“There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not man the less, but nature more.”
I have cared for the environment and animals as long as I can remember, but looking back, I can see clear nuances that affected my view of nature as I grew. At some point in my journey, my interest in the environment changed from that of casual admiration to a fiery passion for something I both respected and wanted to preserve. My love for animals has been a driving factor, but I have recently begun to see the day-to-day impacts caused by excessive consumption. My Oregon home is a cherished place to me due to its easy access to nature, and I have adopted Colorado as my second home for similar reasons. It is frightening to imagine a society stripped of natural resources and accessibility to nature, and I am thankful for the people and circumstances that have shaped my life to make me a person who seeks cooperation and harmony with the environment. After all, I have always been taught that we are stewards of this world and all in it, and therefore we must treat the environment with love and care.
My mother’s side of the family remains a mystery due to the unknown identity of my grandfather and the circumstances she was raised in, so for this reflection, I will focus on my father’s side. From what I recall, the Herolds (my maiden name) immigrated from Germany sometime during the early 1800s and settled in what is today North Dakota. I believe they were primarily farmers, raising cattle and chickens, living off the land, working in mills. The story I know best begins with my grandfather, Claude Herold, when he met my grandmother, Mary Jayne (a young woman of French and English descent mixed with some Niitsitapi or Blackfoot Indian), and they moved out west and settled in Oregon. Grandpa became a logger at the local mill in Coos Bay and Grandma worked as a CNA at a hospital. They had four children and owned several hundred acres inland. Staying true to their roots, they raised cows, chickens, goats, horses, and the like, as well as maintained multiple gardens. Grandpa eventually built a shop a hundred yards from the house because he loved working with his hands, and he also added an entire half by hand to the original house they purchased using lumber from the mill he worked at. The Herolds lived simply and liked their space, valuing family, faith, and hobbies above all else.
My father, Richard Herold, was more academically and artistically inclined than the rest of his family, and he attended the University of Oregon in Eugene to study history. He met my mother, Cristie Sanchez (a young woman born in Los Angeles to a full-blooded Italian woman and a mystery father) a summer later, and when they married they settled in the center of Oregon’s city life: Portland. My dad simultaneously served as a pastor and began pursuing a Master’s, and my mom quickly became pregnant with me. I was born in the city and grew up surrounded by culture and buildings. I remember little things about Portland, like how colorful it was in spirit and how easily accessible recycling and inner-city transit systems were. The city always seemed alive, but I developed a special interest in nature at a young age. Books and stuffed animals were my best friends, and I treasured trips to the aquarium and summer campouts. I begged for a pet constantly. We still frequently visited my family in the country, however, and when I was about six years old, we moved back to my father’s hometown. We still lived in the city—if you could call a town of 15,000 people that—but my three younger siblings and I could visit the country almost every week.
My grandparents lived only 20 minutes from town, and my father’s brother and his family ended up purchasing the land just down the road from them. My cousin, Emily, was my best friend, and all of us lived and breathed the outdoors. I spent countless days running through fields, riding horses, picking up chicken eggs, raising animals, helping my grandma in her garden, hiking, climbing trees, swimming in the ocean or rivers or lakes, dancing around tidepools, and only the Lord knows how many nights under the stars. If I was not outside, I was reading. I loved many classic books (stories and writing are my other passions), but I also spent many hours reading about forests, wolves, tigers, and horses. I finally got my first pet, a Siamese cat I aptly named Nala, and that only strengthened my lifelong passion for loving and protecting as many animals as I met. In summary, much of my childhood relation to nature was like a young, spring romance filled with only the fondest of memories.
Around my sixteenth birthday, my family moved to Colorado Springs. I was bitter about leaving home, but Colorado’s mountains eventually won me over, whether I would like to admit it or not. My nuclear family has never been as nature-dependent as my extended family, but we still spent the weekends out camping and hiking. It was not until my first year of college that I felt a true passion for sustainability and the environment. I was taking a public speaking class and ended up doing a final persuasive speech on our current food system in America. The findings disgusted me, and my then boyfriend and I made the decision to switch to primarily organic, humane, and local-sourced food. My education continued to further my interests, and future environmental science and writing classes gave me a hunger for a sustainable lifestyle. We made choices to recycle, to reuse more, to waste less food, we and tried to purchase environmentally-friendly items for both hygiene and household. We also rescued three pets, with hopefully more to come. I am currently in the process of making more hygiene and household items homemade and natural, and now that we are married we are trying to plan a sustainable future for our family. Ideally, we hope to have land and a small house one day and use it sustainably, much like my family back in Oregon.
Although my inclinations towards preserving the beauty of creation are somewhat innate to my being, I accredit my family and upbringing to fully raising up those passions. Had I not been taught to respect the environment and animals from a young age and been constantly encouraged to spend time outside and read, I do not believe I would care for it the way I do now. The leaders in my life (my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and now my husband) have always lead by example, quietly commanding respect and inspiring me to have the same for the world we live in. Do not litter. Be gentle to animals. Go outside. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Take care of your belongings and land. Everything in this life is a gift. We connect to each other and to our Creator best when we cast aside the mediocre possessions of this world and focus on what really matters. Nuggets of wisdom like these were passed down through my family subtly but intentionally, and it paved the way for my desire to have a harmonious and cooperative relationship with the environment around me. If I can live a life that reflects that, and persuade others to do the same, perhaps then I will have fulfilled my role as steward.