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I’m experimenting with a poem that I didn’t like and sitting with it for a bit.

Kelp Nets

Sea otters dream in the dark tide,
Curl up in kelp streamers to hide,
Disguise their pups when tired
In between swimming lessons.

My mate studies the path of water,
It carves canyons and shapes streambeds.
I am resilient and cope with pressure
But susceptible—too easily contaminated.
He seeks to define the limits of my aquifer,
A leaky bucket of beach sand & sea glass,
Tumultuously tipped by man’s hand.

I am ninety percent like the otter
Made of fur and snout and salt water,
Swimming five months in the rivers;
Beneath my coat, I am a nymph
Mending the kelp nets torn from tillers.
Fins side out, I am a fish instead
Darting hyper-vigilant,
Then drifting half-dead
In the churn of sediments
the mouth delivers.

Granite bones
Inside this squishy island figure,
Curved by glaciers and hormones,
The Gulf Stream—tempt his geological
Urge to measure the reversible current
Push-pulling me along a coast
Without houses I dream.

LCS

In the mid-1980s, a local activist group in Wiscasset, Maine started the “Undump” campaign to promote the idea of recycling. I don’t think “Undump” was unique to coastal Maine towns. I remember wearing an “Undump” button and standing along side my aunt and mother at a local  information forum. I was in the 6th grade. Back then, they were called “protests.” That same year, we were assigned to design T-shirts as part of an anthology project at school. I chose “underwater exploration” as a theme. (Most of the other kids picked gruesome topics, e.g. suicide, teen suicide, drug addiction, crimes.) I designed some graphics then with a “protect water” theme.

The “Undump” thing died. Out of its ashes rose “Reuse. Reduce. Recycle.” with the classic circle of arrows.

Along those lines, “Not In My Back Yard” (NIMBY) has been used to such an extent as to nullify the rationale behind its original intent. The people who use that argument, say, against the transportation of oil sands through the U.S. (a.k.a. “tar sands,” diluted bitumen) have been hammering decision-makers with the NIMBY reasoning. In my community, that argument just didn’t fly. I have grown tired of hearing it myself. I propose an alternative.

How about “Not On My Planet” (NOMP) and “Over My Dead Water Body” (OMDWB) as two possible catchy slogans to use instead of NIMBY?

“Over My Dead Water Body (OMDWB)” is especially relevant today in light of the recent national assessment of our streams and rivers in the U.S. Wetlands are against the ropes, too. I can see this on T-shirts, I don’t know about you. I’m going to work on some graphics for this. Back in 6th grade, our “Reading” teacher assigned us to design a T-shirt for a favorite book. For this, I illustrated an imagined scene loosely based on Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier–an image of a drowned Rebecca with eel grass ensnared in her legs and lingerie. (As it turned out, I was just as morbid as the other kids.) Somewhere, I still have that faded T-shirt, and the original drawing, too. If you have ideas about a graphic for OMDWB, leave a comment, please.

FeetWetLake

At the lake I love

After years of telling myself I would “never teach,” I began teaching college students in 2008.  A community college hired me to teach English Composition to college freshman. At the same time, a local Adult Education Program, in concert with the college, asked me to create a new curriculum for a college transitions class called “Success in College.” Through teaching both classes for a few years, I mentored fire science technicians and education majors, marine biology students and nurses, as well as nontraditional students, who wanted to change careers. They gained confidence in their writing and their ability to communicate–two skills in high demand for any job, no matter the field. A trend I’ve noticed among recent college graduates is a lack of patience in approaching the job market. In our fast-paced social networking-driven society, it’s easy to get impatient.  Searching for a job is more like casting a line over the water.  You try different bait. You move around to different spots. You get your feet wet.  You relax. You have to be patient.

My cousin, Owen, a Pisces like me, loves to fish at Little Sebago Lake, where we all grew up swimming.  About six months ago, I encouraged my cousin, a civil engineering student at University of Maine, to create a LinkedIn profile for himself. At first, he wasn’t sure if that sounded like something he needed to do, but he mentioned a friend of his who had gotten a job, or learned of a job, through LinkedIn. My cousin created a profile on LinkedIn, added his work experience (a local hardware store) and his skills, including transportation, geotechnical engineering, groundwater modeling, surface water hydrology and hydrology, flood control and civil engineering. I’m super proud of my cousin, Owen, for receiving an offer for a job at a widely known engineering firm, and for all of his accomplishments. While in college, he joined the American Society of Civil Engineering.  I’m sure that helped broaden his network, too. He attains his Bachelor’s of Science in Civil Engineering this spring.

