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Making of a naturalist

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve

Pause at Thanksgiving to celebrate family, community and ecosystem neighbors. Thank you for the opportunity to share my life and work. Nature niche wonders provided a lifetime immersion that enriched me. People express they enjoy articles that reveal me personally. I find reading biographies about people interesting. Each of us has a story of interest worth sharing and often only a snippet is revealed in an obituary. 

Like Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer observing their funeral, I will gloss over my life as seen from the stars. Maybe I will live long enough to create a more complete memoir. Surviving productively to old age is a desirable dream afforded only a few. It was questionable if I would reach age 50 due to developing uncurable cancer. When diagnosed, average survival was 1 to 3 years. Now at age 70, I am on the long side of survival at 23 years.

Whether I can weather another year remains questionable, but I feel that way annually. My goal is to remain productive through age 75, with a naturalist mission to protect global wilderness habitats representative of all ecosystems and biodiversity enhancement at the 61-acre Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary. We each should be ready to die at any time and I hope you have that peaceful attitude. It will be great to enjoy extended survival.

My thanksgiving is for family, friends, and community members from whom I receive energy, prayers, and help on life’s journey. From Thanksgiving to the New Year, please enjoy a roving trip with me through a naturalist life in space and time that reveals experiences aiding my development. The focus is on naturalist Ranger Steve’s journey, with family details only included briefly. Family is a cohesive force and without Karen the journey would not have been as successful. Community members are part of my extended family. I want nothing more or less for you than I want for my own children. Such a philosophy is probably strived for by a minority. We are all children of the universe and it philosophically aches my soul to know that many want life better for their immediate family than they do for their neighbors. Karen and I seek the best for our immediate family but try to work for the betterment of all citizens, including other species that share the ecosphere. 

This time of year is busy for families and I chose to deviate from only including nature in articles to sharing my development as a naturalist. Holiday season is ripe for providing a 6-week diversion that includes nature and the making of a naturalist. Some might enjoy it most and others will be anxious to get back to nature niche writings.

Before I was five, we found a turtle and placed it in a confined pen in the backyard. Maybe we were going to keep it as a pet. My mother discovered it missing and learned I released it. It wandered off to live free and happy. I do not recall if that was my intent or if I got it out of the pen and it escaped. We had a chameleon and a goldfish that died because they received inadequate care. Those were difficult lessons that were hardest on the animals. Proper care for life was developing. We had an albino rat that fared better with us. 

A squirrel entered and left a tree cavity. I climbed the tree and felt babies in the hollow. I dropped naked blind squirrels to my friend Jimmy who caught them. I planned to raise them but mom said no and to put them back in the nest. We did and hopefully the mother reared them. I was learning how to live with nature. 

Scientific inquiry began before age five. I can recall the timeline because we moved to a new home after ours burned. I pushed a metal paper clip into an electric wall socket in our first house. I got a U-shaped burn on my thumb and it burned a paperclip shape into the wood floor. It was the first time I thought I died.

Part 2 ‘Naturalist Comes of Age’ next week. 

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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