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A Slice of Heaven: Perry ‘24 at Whiterock Conservancy in Coon Rapids, Iowa

Another Lifetime – Introduction to Whiterock Conservancy

I don’t like making assumptions or any assertions for that matter. They remind me of a person I used to be and the questionable choices I made. How I was often isolated, from both others and even myself, because a part of me assumed that I was something unwanted. A burden that I wouldn’t wish on anyone who’s looking inward, trying to find out who they are. When these thoughts arise, I now put them aside and choose not to elaborate. Sometimes, however, it’s rather unavoidable.

I gave a brief explanation to friends of Whiterock Conservancy to those who asked. They asserted that because it was in Iowa, let alone the Midwest, it would be nothing more than a barren wasteland. It would be filled to the brim with cover and cash crops.  A small town, a restaurant, or even just a random barn, all as empty as the land it sits on. I would be isolated from any amount of human contact. That was an idea that didn’t upset me at first.

I was used to doing things on my own, which contributed to why this was my first internship. I wasn’t opposed to that mentality blending into my position at Whiterock Conservancy. I would be learning in a style that I’m used to, and I was right. Yet, the more I apply myself, I soon realize that the awkwardness of working with a stranger, even in passing, is more worthwhile than the comfort of working in isolation. That work, as well, doesn’t need to come from constant interaction, but rather, the quiet agreement of getting a job well done.

The Unexpected – The First Days at Whiterock Conservancy

Eager to make a good first impression, I woke up at 6:00 A.M. sharp, with everything prepared for, and arrived an hour early. I always try to be early to things and allow myself to get into the working mindset. I looked beyond the horizon, pacing back and forth with anticipation, wondering what opportunities lie ahead. What training I will be given, what places I’ll be shown, what Whiterock Conservancy is. I would’ve been lost in myself until one of my co-workers, LeeRoy, gestured for me to come inside.

After basic introductions and itinerary, I was given yet another surprise: a controlled burn. It was as hectic as you’d expect for someone new to the concept. Yet, that was to be the norm as I continued my first three weeks, helping maintain three burns that treated over 500 (to my recollection) acres of land. It’s hard to put into words how mesmerizing it was to see. The large patches of Earth burst into flames, the coils, and irregular shapes the fire molds into its kindle, and the quiet focus only broken by the static of a radio. All of that, and yet knowing there was more to be done.

After the burn season came to halt, and all supplies were cleaned and put in storage, maintenance of the land continued. The campgrounds needed to be refilled weekly, wood needed to be cut for use, and trails were to be explored and noted. I helped build two gates on the property, one of which belonged to a farm, cut several logs by hand, and cleaned God knows how many shower-rooms by myself; responsibilities that I did not expect but appreciated. The aches in my body spoke and made me realize the meaning behind a good day’s work.

One Step at A Time – Whiterock Conservancy, Moving Forward

That isn’t to say that I haven’t had my bad days. It’s always a tad-bit frustrating putting into extensive words about simple procedures or daily interactions. However, erratic it was those first couple of weeks has soon slowed its course into daily repetitive tasks. It blends each day into something else and it’s hard to see the significance of it. However, knowing what I’ve done, no matter how simple it can be derived, I know that I’ve changed for the better. With one step at a time, I’ve abandoned the assumption that a good work requires explanation or proof.

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Sawyer Perry was born in Maryland. He currently attends Antioch College for a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Public Policy, caring about how pesticide are made and implemented within a governing body.

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