When I graduated from College of the Atlantic with my Bachelor’s in Human Ecology in 2001, I researched organizations where I wanted to work, then approached them. I didn’t take a wait-and-see approach. I took a pro-active approach.  My first post-college job was a year-long position as a Lands Protection and Administrative Assistant at Maine Coast Heritage Trust, a state-wide land trust. Part internship, part professional position, the job allowed me to get my feet wet in conservation. Several of the conservation and lands protection directors at MCHT mentored me; one served on my graduate thesis committee, while I researched land trust collaboration as part of my master’s degree work in conservation and sustainable business at College of the Atlantic. My job at MCHT had not been advertised–it wasn’t a position they were looking to fill. I expressed interest during an informational interview and they created a position for me. The position blossomed into a full-time professional responsibility (May 2001-July/August 2002).

Squaretop Mtn WY

Squaretop Mtn., Green River Valley, WY

In July 2002, I traveled west to Wyoming, to meet my cousins. I also interviewed ranchers and land trust professionals about western approaches to land conservation. It opened my eyes. Wide. That trip–including an experience riding two rodeo horses at a ropin’ event in Big Piney, WY, broadened my horizons. It also helped me conquer fears of failing.  Or, at least, it quelled my fears of falling off a horse that dives and darts, charging toward the corriente steer at the end of an arena.

Energy, enthusiasm and a willingness to step into a role with a high learning curve are all “must-have” qualities in a green–or “entry level”–college graduate today. The next two jobs I held while a graduate student, in similarly unconventional ways, were not positions that my employers had advertised. One opportunity led to a two-year contract as a park ranger and multi-faceted position at Acadia National Park, where the position was unique to me. No one had held the position prior to me; no one replaced me, since it was a special project. I loved working at Acadia NP and gained valuable experience in conservation, communications & marketing, management and graphic design. And I earned an award for it, a nice little feather in my cap. The program I started in 2003 is ongoing.  That’s my idea of success.

Today’s college graduates seem unsure of the job market.  I belong to several listservs, such as Ecolog-L, and I’ve noticed the countless emails that college graduates have submitted to listservs in the hope that someone will bite. They want a job. They want advice. They have an opportunity to approach the job market in new and different ways than that of previous generations. For one thing, LinkedIn did not exist when I graduated from college. I had to use old fashioned networking–knocking on doors, asking for informational interviews or meetings. There is nothing wrong with asking for an informational interview at a company/firm/organization, where a college graduate would like to work. Ask someone who works in your dream profession–“what projects are you working on now?” Find out if those projects are collaborative in nature–do they involve partner organizations? Do any of those partners have volunteer or internship opportunities? Is there a way you can volunteer on a short-term project to get experience?

Northeast Creek pic by French Hill Pond

Northeast Creek Watershed. French Hill Pond photo

Look locally.  Serving on a local planning board or conservation commission may help to gain a foothold in a network that leads to an environmental job in a field that excites you. Even local government boards, such as conservation commissions, sometimes tap into regional, state-wide or national networks. When I was in graduate school, I volunteered on a groundwater study conducted by USGS hydrologists. My GIS class offered me a way to contribute mapping work to the larger study, commissioned by the Town of Bar Harbor. Sure, it wasn’t paid.  And it took me a year to create the maps analyzing wetlands and development patterns in the Northeast Creek watershed. And I embarrassed myself by storing two maps in the trunk of my ’86 Volvo, which filled up with freezing rain during a nor’easter–effectively turning my trunk into an ice block with the maps inside. When the ice melted, the maps disintegrated. And I had to redo them. A lesson learned!

Many years later, I wrote articles about wetland mapping as part of a project for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. I wasn’t new to wetland mapping since I’d had the experience of digitizing maps, plotting out wetlands and surveying land conservation areas in a watershed for various internships and volunteer projects after college. For those recent college graduates looking for work, I encourage them to CREATE positions for themselves, when they haven’t found a more traditional position immediately. It takes time. In the meantime, have fun exploring projects at the local, state-wide and national level. You don’t have to be a human ecologist to be multi-disciplinary. (My cousin, a civil engineering student, is multi-disciplinary in his approach. As a water-loving Pisces, it’s no surprise he was drawn to hydrology.)

Be open to unusual and unforeseen opportunities.  Step into a role that you (and a future employer) create just for you and your multi-disciplinary skills, talents and abilities. Offer a fresh perspective on a project that no one else wants to do and find that you can make a name for yourself, even while entering the job market. Create a sense of serendipity.

