In Your Words is a regular feature of Mass Audubon’s Explore member newsletter. Each issue, a Mass Audubon member, volunteer, staff member, or supporter shares his or her story—why Mass Audubon and protecting the nature of Massachusetts matters to them. If you have a story to share about your connection to Mass Audubon, email firstname.lastname@example.org to be considered for In Your Words in a future issue!
Mass Audubon’s Wildwood was the first overnight camp I attended. I was quite homesick at the start, but as the week progressed, I had several experiences that were transformative. One morning we woke before dawn and hiked Mount Wachusett to see the sunrise. I remember the lavender pre-dawn light and how exciting it was to be up before the sun. When we got off the mountain, it was hot and we were tired, but the best was yet to come.
The counselors brought us to a nearby bog, talking excitedly about a special ceremony, a sort of rite of passage to become “one with nature.” We walked along a boardwalk until we got to a spot where the water was deep and clear, and we completely immersed ourselves in the bog water. I can’t explain what made it so magical, but it clearly made an impression on me that has lasted all these years.
Water has always played a central role in my life. My first water adventures were with my parents in the Ozarks, where they would take me as a newborn down the Current River in a canoe, stopping to camp on gravel bars. In fact, many of my childhood family vacations took place outdoors: we hiked, canoed, camped, birdwatched, and snorkeled.
Looking back, I believe that day in the bog was so special in large part because of the Wildwood counselors. Their excitement and love of nature was infectious. I clearly caught the bug because years later, during summers off from college, I became a counselor myself at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary’s Nature Camp in Topsfield. There, Sanctuary Director Carol Decker became a mentor who showed me how to share the magic and wonder of nature with children.
As a result of these experiences, I have focused my career on protecting water—and my volunteer work on connecting children to the outdoors. My parents planted these seeds, and Mass Audubon nurtured their growth with its wonderful staff, programs, and wildlife sanctuaries. And I hope that I am doing the same for future generations.
Anne Monnelly Carroll is Director of the Office of Water Resources at the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.