Jennifer A. Chin (cswallow) wrote,
Jennifer A. Chin

Dry Tortugas NP, Day 5: The Impacts

We leave at first light on Friday. I find that in these days I have come to live entirely in the present. As the terns focus singularly on their tasks of protecting themselves, their eggs, feeding, I have also fallen into a state of immediacy. There is no planning here, and no schedule. We catch and band birds until Sonny says stop. The work is not difficult, but it requires utter attention 100% of the time. The stress that is so pervasive in my normal life is completely lifted. I don't think about what needs to happen in a day. My classmates and I interact easily, with no motive for relationship building or self-development, but simply because we are there to talk to and so, we talk. The learning is simple and factual - watch your feet when you walk in the colony, don't pinch the bird's leg when you band it, "do no harm" to the terns. 

And yet, my awareness has grown tenfold. On the island I've been reading, of all things, a history of Istanbul. The thing is full of bloodshed, plotting, succession to power, the influence of love on succession. Also, there is the chronicle of the great works of architecture and art from the Romans to the Ottomans, and how arbitrary it was that one statue was destroyed while another temple was saved. 

Back in Durham, I struggle to adjust again. This place is all busy activity, with its cars and strip malls and its dense copses of trees. My needs for food, love and entertainment subsume my desire to think about my longer-term life plan. How do we leave our mark on this world? What does it mean to live a life that "saves the world"? 400 years ago it was possible to be the most powerful man in the Ottoman empire, and leave nothing substantial. I was lucky to have just four and a half days on this lovely little island, with a group of passionate and dedicated people. How will I do right by that experience, by them, by the birds?

I have felt that my best self - a thinking, challenged, compassionate self - emerges in the business environment. I am pushed into the opposite end of the spectrum by field work, and yet in that I am my most human self - an aware, poetic, generous self. 

In the end, I return to the reason why I came here..though my reason is much more refined than it was 2.5 years ago. My vision of the perfect world is one where people can go to a place like the Tortugas and see the singular beauty of ten thousand terns nesting, where they can trust that when they come back next year, so will have the terns. To know that beauty, I must go to the field. To create that world, I must work as a businesswoman.

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