As a child growing up in western New York state, I spent most of my free time outside, wandering the acres and acres of undeveloped woods and fields around my house and strolling along the wide, shallow creek nearby. I climbed trees, caught frogs and salamanders, searched for feathers and fox dens, deer beds and turkey nests, caterpillars and crayfish. I followed mink tracks winding through the snow, watched hawks and vultures sailing in the sky, listened to peepers and katydids, challenged myself to capture with my camera everything I saw.
I have an insatiable appetite for knowledge about the animals I photograph.
It was never enough for me to just have a picture of a spider or insect or nest or feather or fox. I wanted to know everything about these things! What were the names and life cycles of the insects I was finding, the names of the flowers tucked in woodland ravines. Where did the fox go when he disappeared with a rabbit hanging from his mouth, how long did the yellow and black spider in the middle of the dew-covered web live, what did the woodchuck’s den look like below ground, how did the frogs and snakes and salamanders survived the long and cold winter? I watched and read and learned little by little about the amazing world right outside of my door. I didn’t have to travel far to find fascinating animals, interesting plants, examples of living things perfectly fit to their environments.l swam, fished, wrote, hiked, explored. Often I did absolutely nothing, sitting for hours. simply taking in the world around me, learning that the more I sat and watched, the more I saw and learned. I was a naturalist long before I ever heard the term.
One way I share my passion for the natural world is teaching. I imagine and create programs for people of all ages, the universal goal being to SHARE NATURE MORE! Kids in my groups often ask me, “Why do you like nature so much?” This is a difficult concept to explain to an eight year old. My love and appreciation for the natural world defines me.
Nature is my church.
It is what nourishes my soul and makes my heart sing with joy.
I know there’s magic outside. There’s magic in the morning when the sun first rises above the distant hills, when the rays slice through the fog that hovers in the fields and every tiny drop of dew becomes a perfect upside-down reflection of the sky and field. There’s magic in the quiet uninterrupted moments when the animals move about freely, oblivious to the hands of the clock or the pull of the future. There’s magic in the steady rain hitting the still surface of the winding river, the way each drop creates a perfect circle after a tiny splash, all of the circles and splashes looking like fireflies flashing at dusk.
It’s in these moments that I feel most alive, most awed, most inspired. Time melts away and always afterward I feel energized, rejuvenated, ready again to face the world. It’s as if someone waved a magic wand over me, melting away all of my troubles. Five minutes, thirty minutes, three hours, four days–I am captured by the NOW.
After earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education at the State University of New York at New Paltz I went on to share nature with people in Minnesota, Michigan, Colorado, Rhode Island, Arkansas and in New York. Everywhere I went I discovered new things about the amazing world we live in and my collection of photographs grew, as did my skills as an educator and my knowledge as a naturalist.
In 2008, anxious for a challenge and an accomplishment on a grand scale, I decided to thru-hike the 2175 mile long Appalachian Trail.
For five months I walked north, carrying all that I needed on my back, reveling in my self-sufficiency and intimacy with the natural world. What an amazing experience! It is something I will forever have and something that has changed me forever. After my hike I moved to Asheville, North Carolina–a location that is full of other creative souls and teeming with trails and mountains and national forests and endless outdoor recreational activities. So far, it is the perfect place for me. I work full time dreaming up and then pursuing ways to express my essential self and earn a living doing what I love.
Whether through teaching, writing, photography, creating DVD’s or just general contact with people, I aim to inspire in my audiences, no matter the age, a sense of wonder for the amazing world in which we live. I believe people should know their outdoor neighbors and I strive to encourage their interest and spark their curiosity in the natural world for only through understanding comes appreciation. I want to show people the impact of their actions and encourage them to become stewards of ALL things wild–not just the cute, cuddly and beautiful animals, but the hairy, scary, scaly, slimly, furry, feathery, giant, tiny and odd ones too. I believe every animal and plant deserves respect regardless of its place in the food web.
There is pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, the music in its roar
I love not man less, but NATURE more
— Lord Byron
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