Most of us have a story to tell of how we discovered our love of nature. From the depths of the forests to the profundity of a good book, from our nation’s iconic wildlife refuges and parks to our backyards, there are countless places our journeys with nature and wildlife can begin.
This past Earth Day, we asked our supporters to share how they developed an affinity for the wild world around us, and we were blown away by the responses. Defenders of all ages and backgrounds sent in stories of childhood memories and wild encounters.
World Environment Day is June 5, and we are proud to share just a few of our favorite stories from Defenders across the country. We hope you enjoy these stories as much as we did, and we hope they inspire you to take a closer look at the world around you!
Jan R. from Kent, OH:
I was there on the very first Earth Day, so it holds quite a lot of meaning for me. But my story belongs with nature. When I was a teenager, we lived in a fairly wooded neighborhood—beautiful trees, lovely sounds of songbirds. But the most unusual thing I saw at the time were white-breasted nuthatches, hopping head down on the trees outside our kitchen window. Now, my daughter lives in the same neighborhood. Since her family has been there, we have seen deer, foxes, a coyote or two, and loads of turtles and frogs. On the one hand, I find this sad because it means that since I lived there, we as the human race, have so encroached on the area of these creatures that they are now out among us. I’m sure they were there years ago, but they had so many places to hide. On the other hand, they are so beautiful to see and enjoy. I’m glad they are still there.
Dolores E. from Klamath Falls, OR:
My love of nature comes from my father, who was a District Ranger for the U.S. Forest Service. He passed away when I was six, but he took each of his children, four of us, separately camping before he passed. He would tell me about the types of trees and about the squirrels and chipmunks we saw. We heard the mourning doves, and to this day, when I hear their song, I think of him. I miss him terribly 60 years later.
Lisa M. from Germantown, MD:
When I was in my early 20s, I discovered Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. In my 30s, I began volunteering with the Friends of Blackwater NWR, running their website and social media, and I’m now on their board of directors. Through my volunteer work and my wildlife photography, I’ve loved sharing the beauty of the National Wildlife Refuge System with all Americans. We’re so lucky to have this system of lands where wildlife comes first.
Marcella R. from Northbridge, MA:
My love of nature started with a book called The Jungle Book when I was a kid. It inspired me to see all the animals and their adventures. From there my love of animals escalated. To this day, my daily nature walks are my calm, are my meditation, are my head clearing, are a breath of fresh air. Just being around lots of trees and rushing water and never knowing what animal will cross your path. There is so much beauty in nature, the oceans, the mountains, the forests. We need to take pride and take care of what’s left for our own sake and the sake of animals.
Patrick S. from Buena Vista, CO:
The natural world’s wonders are immense. The sense of calm shared by a babbling brook or the awe-inspiring presence of a powerful ocean wave crashing. The cacophony of finches, siskins chickadees and sparrows awakening to dawn’s light reassures me that indeed another day awaits. The bounding speed of a young mule deer clearing a four-foot fence without a break in stride as a solitary blade slashes the sky in the form of a retail hawk scanning the horizon. These, our family of life on this precious Earth, long to live and thrive with their young just as we do. Their beauty and majesty have inspired artists and poets from the beginnings of time.
Scott L. from Chicago, IL
I discovered my love of nature at a young age upon my first of many visits to the best National Park in all the world, Yellowstone. While waiting for Old Faithful to erupt, I encountered a beautiful bison standing right in front of me, posing. What a beautiful animal in a beautiful park. I was hooked!
Amy O. from Brooklyn, NY:
My love of wildlife started when I was having a hard time during my teen years. I found myself watching nature shows and feeling calm, less stressed. Watching these shows helped me appreciate the natural world. As I got older, I found myself becoming more involved in the preservation and care of our planet and our animal friends. We, as the most intelligent beings on the planet, should be more aware and involved in preserving our home, not only for ourselves but for future generations and all living beings on earth. It is our obligation to care for our home.
Karen K. from Riverside, CA:
My parents loved camping, and so did their kids. I can’t remember when I didn’t like being outside, away from people. I was always taking off on trails no one else followed, finding new plants and animals. The only puzzle was why the wildlife and plants I saw didn’t even come close to the ones shown in schoolbooks. Southern California doesn’t have eastern red squirrels, maple trees or blue jays. It was a book my father bought that taught me the wider natural world. The book had pictorials (like a museum) that showed the natural world’s evolution through the various eras of geologic history. The depiction of the different plants and wildlife in their various environments fascinated me, how species come and go through time. And the book had animal and plant species that could be found in southern California! High school brought understanding of how some of those species were disappearing because of human beings. College taught me to understand that we are a part of the natural world, and we have to be careful what we do to it. I still wander empty trails when I can, and still love seeing even the most common of plants and animals. I remain fascinated by how it all connects and includes me, and I’m careful every time to be aware of where I put my foot down.
Joe R. from Viroqua, WI:
Being born in the depths of winter, I was kept warm by family. Surrounded by cold and darkness, life was all about nurturing and staying cozy. Soon summer came, my family moved to a cabin on a wilderness lake. There I grew amidst the waves of nature, the winds, birds and clouds of mosquitoes. As it turns out I became immune to mosquito bites! I learned the feel of nature that summer at seven months of age. We were Immersed everyday there in the elements. We slept on a large, screened porch every night. Often owls hooted as it was their home too. I lived every summer of my life there. Eventually I met my wife on the shores of that same lake. She had grown up there summers too. So, when we had babies, we continued to bring them and raise them there in nature. Many generations of our families shared that natural shore. We were lucky to have such an introduction to life on Earth. Many have had this, but many have not. We know life in relation to nature is our only survival. Life in relation to nature brings peace, joy and more life too!
*Note: Some stories were edited lightly for length and clarity.
Share your own stories of nature with us in the comments! How did you find your love of nature? Why do you support Defenders of Wildlife?