Keystone species

I’M WALKING HOME. TAKING A YEAR TO WALK ACROSS THE COUNTRY. BRINGING YOU WITH ME OR MEETING YOU ALONG THE WAY

My idea of home is evolving, even as I sit here on my butt going nowhere. Lately I have been thinking a lot about the environment I live in, the woods and the shore, the ponds and the streams, the flora and the faubarkna.

I’m headed off this Thursday for a four-day program called The Keystone Project, after which I will officially be a “Keystone Cooperator.”

According to its website,

“In ecology, a keystone species is one whose impacts on its environment are larger and greater than would be expected from one species.

The Keystone Project invests education and reference materials in important, keystone people. These Keystone Cooperators make a significant conservation difference at the local level by transferring information and ideas to landowners and decision-makers.”

I’m both excited and nervous. As the day approaches – for this four-day training – I am realizing the responsibility that I am taking on, the challenge of being a “keystone” person.

Then again, isn’t that what we all want to be: if not a key player, at least someone who plays a part in making the world around us a little better.

I have to admit I have a kind of hero complex: its probably a vestige of having lived for nearly 20 years with a real hero, my father. He was ‘the man with the flaming broom’ (torching a Chinese city to destroy materials as the invading Japanese army was on the outskirts),  he flew ‘the hump’ in India in WWII, he was part of the Berlin Airlift, circled the arctic in a B52 during the Cuban Missile Crisis and, yadda yadda yadda.

He always downplayed those experiences, hardly ever talked about them… I know that’s part of the reason I am so restless, and so eager to have adventures.

WalkingHome, of course, will be an adventure worthy of my father, but just the idea of taking on this challenge has allowed me to focus on what I am leaving behind, what has inspired me: this amazing place.

I am coming to realize that Plymouth is amazing for so much more than its history. There are 430 ponds in Plymouth, miles of coastline, 52 “natural communities,” an amazing amount of native species including many rare and endangered animals and plants, and the second largest Atlantic Coastal Pine Barrens remaining in the world.

Even if I can’t become a true keystone species I think I might be able to learn enough to be able to effectively express my growing belief that this community is in and of itself a keystone community.

My idea of home is evolving or, perhaps it might be more accurate to say, it is deepening. Every day I find something I else that I want to carry with me. My pack is getting heavy but, I couldn’t leave home without them.