Wednesday, April 12, 2017


Friends, let me tell you about my day job. The universe has blessed me with an unending curiosity about all things great and small under our little yellow sun. I have always been the one to peer over the bank into the waters to see what slithers and swims in the vaguely green waters hereabouts. I am the first to trap through the field to that one lone flower growing in a thicket of briers and brambles. So then, it is no wonder that I became a biologist.

Biologist, you say? Wow, that must be fun. I hear this from people with normal careers all the time. I usually smile and nod while thinking back to the choices that led me down this path. I rather imagine I take on an expression like the Parks Service gentleman who was there to take the check from #45. It was a sardonic smile with tinges of "How the hell did I get here?" in his eyes. I look at the picture of him on that stage holding the check and think to myself, "Amen, brother. Amen"

In truth, I work as an Ecologist more than anything. I deal with wetlands, endangered species, and archaeological surveys. Sounds impressive, doesn't it? The reality of it never seems to live up to the brochure. For you see, most of my clients are developers and land speculators. These individuals are never quite in the mood to be told that they cannot indiscriminately bulldoze everything on their site.

"It's my land, dammit! I'll do whatever the hell I want."

If I had a dollar..., but I persevere.  I have a polished speech ingrained in my head about how we all need water to survive and wetlands keep the watershed from turning into Flint. I explain how there is indeed a federal law that prevents the wholesale destruction of our water resources. Do you remember the 70's, I usually ask (This doesn't work on people younger than 40, but then I also don't usually have to go through this with them). Do you remember the smog? Do you remember the trash floating down the rivers? If they are old enough and smart enough, they will start to understand. Usually, though, they tune me out after the first few stanzas.

It's enough sometimes to weigh a person down.

You schlep your tired old butt up to scenic Gary, Indiana to a site in what must be the finest part of town. You don all the required PPE (hard hat, safety glasses, FR rated clothing, and a safety vest that can be seen from Pluto) and pass through the gate into the wetland.

How much of this do you want me to survey?

Just the wetlands.

(slowly I turn...) I point to the north and say, "Yes."

Yes, what?

Yes. All of this is wetland.

Oh. Well, just go back to the treeline and then over to the telephone pole.

That's it? Really? I drove three hours for this?????


And then, the Universe tosses you a bone.

Fifty minutes later I was done and it was only 12 pm their time. I checked my map app and saw that Indiana Dunes State Park was only 20 minutes away. And with that, I felt less weary. Twenty five minutes later, my butt was in the sand with my back against a piece of driftwood. The wind was cold and my fingers grew numb as I ate, but there in front of me was Lake Michigan rolling against the dunes.

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