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In 2010, having lived and worked in five national parks from sea to shining sea, I returned to Mammoth Cave at long last. The guide force was still the same family I knew and loved – equal parts endearing and exasperating. But left to their own devices for five years without my outbursts, they'd changed all by themselves.
They'd formed a park-wide Green Team that met monthly, recycled styrofoam, initiated a carpooling survey, and installed a fancy composting bin with detailed directions next to park housing!!! In the guide lounge, newbies and old-timers alike knew that when cleaning the coffee maker, the used grounds went into the can on the counter for Ranger Tade's garden. I didn't need worms; I had coworkers clamoring for my compostables!
Likewise, I was still the same Jen they knew and loved – a pressure cooker of causes waiting to pop - but I'd changed too. I'd met and lived amongst hippies and yuppies, progressives and tea partiers, environmentalists and industrialists, workaholics and free spirits. I knew where they and I shared common ground and suffered irreparable differences. No longer just stereotypes, they were real people. And so was I. I'd walked and biked and carpooled to work. I'd shopped at farmers markets and bumperstickered my car and written letters to the editor and gone to rallies and lobbied my legislators. Mostly importantly, I'd learned - who I was, and how to make a difference starting with myself.
Today I'm an activist, an environmentalist, a citizen lobbyist, a wife, a stepmother, a former park ranger, and a tree-hugger trying to make peace with city life. Empowered by my good friend the Mamallama's expert guidance, I set out into the backyard, power drill in hand intent on converting the landlady's abandoned, cracked, and crumbling trash cans into compost bins. (That's right, I've also learned to use power tools. Be afraid; be very, very afraid ;p ) Grumbling, I turned to the one she'd left half full of trash and yard waste last August only to discover that, in addition to the sticks, branches, and leaves, the styrofoam cups, coke cans, and candybar wrappers, there was now a pot's worth of soil, earthworms galore, and a tenacious clump of roots, stems, and very green leaves. I'll be durned. Given enough time, compost happens, change does too, and "life...finds a way.”