That’s Just Life (and Service) in the PNW

The gloom of the Pacific Northwest, although often portrayed with a whiff of romanticism, creates an assumption that its inhabitants can often emulate this gray way of living. Residing in Florida most of my life, I believed that a place of constant rain and clouds would drive people indoors, unmotivated as if the climate shut them in. After having been here almost two months, I find that not to be the case.

Remember, change is the only constant, and this climate proves this – to be prepared for every day. After all, most of life is about adapting. The people of this area have adapted to not be shut in by the rain that can happen at any given time; they seize the day for productivity! I have observed this through my first program of Beach Naturalist training here at Deception Pass State Park.

I [serve] through Washington Service Corps as the AmeriCorps Interpreter at this most popular state park, and the first few weeks it seemed like a ghost town – like any off -season town would. I posted flyers on one of the most windy of days for our upcoming program – train to become a beach naturalist for Deception Pass! Shop owners recognized the program from years past and told of how many friends and family they would share the news with.

Twenty-eight people showed up for our first day, accompanied by a downpour of rain and wind. More than half were returning volunteers of the program, and the others had attended out of inspiration the park has brought them through the years. This inspiration poured out from recent college graduates, to women who have traveled the world for the past fifty years, to program veterans with years under their belt and eagerness to teach others.

I have never lived in a state that is so adamant about connecting with their own backyard through the dirt, and the mud, and the tree branches; these beach naturalists exemplified this passion. One couple joined the training session to learn more for their granddaughter, who has a passion for this topic and often asks questions they are not prepared to answer. Another volunteer returned this year based off her continued curiosity to become a park ranger, and this was a great networking opportunity.

My favorite night of training was at the end of the presentation from a member of our foundation board who is a contracted biologist with the Navy. He provided fantastic skulls from animals found in our area for our classrooms, but provided them with inspiration and immense curiosity for the live marine mammals found here as well. He was surrounded with questions for an unprecedented 15 minutes after the session had ended.

Our attendance hovers around 25 people every session. This motivates me to see that our program is not only connecting people with similar interests to educate and protect our tide pools, but that this is a productive program that networks volunteers to become even more involved with their community.

The sky may be gray, jackets might be drenched, but the spirit of the people of the Pacific Northwest is not dampened, but full of vibrant colors.

Submitted by WSC AmeriCorps member Jacqueline French, who serves at Deception Pass State Park.