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KEEN Connects: Relishing the fall season

There’s a lot of dissatisfaction around. Personal, professional, political, whatever. Part of it for me is that I’m not ready for the end of summer, though I love autumn. I didn’t get enough easy summer days out in the field, by the stream, with the trees and rocks, bonfires (including charred food on a stick) with friends, and the dog, and friends’ dogs.

Our fall season is really to be relished. Temperate days and cooling crisp nights. Mostly clear skies, until the clouds roll in and give us the October rain... changing to November snow. The sun is lower in the sky and almost daily you can notice the light is different, and the time of each day’s light is decreasing.

This time of year is a time of gathering in. Our reservoirs are low, nearly depleted. That’s fine, irrigation season is over. Crops are harvested and stored for use over the winter. Farm equipment is tucked away under shelter, waiting for a little repair and rebuild. Back in the day, the meat would have been smoked and hung, the root cellar would have been stocked full of canned homegrown fruits and vegetables, preserved, waiting.

These days, we still get up every day at the same time, most of us, and head to work on a year-round schedule. Our seasonal “closing up” Fall chores probably include throwing a tarp over the lawn furniture, draining the gas from the mower, raking leaves, and probably stacking some wood just in case.

Then winter rolls around and it seems like there’s just not enough time. Or light. Or energy to get things done. It’s harder to go out in the freezing rain. You can do without milk or bread until the next time you need to make a real grocery run, and you tell a friend you’re not up for getting a coffee. It’s just easier to make do with adequate supplies, and be less social. Do you notice how our environment manipulates our seasonal activities? It’s time to stay in.

So. “Just staying in” can seem like a challenge. We’re told to get out more. It’s not acceptable to hibernate. (Unless you’re a bear. Bears are successful. Be like bears.)

All these things that have “gone to ground” like wildlife denning over the winter, seeds falling to earth to be covered by forest duff, salmon running up to the ice covered lakes ... Activity slows and then seems to stop.

This is an illusion.

The cold dark of the year is a period of profound transition in the natural environment, and life will burst forth next spring as the warmth urges new growth to emerge.

Why not see that transitory power of the seasonal changes, and use it in our modern human world, too? Maybe the coming frozen stillness is a signal to pause, assess, and make plans? And, come spring, perhaps to emerge refreshed with a new, vigorous spurt of growth?

I believe that Kittitas Environmental Education Network is at a place where the process of transformative growth is akin to a seed, fat with stored energy, just waiting to be buried, chilled, watered, warmed, and nourished by the natural elements. Vigor, contained.

At the KEEN board meetings, there’s a few things that we feel are ready to shift and improve. We want more members and more member involvement on a regular basis. We want more community connection and participation in the programs we already have running, like Outdoor Summer Camp and Second Sunday Nature Walk.

We want an amazing BirdFest and Get Intimate with the Shrub-Steppe. Longer term, our goal is still to build the interpretive center at Helen McCabe State Park that can serve as a home base for all of our environmental projects and educational programs. That, in turn, means we need to plan successful fundraising events such as Cider Fest, write grants, and get additional inertia in our capital campaign.

We’ll be taking some time and putting together some details about approaching specific items within the grand plan, so we’re always working toward the identified goals.

This planning — gestating like a mama bear — is what our natural environment is telling me to be doing this season. Taking the dark and using that time to look inwards at the organization, to be attentive to small things that need attention to grow, and to be prepared for the burst of action that longer days allow, come spring.

Going into winter, it will be dark when we head into work, and dark when we leave to return home. Contributing to a plan for the long-term vitality of KEEN and the promise it holds... well, there’s some light for me.

If you’d like to be informed and become involved with Kittitas Environmental Education Network, please visit our website and like us on Facebook.

Sarah Maes is a board member

with the Kittitas Environmental Education Network.

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