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Reflecting in Winter

The day had come.  That celebrated, highly anticipated, and yet dreaded, day.  I graduated from Penn State University this spring, on May 4th, 2013.  Two degrees, honors, a thesis, study abroad, and countless other merits and experiences to my name.  The future seemed bright but yet I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life or where I wanted to go.

Over the summer I applied to various internships and jobs focusing on environmental education and recreation, many located on the west coast of the United States.  With a little bit of reluctance, I also applied for the fall environmental education internship at Shaver’s Creek as a “backup” if all my other plans fell through.  Although Shaver’s Creek and its internship programs are highly regarded and selective, I did not want to stay in the State College area and feel as if I was prolonging my time as a student at Penn State.  Throughout the summer, I waited to hear back from the various programs I applied to and continued to put off thinking about what the fall would hold for me.

By August I had heard back from everywhere I applied and had several options, including the internship at Shaver’s Creek.  I read and reread the descriptions of each position, trying to gauge which opportunity was the best fit for me and my tentative career goals.  I consulted those close to me and finally came to the conclusion that I wanted to accept the internship position at Shaver’s Creek.  I would stay for the fall and then finally go west, the real adventure.

In August I moved into the intern house, lovingly known as “The Roost”, and started my job for the fall.  The Center’s staff, naturalists who seemed wise and all knowing, intimidated me at first.  Even my fellow interns seemed to know a lot more about the natural world than I did.  The first few weeks were filled with introductions, orientations, meetings, and lots of learning.  I was exhausted but found myself becoming more and more enamored with the people that surrounded me, and the place where I spent so much time.  I started to feel at home.

My home has changed with the season.  The trails that I now walk to work are usually glistening with frost in the morning, covered in leaves etched with ice.  Tufted titmice and black-capped chickadees crowd the many bird feeders outside of the Lower Classroom.  The people I encounter at work, preschoolers, elementary students, families of all kinds, and groups of friends, all teach me new things about the natural world and myself everyday.  Their excitement about the barred owls and black rat snakes, boardwalk trail and Ironstone trail, milkweed and hemlocks, all inspire me to learn and explore more of the wilderness.  Their love and connection to the forest and the rolling hills brings me immeasurable joy and pride at where I work and what I do.  My fellow interns have become some of my very closest friends, challenging and supporting me at work and at home.

The change of seasons has brought many changes in my personal life as well.  Family concerns and the loss of an immensely important relationship have made me question who I am and what is next.  It’s taken time to recover and will take more time to heal but I am lucky to find myself surrounded by beauty, support, and opportunity in a place I can truly call home.  After a lot of thought and examination I have decided to stay for another season here at the Creek.  There is so much more for me to learn and room for me to grow here: springtime plants and animals, new teaching skills, and working on preparing myself for a career in outdoor recreation.

Shaver’s Creek is an amazing place where people can connect with other people and nature.  Although the weather is getting chillier and the Center has closed to the public for the season (except for our Solstice Stroll on Friday, December 20!), I encourage you to enjoy the wonderful trails and public programs when they are available.  Put on an extra layer and pursue your own adventures over the winter—ski lots (fingers crossed), revel in the silence, and rejoice in the blessing of Pennsylvania in the winter. In February witness the great thaw and transition into new life.  Spring will come sooner than we expect, bringing color and warmth with it.  Come back to the Creek to connect again with the people and place that brings us all so much magic.  I’ll be here.