I love new writing utensils. In middle school, I nerdily-enough spent my babysitting cash on new writing supplies. I made lists of lusty marbled papers, pretty stationary and colored pens. There was a wonderful little shop called Area’s, where I spent a great deal of time picking out writing utensils, note paper and Kitty Cucumber erasers.  (I included mention of Kitty Cucumber to take away the power of would-be blackmailers.) Keep in mind, this was the ’80s. Kids didn’t have cell phones or hand-held video games. We rocked those hand-held mazes with the little rolling ball.  Then I proudly displayed these prized supplies at school, complete with folders of marketing materials for my PPKO club, which had by-laws, a mission, logo, a feline theme and a board of directors. Yes, yes. Even in 6th grade. We held our club meetings on the top floor of my tower bedroom in the Victorian home where my family lived for a while. My role on the board was President and my friend, Gillian, was V.P. Her younger sister, Cammie, Secretary/Treasurer. We made buttons and brochures. I designed our logo–the word “CATS” written in the shape of a black cat, loosely inspired by Manet.  I recruited new members at school using the marketing materials I developed in the tower. That was the most fun part of it for me–creating the content at the heart of the club.

Flash forward to grad school, 2001: I got my first PC, a Dell 8100 Inspiron laptop, which lasted 8 years. It was a reliable, beautiful beast of a machine. That Dell 8100 Inspiron survived a house flood in 2004 (where an entire portfolio of art & graphic design work from 9+ years of art projects soaked up the water and disintegrated before I could rescue it) and many, many moves from apt to apt throughout grad school and after. I wrote the first few chapters of my creative nonfiction book and my master’s thesis, along with all of my graduate study work in human ecology and sustainable business on that PC. I loved that computer.

I can’t say the same for the subsequent models of Dell notebooks (several models and a decade after I got my first), including the Dell Studio 1535–what a nightmare. I’m still working out some problems caused by a Cycle-of-Stupid with a Time Warner/CA Security incident last April, so I haven’t been able to enjoy a reliable PC at home in over 6 months. For a writer, that’s like fasting. One of those weird zany fad fasting diets that just makes a person crazed for anything that remotely resembles a writing tool, other than a pad of paper & Pilot pen. (I don’t chew pens. Let’s not mix metaphors.)

I love the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1!

Then I got the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and it’s fabulous! I’m learning how to use its many applications, including the S-pen, which allows me to write, draw, design, build presentation materials, doodle, brainstorm and create. I can work in two screens using the multi-screen lay-out, supposedly bring in images and items from another screen into my S-note document. There’s Adobe Photoshop Touch, which I haven’t explored yet, as well as countless apps. This is new to me since I have not used a Smartphone or iPhone (due to the drama with the frequency of CMP’s SmartMeters, which killed the signal for customers in most of southern Maine for using smartphone types of devices in their homes–with the exception of Samsung Galaxy products, which work fine). I learned this when CMP sent a consultant, who has worked for TimeWarner and CMP, to my home to sort out the problems I was having with my WiFi thanks to the SmartMeter. He recommended a Samsung Galaxy tablet, as they had fewer problems with getting their signals jammed by CMP’s new digital meter system. Good news for me: the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 works well in my home. No issues picking up my own WiFi in my house, in my backyard, or in other locations with WiFi. It’s user-friendly and the screen resolution is perfect. I’ve watched a few videos on it, though I’ve had trouble installing the latest version of Adobe Flashplayer, required by some videos (like those on ABC.com). Overall, I don’t think I would want to write an entirely new blog post on my new tablet, but I have found it to be useful for managing my social media sites, checking email, and surfing the web. As I get to learn the more advanced applications, I think this will be a fun and effective tool in my work as a communications & marketing professional, especially in meetings, on-the-go, in coffee shops (hypothetically speaking) or while traveling. Ah, to travel with a lightweight tablet instead of lugging a heavy laptop bag as a personal item. My new tablet fits in my work bag. Hurrah! It makes me feel sleek and chic. And the iPad cover fit the Samsung tablet well enough. I didn’t like the Samsung choices for tablet cases (boring, very expensive, etc.) This one looks like camouflage on my writing desk.

Leah

Poet. Artist. Ecoheroine. Human ecologist. Spiritual mermaid and Mystic. I write about literary ecology, wetlands, water, Romantic ecology, and quirky adventures with my dog.

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