The driving reason that got me out the door and to the event was being close to nature, and perhaps more importantly, learning new things about nature (and about myself). And you know what? This introvert survived, and had a lot of fun in the process. So much so that I attended a similar event the following year (this one hosted by the National Wild Turkey Federation). More fun and learning ensued. Another great benefit: an increased sense of self-confidence and independence. I've never found myself to necessarily be lacking in these two areas, but I have found that I am stronger than I had first thought. And both events were held in great outdoors locations, which made me feel quite at home.
Ladies gathering prizes after skits at the BOW event in September 2006.
Some ladies refining their canoeing skills at the Women in the Outdoors (WITO) event in September 2007.
This time last year I was still reeling from my first visit to the Wilds, where I attended their first-ever Photography Camp (a program that was so successful that they offered it on 2 separate weekends this year!). It was an incredible experience on many levels. Due to the nature of the program, we got a slightly closer look at the animals than one might on a normal "public" excursion at the Wilds. We got to spend more time with the animals than I think is the norm, and the buses stopped whenever we asked them to (photo ops are unpredictable with wild animals, you know). I was truly moved by the majesty and beauty of all the different animals we got to experience and photograph. On top of that, I learned quite a few things about photography. Nothing earth-shattering, I will admit, but enough to make me more comfortable with my camera and to give me more "shooting" confidence in general. Oh, and I was around more people I didn't know. But by this point, I didn't care. I didn't have to think twice about signing up for this camp. I had finally gotten the "being with strangers" jitters out of my system. Thank goodness!
Close encounter with a bison. (Julie, if you're reading, these pictures are for you.)
In an effort to continue my outdoors education, I attended the Birding by Ear camp at the Wilds in May of this year. Yet again it was information and sensory overload, but in the best way. We were a MUCH smaller group at this camp (10 plus the group leaders), so it was harder for me to keep to myself as I have learned I can do in larger groups, but that was okay. We were all there for a common purpose, so that made it a little more comfortable.
There was a new element to this outing though - I would be meeting a fellow nature/bird blogger for the very first time (Jim McCormac was one of our group leaders for the weekend). So, in a very small sense, there was someone there I knew, albeit it only via the miracles of the interwebs. Jim (and Al Parker, our other group leader) made sure we all left there entertained and with lots of facts in our brains.
My most recent nature-loving/nature-learning experience, as you may have guessed, was the Midwest Birding Symposium held up at Lakeside, OH several weeks ago. This is the first time Dave has accompanied me on one of these trips, and I was delighted that he had such a good time. There was so much to see, and more bloggers to meet, and lots of really nice birding folks to be around.
So to answer the question posed via the title of this post, I guess nature is slowly pulling me out of my shell. It is the common theme for all of these outings, and I have been so glad that I attended each and every one of them. Who knows where my love and nature and pursuit of knowledge will take me next!
What has your own love of nature inspired YOU to do that you might not have thought possible?