June 11th, 2012 by

Today, Loose Leaf welcomes a guest blogger who will be joining us weekly this summer to write about forests, nature and environmental news. Caity Gonano will be a senior this fall at Virginia Tech and is spending her summer interning here at American Forests, immersing herself in our world of forests and trees, which as you’ll see from her post below is a natural fit. ~K&M

Wild Horses in Corolla, North Carolina

Wild Horses in Corolla, North Carolina. Credit: Gary Cooper/Flickr

For as long as I can remember, I have grown up in an environmentally conscious household, and most of my childhood memories revolve around spending time outdoors. I feel a strong relationship with the Earth and can credit most of this to the way I was brought up. I remember my response to junk food in preschool being, “I don’t know if I can eat this. My mom’s sort of a health and environment nut; she recycles and puts wheat germ in her morning shake.” Although embarrassed as a kid to have carrots in my lunch instead of Twinkies, I am extremely grateful that I was brought up to know the importance of conserving and respecting the environment and to have been able to experience nature firsthand in ways most people cannot.

One of my favorite places growing up was Corolla, North Carolina, on the northern part of the Outer Banks. I have come to love and appreciate the variety and quiet nature of the secluded community. Over the years, I have been chased out by a hurricane and woken up to wild horses in my front yard. Sadly, I have also witnessed environmental threats to the beauty of the beaches and variety of wildlife. I find my personal connection with such a place is what keeps me so interested in nature and wanting to preserve it.

Poás Volcano National Park, San José, Costa Rica

Caity and some classmates in Poás Volcano National Park, San José, Costa Rica. Credit: Liz Bell

During my senior year of high school, I went to Costa Rica with a group of 15 or so kids in my AP Environment class to enjoy and observe the ecologically diverse country. We took the trip to survey various tree species and learn of the diminishing populations of much of the wildlife. While there, we also ziplined through rainforests, walked across natural bridges and hiked to the top of active volcanoes. It was easy to forget I was initially there to do more than just vacation, but to enhance my understanding of the effects of climate change on the various Costa Rican communities.

Most recently, I have been a witness to the inspiring power of the environment. My mom, an occupational therapist, has created a unique therapy approach that provides all the benefits of traditional therapy with the added benefits of a truly natural environment. With the help of animals (horses, miniature sheep, chickens and ducks) and nature, she motivates children to develop new skills, become stronger and improve social skills, while participating in sensory-rich activities on our seven-acre farm.

All of this has just served as inspiration over the years, but as I get older, I realize I have the opportunity to implement everything I have grown up with into my own environmentally conscious life, and I look forward to conversing with you each week about the latest news, science and extraordinary things happening in nature.