley

Site of a forest fire from last year at Wenatchee National Forest
Nature hike through the temperate rainforest at NCI
Canoe trip on Diablo Lake (the reservoir behind a dam on Skagit River)
Stream sampling (I forget the name of the stream we visited. Ah well.)
Blue Heron Farm
Little Mountain to meet employees from The Nature Conservancy
Camping - Bay View State Park and Potlatch State Park

Oh deer

These steps were installed by one woman in one week

If there's anything you want to know more about, just comment below and let me know. This post came a bit late but last week was a busy one. I should post my third Sunday Currently tomorrow and I want to draft the post for Week 4. The song is "FourFiveSeconds" by Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney.

Thanks for reading,

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