Rachel Carson said, “Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.”
Back in 1979 I was a mom with 2 young children at home, so I was never alone, but occasionally I was weary. Answering an ad to volunteer at the Oceano Lagoon seemed like a perfect way to get out of the house for a few hours each week. Little did I know how much that choice would alter my life.
By spring of 1980 I was giving lagoon and Chumash talks at Oceano Lagoon in Pismo Beach State Park. When fall came around the rangers asked if I would be willing to give some Monarch butterfly talks. In those years research was done in libraries. The August 1976 National Geographic was one of my main sources of information on the Monarchs. (I still own a worn and well-loved copy of that issue.) I used the magazine as a visual on so many talks that it fell apart, so I eventually laminated the article to use during presentations. If you look at the beautiful photos in the article you will notice that in every picture monarchs are bright orange and black.
Boy was I surprised to arrive in the grove on a foggy and cool day in November 1980 to find lots of eucalyptus trees with big clumps of leaves, but no butterflies. I wondered why the rangers thought the grove would be a good place to give butterfly talks. It didn’t take long for me to realize that those clumps were hundreds of thousands of monarchs, yes in those days we regularly had more than 200,000 monarchs in the grove. My love affair with this remarkable insect was born.
I enjoyed giving talks so much that I decided I might enjoy being a teacher. I went back to school and got a teaching credential and a few years later I was hired to teach 5th and 6th grades. Eventually I became an elementary school principal. I am grateful that being a docent led me to a fulfilling 26 year career in public education.
As I got busier with family and work, I found that I needed my winter volunteer shifts with the Monarchs even more. I think John Burroughs had it right when he said, “I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” The monarch grove has provided wonder and amazement to hundreds of thousands of people of all ages, nationalities and walks of life through the years. They are a source of joy even as their numbers have declined dramatically.
Once I retired, I was delighted to spend more days in the grove each season. I also found myself gravitating to helping all of our wonderful local state parks by joining the CCSPA board and serving as its president for the past two years. We are so fortunate to have so many splendid parks in our County. The truth is that volunteering is fun and deeply satisfying. I agree with Albert Schweitzer, who said, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”
I’m really happy to still be serving after all these years.