Thursday, April 23, 2009

I finally found the the right habitat...or is it niche????

Andy and I always talk about my seasons of life. I really wanted to be something. (skip ahead to pics if you don't want to read my saga..I won't know so I can't get offended) I don't think I was ever sure what I wanted to be. That's probably why my favorite person was Benjamin Franklin. He was a master at all sorts of stuff, and just did as he was inspired, regardless of the opinions of others. When I went off to Ricks college, I started as a computer programmer (and that was when pascal and basic was the known and used programming language :). ) But after a semester of that, I grew bored. So off I went into Theatre Arts. I graduated with my associates in that field ( a good fit I'm sure you're thinking) and then off to BYU. Once there, I found a love of the ocean and all things in it and became a Marine Biologist. I was all set and accepted to attend the John Hopkins Marine Institute in Monterey Bay when I decided to go on a mission. My parents were not all that thrilled as they felt if I left school, I would never return.

Interestingly enough, Andy entered the MTC not long after I did (though we never met). But they were right. If I had stayed in school I would have been a very different person since I would have stayed with Marine Biology and would probably be married to a water person, living off a boat studying sea otters (which was what I was doing at the time, studying sea otters I mean, since there are no boats in BYU you could live on.) Such a different life back then. Anyway, I came home, finished my minor in zoology, and graduated in Human Development (a whole other story in itself). At which point, I worked to put Andy through school and pay off debts until I was finally able to have Katie. But I always said I would go back to school, only after 10 years of working as an SSW in Utah and having children and being a mom, I don't think I know what to study and be anymore.

Long story short, I can never make up my mind. So along comes this opportunity to become a Master Naturalist. And to the complete surprise of my husband, I announce I would like to do this, and while yes, it will cost money for babysitting while I attend classes, the enrollment fees and whatnot, he says okay. Mind you, this came with a lot of questioning of my sanity since Andy was never a part of my life during my biology phases. But everything seemed to fall into place. First of all, I got accepted into the program (and Andy took the call and said they were happy to have me, even though there was a wait list for others), we were able to get a homeschooler to watch my children (and for the amount I could afford to pay) and off I went. I am in love. This is one of the best, most fulfilling, things I have ever done for myself. there is no way to explain it. It just makes me feel smart and useful and I am thrilled to say that Valley Park Elementary is allowing me to teach the kindergartners their my science classes, I get to be in the bat cave at the school and the Third graders are letting me teach butterflies. so perhaps when someone asks me what I do I can say I'm a Master Naturalist. that will probably get the same stares as "a mom" does but what the heck...I love it. The best part is the ride home when I call my sister to "share" all the fun things I learn. My brain is always on overload with random facts (like did you know dragonflies eat mosquitoes) and she just calmly listens to my excess of everything factual. In the book, The Know it All...the guy is constantly talking about all the facts he babbles out to others because the knowledge has to just come out. I feel the same way. So thank you Shelby!!

So on to my pics...On Saturday, we went to get trained on how to lead cave tours. (where to stop, what to say, and so much info I can't even get it out of my mind). But Andy also had to speak (for his job) and was going out of town. I sent out an email and my dearest friends stepped up and took turns taking care of my children, all day. And off I went to go to school. We were in the classroom for about 4 hours and then began our hike. About 2 hours worth up and down a mountain while we learned how caves look on the top side and what grows in karst environment. Also where the rivers drop off.
Then off to "wild" caves. These are ones that are not gated, but rarely used or seen as they are hidden. This particular entrance you have to belly crawl through water, but then it opens up to huge rooms.

Same entrance but looking down, you'd never spot it. I am standing in the entrance to the cave right by the guy in blue. But you cant see it. :)

This is a leopard frog. in the water just outside the mushroom cave entrance.

here we are heading in. In order to go into a "wild" cave, you must have at least 3 sources of light (including a head lamp if possible) and a helmet with a chin strap (many use bike helmets).

This is probably one of the coolest creatures found in caves. Most salamanders in caves lose their pigment and are blind (for obvious reason of blackness). But these little guys are bright orange and retain some eyesight, though not great. All across the roof of the cave are bats. This is the end of hibernation season and they come and go, though a few hang out. This is a brown bat. It is larger in size and has black forearms and ears. Though this little guy is smaller than my middle finger in length. The bats were so close, you could reach out and touch them, and though it took a lot of effort. I restrained myself.

A column is formed when the calcium deposits are formed. Basically a stalagmite and a stalactite join up. It reaches from floor to ceiling. Caves have some of the most amazing deposits. You crawl, swim, or climb through little holes into large cavernous rooms that are just inspiring. Plus, its the only place where you can truly feel darkness.

This is the group of Missouri Master Naturalists that I'm training with. They are some of the most knowledgeable and fun people I have met to date. Listening to the things they do, I have to remind myself that I can do it all as well, just in a longer season.

When you see a stalagmite ("g" for ground up) and it is white, or a stalactite ("c" for ceiling down), and it is white and crystal like, it is actively growing.

More fun creatures that wander around in caves.
This is another brown bat, but watch between this and the next one
This is an eastern pipistrelle. Note the pink forearms and pink ears. They are also smaller in size (about my index finger length..and are more common hanging alone, rather than cuddling) again, the brown bat, this one kept flying to different spots.
and again, then pipestrelle (know as pips)
So can you see why I would be in love with this? Thanks to my dearest friends who made this possible by taking my kids all day so I can be trained. The good thing is that I can take up to 10 people in now, so come with me and let me show you all I learned :).