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Happiness and contentment Part 6:

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve

My chosen career created a wonderful journey that hopefully enhances lives of people, wildlife, and plants. 

It frustrates me that cancer limits me. Gardening is no longer permitted due to my weak immune system, which puts me at risk because I am not “fungus protected.” Simple tasks like trail upkeep and grounds maintenance are more challenging and are making me become more of an armchair naturalist. I have a ten-pound lifting limit and am told getting out of bed can break bones. I have ten healed bone fractures. It is most difficult not to be physically capable to do desired work but that is not unique to me. Many seniors face similar challenges. I have not adequately learned to cope with limitations. My mind thinks I am more able.

Like others, I continue as best I can and depend on volunteer help and donor funds for sanctuary projects that I can no longer do. Weekly, people enjoy the wonders of nature that abound here. Most wonderfully, the sanctuary provides suitable living conditions for 319 plants, 135 birds, 29 mammals, 62 butterflies, 7 amphibians, 8 reptiles, 25 fungi, 5 fish, and many more unlisted from other groups. Species lists are incomplete.

Adventures away from Ody Brook are few now, but memories abound. There is the time I was sprayed in the face by a skunk from a foot away; pursued an unknown frog naked in a marsh; swam to an island where a loon came close to investigate me; almost died in rushing flood waters when our canoe capsized; and had a bear look me in the face in my tent from inches away. The last two are part of “Every Time I Died” Program. I’m not dead yet and continue my mission of sharing and working for biodiversity enhancement. 

The Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche column is published in the Cedar Springs Post, Rockford Squire, Michigan Alliance for Environmental Education MAEOEgram newsletter, National Association for Interpretation Naturalist newsletter, Michigan Botanical Club newsletter, Wild Ones Newsletter, Grand Rapids Audubon Caller and sometimes others.

Like everyone’s life, mine has challenges and disappointments but provides happiness and contentment. Perhaps my happiest times were college and productive work years. Those are now surpassed with life’s contentment. 

Karen, Jenny Jo, and Julianne got their “Earth Names” before I finally established one appropriate for me. They are Sparkling Waters, Eagle Eyes, Brave Hunter, and Butterfly Dreamer. All connect us with the Earth that supports us.

Much of my contentment comes from knowing, loving, and caring about these women and their families. They were slighted by mostly being left out of this six-week series but they are not slighted by my appreciation.  Contentment is enhanced by love from community members and you are not overlooked. Thank you for love and support. It is a reason I have greatly surpassed the mean survival of 7 to 8 years where only half of the people with this cancer continue longer life. 

I attribute survival to chemo, prayer chains, and community support. I am most grateful and chose to write “The Making of a Naturalist” memoir series in case I do not achieve my goal of surviving the coming year. It will be a family heirloom and hopefully has been an interesting account for Nature Niche readers. 

Have a Happy New Year. I will with contentment. Explore nature niches in the New Year with great cheer.

Conclusion: ‘Happiness and Contentment’ Link to parts 1-5 at: http://cedarspringspost.com/category/outdoors/ranger-steves-nature-niche/

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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