By Madi Wachsmuth, Spring 2018 Conservation Education Intern
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary
Stop and Look
When I first set foot on the mountain top as Hawk Mountain’s new spring education intern, I wanted to explore and embrace the land that would become my home for the coming months. I arrived in the early morning on a cold February day, and at that time, the mountain was engulfed within a cloud. The world around me was shrouded in fog and shadows. As I wandered the trails around the sanctuary, I discovered statues and gardens that seemed to sleep under a blanket of snow in the grey pale morning. The amphitheatre, though empty, held a promise of spring days to come when it would be filled with visitors, eager to learn and see all that the mountain top has to offer.
I then decided to venture up towards the South Lookout. As I wandered up the path, I saw in the distance two posts at the trailhead. The posts stood erect with a single word written on each, ‘Stop’ and ‘Look’. The words themselves halted me in my path. I was impressed with the precise power of those two simple words. I began to reflect on those columns, their wise mantra filling me with excitement, curiosity and wonder. What laid in wait before me? What would I bear witness to on the misty mountain top? In that moment, I made a promise to myself that I would live and experience as much as I could in the coming months.
I wrote ‘Stop and Look’ 3 months ago, at the start of my internship. You can imagine my surprise and slight embarrassment when I realized that the posts in the story were actually just for a pedestrian road crossing. But in that moment those words held a higher meaning to me in both heart and mind. When I see them, they still hold that same meaning that they did on that misty morning. To me, they will forever be moving words of guidance for the wandering traveler.
Now summer is just around the corner. That cold breath of winter is a distant memory. This internship has truly gone by in a flash, and it was filled with plenty of twists and surprises. In the beginning, I promised myself that I would take it one step at a time because all too often we think only in terms of destinations and deadlines, missing the experience of the journey. In the blink of an eye the moment has past, and we are onto the next. This is why I believe that taking the opportunity to not only experience but document the finite and fleeting moments in life is so important.
Some people may let landscapes inspire them to create art in forms of poetry, drawings, photography. One person's art can even become a muse for others seeking inspiration. Others prefer to chronicle sightings or the changes that they notice in the world around them. Birders in particular keep detailed lists of sightings in hopes of tracking the seasonal movements of animals or the growth of plants. I recently met a 3 year old with his very own life list and was very impressed to see him identifying songbirds at our bird feeders with his grandmother. This boy would grow up with an appreciation and understanding of the world around him that many of his peers would not. These catalogs help us to see the beautifully intricate patterns that surround us as the years go by.
Whether you find yourself on the mountain top for reasons of inspiration, enrichment, or investigation, there’s bound to be something amazing for all to find. So bring your camera, or a notepad and try some new form of expression. Let the world around inspire you, and experience your moment for what it is: one of a kind.