WEST FORK KICKAPOO - Mary Oliver's words, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” keep circling inside my head like a plane that doesn't know where to land.
From a young age, I’d always known I wanted to do something with animals. I even thought that perhaps I'd be a veterinarian. After my brief, chaotic stint at Dr. Jacob’s office, it was clear that not only would I never become a veterinarian, I couldn't even be a veterinarian’s assistant. Being good with animals just doesn't cut it. You also need to be tough. I lack animal toughness. Taking care of my animal family is good enough for me.
My dad seemed determined I'd become a flight attendant. I never asked him why. Maybe he felt it would be a good way for me to see the world, but to me it looked like a lot of time spent in strange motels. I'm a homebody. I love going on trips, but I'm always excited to get back home. Home, for me, is truly where my heart is. I never even considered fulfilling my dad’s hopes of serving in the friendly blue skies.
I'm not sure what my mom dreamt about, when she held me in her arms or when she attended my high school graduation. My guess is that at my graduation she was relieved to see me in a cap and gown. Like most teenagers, I had experimented with a wild life! Years later, when I was the operations manager of a health and fitness club, my mom asked me if I was ever going to “get a real job!” Guess I wasn’t fulfilling her hopes either.
In my early teens, I considered becoming a farmer, but couldn't fathom how I'd get myself a farm. I also considered being a social worker, but I worried I was too sensitive and would end up falling in love with someone I wasn’t suited for.
Eventually, I attended school to become a physical education teacher, only to discover late in the game, while doing my student teaching, that I’m not into competitive sports or trying to teach people how to play them—or worse, trying to coerce students into moving who don't want to move.
The good news is that my time spent taking courses such as anatomy and physiology, nutrition, and health led to what I felt I wanted to do with my one and only, wild and precious life. I wanted to turn people on to the many benefits of regular exercise. I wanted to guide people into an outdoor life by encouraging their participation in ‘silent sports,’ sports they could do alone for the rest of their lives: swimming, biking, hiking, canoeing and kayaking, backpacking, and nature loving. And this is what I have set about doing in my one, wonderful life.
Forty years later, I'm still preaching the rewards of getting outside daily and going for a hike, preferably in the woods and with nothing plugged into your ears. I have to chuckle these days when I read headlines boasting about research showing the beneficial impacts of nature and exercise on our brains. Anyone who enjoys a daily jaunt in the great outdoors could have testified to this and saved them the cost of doing that research!
But now what? What about my next 40 years? What do I want to do with the rest of my one wild and precious life? I know I'll continue to promote an active outdoor life, and I'll continue to lead exercise classes...but what else?! Around and around this question keeps circling, like a plane that doesn’t know where to land.How about you? What will you do with the rest of your wild and precious life?