Finding My “Why”

Or: How A Three Hour Zoom Call Changed My Life Forever

transmogrify: To transform in a surprising or magical manner (Oxford Dictionary)

So many people these days speak of their “why” – what motivates them to do what they do – that it’s become an almost cliched version of what used to be called a mission statement. I tend to avoid those pop culture fads with every fiber of my being but when I decided to start this new blog, “why” seemed like a very good question, and one whose answer is quite complex.

Why am I starting a blog in which I summarize the latest news and updates on the environmental front? Why do I call myself a conservationist, especially when I consider the current climate crisis movement to be fraught with panic and cynicism? Why do I think I can make a difference, when I’m just one person? Why do I think anyone will listen to me?

All of a sudden, WHY seems like such a big word.

To be fair, I was probably always a conservationist in one way or another, I just didn’t know my passion for the earth had a name. My father worked in the paper industry for 42 years and taught me many lessons about sustainable forestry and paper as a renewable and recyclable resource. When plastic bags became ubiquitous and the question “paper or plastic” was on the lips of every grocery store cashier, my father insisted we use paper, and it was a source of great pride to see his company’s logo on the bottom of the bags. When I was a child, my mother put out feeders, suet cages and sugar water and we spent so much time sitting at the kitchen window with her dog-eared paperback bird book trying to identify our feathered friends. To this day, I still love to watch the birds at my feeders as I start my morning — the one advantage to a basement apartment is that it puts me at eye level to so many fascinating creatures and allows me to feel a close connection to them (and yes, I have named my chipmunks and squirrels!).  I also taught myself the fundamentals of photography and have found that landscapes are my favorite genre to shoot – Ansel Adams is my favorite photographer and I strive to capture nature in a way that will move others and inspire them to become environmental stewards. 

Even if my “why” was destined to happen, I wasn’t aware of that until much later in my life. In 2019, I hit a rough patch (to put it mildly) and found solace in the 1980’s detective/rom-com t.v. show Hart to Hart. Of course I fell in love with Stefanie Powers and when I listened to her memoir One From The Hart, she opened my eyes to the potential we all have to change the world. I devoured her words as if they were my sustenance, laughing (and crying) as she shared stories about how William Holden, the great love of her life, became a conservationist after years as a big game hunter. Though their time together was too brief, he instilled in her  that same passion for preserving all life, and after his tragic passing in 1981, she created the 501 (c) 3 charity that became the William Holden Wildlife Foundation; his plan had always been to create an education center on the grounds of his game ranch – how can you justify releasing captive bred stock back into the wild if you don’t teach people why they should protect that wildlife in the first place? Sadly, he didn’t live to see this dream come to fruition, but with Ms. Powers’ love and guidance, the Foundation has become the living embodiment of his vision.  Since its inception nearly 40 years ago, thousands of Kenyan children have visited the facility they lovingly call “the William Holden” to learn common sense, simple ways to protect the environment, and they leave with a sense of purpose, eager to teach their parents everything they’ve learned. It’s that level of excitement and optimism born from great tragedy that continues to change the world, one heart and one child at a time. 

Something about Ms. Powers’ story reminds me of the myth of the Phoenix and in sharing the transformative power of her love for Mr. Holden with the world, she’s changed many lives forever, including my own. I’m a completely different person now than I was when I met her in 2019, though I realize how hyperbolic that sounds; even so, it wasn’t until September 27, 2020 that I truly found my calling. That afternoon, about two dozen of Ms. Powers’ fans met with her in a Zoom chat (still have no idea why I was chosen to participate but I’m so happy I was). We talked about many things, but I was most interested in her opinions on environmental protection. Suffice it to say, I was thrilled to learn I’m not the only one who thinks electric vehicles do more harm than good (the subject of an upcoming post) and I was upset when she admonished us to research single stream recycling, but only because I didn’t want to learn I’d been doing it wrong (which I had been — more to come!). My husband says that if he could speak to Ms. Powers, he would tell her that I was transmogrified that afternoon and that I was a completely different person when he got home from work than I was when he left the house that morning and he wasn’t wrong! 

I was motivated to change my behavior and suddenly found myself researching things I’d never even thought about before; I switched to metal straws and wool dryers balls (it never occurred to me that dryer sheets have plastic in them until I did the research), I began using clothes detergent in cardboard containers and started washing my recycling before I discarded it. That was only the tip of the iceberg –the ultimate result is this blog. I’ve been reading many things and taking copious amounts of notes up to this point, and the more I study the environment, the less I realize I truly know. 

As much as I hope this blog will help educate others, preparing it has been an extremely educational experience for me as well. Sometimes we just need someone to point us in a certain direction, give us that little nudge that changes the course of our lives for the better. Ms. Powers and Mr. Holden have done just that for me. My “why” comes from a deep spiritual connection of love and respect for both of them. I’m not going to tell you what to think. I’m not going to politicize or preach. That is counterproductive to say the least. What I hope to do is impart what little bit I’ve learned in a way that makes a difference. We can’t change the entire world, but small steps, taken by us all, can make big changes. We can all be a voice for the voiceless, and when we open our hearts and minds, amazing things will happen. 

2 thoughts on “Finding My “Why”

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