By Meghan Wagner, Associate Director of Philanthropy, The Nature Conservancy in Washington
My dad can MacGyver any situation. Camping in the rain – no problem. He’ll climb a tree to hang a tarp. Without a trekking pole? He will fashion a new one for you in a hurry. His pack is always the heaviest because he takes great delight in helping out fellow hikers on the trail with any supplies they may need. My dad’s ability to improvise and enjoy the unexpected is one of many reasons why my childhood spent in nature was such a joy.
Dad grew up on the beaches and waters of Puget Sound. There is almost no outdoor activity he doesn’t relish – fishing, hiking, skiing, running. He taught ski school last winter at the young age of 68. His backyard is a certified wildlife habitat for nature to thrive. He taught me to hike, camp, paddle, swim, ski, bike, play, explore, fish, build a fire, climb trees and to love nature. He nurtured a love for the mountains and ocean in me.
Some of my most profound spiritual experiences happened in nature and with my dad. When I was 9, we were out fishing off of Orcas Island and a pod of Orca Whales came and swam by. They were talking to each other and breaching out of the water and slamming down in a majestic display. It was one of the top five experiences of my life. When we weren’t experiencing the profound, it was the ridiculous or the delicious – pulling sea kelp out of the sound and making musical horns, or cleaning fresh crab off the back of a boat. Last summer, we climbed Mt. St. Helens together on a glorious sunny day and my dad was my biggest cheerleader and motivator to reach the top of the volcano to see the spectacular view. My dad’s embrace of obstacles and adventures, his whimsy and creativity and his pure joy at being with family and friends in nature shaped me in more ways than I can count.
This deep rooting in nature led me to spend years as a camp counselor and leader at YMCA Camp Orkila, and then to devote my career to The Nature Conservancy, generating support for programs that preserve and restore nature here and around the world. It’s vitally important to me that other people have the opportunity to experience nature the way I did. But alas, they won’t have my dad who made it all so special.
Thank you dad for giving me confidence, an adventurous spirit and a passion for nature. And to all the dads out there who are biking, hiking, paddling, camping or just picnicking in nature with their kids, it matters more than you can imagine. Cherish every adventure.