(This is the scene that greeted me in the office kitchen this morning.)
This week marks my five-year anniversary with The Nature Conservancy. This is the longest stretch of time I’ve worked in the same place and I don’t intend on going anywhere anytime soon. I love what I do for a living and working for a non-profit that is highly supportive of work-life balance is a dream.
Weird story – I spent the summer of 2003 living with friends back in Anchorage, trying to figure out what to do and where to go next. Did I want someplace new or somewhere familiar? And which place would that be, exactly? During that time a job opened up in The Nature Conservancy’s Anchorage office and I decided to apply. I went through two rounds of interviews (later I learned I was the top candidate) but ultimately decided I wasn’t going to stay in Alaska. I took myself out of contention and ended up moving back to St. Maarten to teach.
Fast forward three years to spring 2006 – Matt and I decided we were moving to Wisconsin so I started browsing job openings for environmental jobs in Madison. The exact same job I interviewed for in Anchorage in 2003 was available in the Madison office. I applied, had a couple of crazy interviews via an international cell phone connection, had one more in-person interview when we arrived in Wisconsin, and got it! Right place, right time and I’m so, so happy it all worked out the way it did.
photo from here
One of the best parts of my trip last week was canoeing down the Brule River. I was nervous about tipping my canoe so I didn’t bring my camera with me, (no I didn’t tip, and yes I kicked myself the whole time for not being able to take photos) but it looked exactly like this.
After the canoe trip we had a social event at a private lodge. The Nature Conservancy and local landowners have worked together to protect 90% of the land along the river and the landowners invited us to a little party so we could meet in person and share our mutual gratitude for preserving such a special place.
The landowner who organized the party had just celebrated his daughter’s wedding five days before and she and her husband were there, as were several Irish wedding guests enjoying the north woods. (The groom was Irish and the couple live in Dublin.) Of course, they all were still talking about the wedding and it sounded amazing – it was held right on the Brule River. Not on the banks of the river, actually on the river!
All of the guests traveled to the ceremony spot by canoe with the bride and her father coming last. When they came around the river bend and appeared in view of the guests, she stood up in the back of the canoe in her wedding dress and glided down the water toward her groom. The two of them and their officiant climbed onto a rock on a small island and said their vows in bare feet, while the guests watched from below in their canoes. Everyone I talked to who was there said it was simply magical.
Meeting this family and hearing this story reminded me that we all have places in this world that are magical to us. It’s so inspiring to spend time with people who are committed to keeping them that way.
(The Brule has a really interesting history – click here to read more.)
I spent the last three days in up northwestern Wisconsin, on Lake Superior, for work. The weather was gorgeous, we canoed the Brule River and visited an island in the St. Louis River Estuary by tour boat, and had dinner one night in a beautiful old mansion that was built by a lumber baron in the late 1800′s. The opportunity to spend time outdoors with people who are passionate about the land and water we help protect is one of my favorite parts of my job.
This morning I got an email at work officially welcoming me to a leadership development program I was invited to participate in. Along with the welcome letter was a schedule for the 15-month program, which includes several meetings I’ll have to travel to.
First stop – Cartagena, Colombia in February!
(What’s the Nature Conservancy doing in Colombia? Click here to find out.)
Fast Facts about Colombia from Lonely Planet
Number of ‘u’s in country’s name none
Population 46 million
Head of state President Juan Manuel Santos
He said it All human beings have three lives: public, private, and secret – Gabriel García Márquez
Famous for Gabriel García Márquez, Shakira, salsa, cumbia, Betty La Fea (the original Ugly Betty), FARC, Fernando Botero, coffee, a certain white powder, three kinds of passionfruit.
And finally, I can’t hear the word Cartagena without thinking about one of my favorite movies when I was a kid. Joan Wilder 4EVA.