Nature is for Everyone: A reflection on Second Saturday Workdays
The following is a guest post by LCWM volunteer Stephanie Gerling, pictured above on left. Image courtesy Stephanie Gerling.
I am a novice with nature at best. While I love a walk through fields and flowers, I prefer a path with limited inclines. I’m not super into getting dirty nor do I have the most positive of reactions when a bug flies on or anywhere near me.
But no matter the amount of dirt, spiders, or uphill hikes, I love being outside.
Last summer, I signed up to volunteer at a Second Saturday Workday with the Land Conservancy of West Michigan. The Young Professionals group at my workplace had promoted the opportunity and were looking for people to attend. I didn’t know anything about LCWM, but it seemed like a fun enough weekend activity. I knew a few people going and, as I mentioned earlier, I love being outside.
Just over a dozen of us spent the morning at Brower Lake Nature Preserve in Rockford pulling invasive garlic mustard. It was totally okay that I didn’t know what garlic mustard was when I got there—the staff on site showed us how to identify it and explained how and why we needed to pull it. (How: pull from the bottom and get the whole root out of the ground, try not to displace the seeds. Why: to make way for more native plants to flourish).
This Second Saturday Workday made way for my future with the Land Conservancy. The staff and volunteers were kind and motivated. Questions were welcomed and staff were happy to talk about the surrounding ecosystem, how the invasive garlic mustard got there, and what plans were in place to continue protecting the nature preserve. Pulling the weeds wasn’t difficult, and we could take breaks as needed and go at our own pace. I remember taking a break and spotting a patch of wild strawberries underfoot, and as I stooped down for a closer look, saw two daddy-long-legs making their way through the berries. It was a small moment, one that maybe I wasn’t even supposed to see, but I felt lucky that I looked down at the right time to see this very cute sight. I was reminded of how much I like being outside.
At the end of the morning, we looked around and saw bags upon bags of pulled garlic mustard as we snacked on cookies and apples, provided by LCWM. We did a lot that day, but I could see that there was still more for us to do—and this was just one of the many nature preserves LCWM works to protect.
Since then I’ve volunteered at two more Second Saturdays—both at the Highlands—and was met with the same kindness from the volunteers and staff. I have been welcomed into each nature preserve, even with my lack of affinity for dirt and bugs. Nature is for everyone, and I hope other people can experience this feeling with the Land Conservancy of West Michigan.
I’ll be heading to Saul Lake Bog Nature Preserve for the next Second Saturday in October. If you’re free that day, come join me and the volunteers as we collect seeds throughout the prairie.