I was born and raised on a vast remote Michigan mink ranch, and grew up in a wondrous, magical, amazing, synchronous and very immersive lifestyle centered on an intimate connection to – and reverent stewardship of – the natural world around me. Mother was an administrative Academic at an extension campus of Michigan State University some 30 miles as the crow flies from home. Her days were long as the winding dirt roads she drove each day. Father’s days were just as long, as he worked the ranch and raised me close in his labors of love; animal husbandry, a subsistence lifestyle and a dedicated father and steward of our habitat.
Whether nature, nurture or both, I was keenly observant and self-aware of my surroundings. Rarely was I bored as my father worked with his spawn in tow. Perceptive and tuned in to my surroundings emotionally – especially regarding my dad’s daily routine – I relished every moment as his student helper with growing anticipation that he would redirect and encourage me to abandon the effort and instead, under his ever watchful eye, take advantage of opportunities to engage with my environment independent of him. With the constant companionship of a supervising German Shephard whose sole purpose in life was to protect, herd and deliver me from the evils of skunk sprays, porcupine quills, black bears, the trout stream, the tree line or any other threat I might encounter in my wanderings, my boundaries for exploration gradually grew in every direction to encompass what seemed like infinity. In the end, it was a series of whistles that established my boundaries but, still, the world was then – and has always been – mine to experience freely and without fear, insecurity or question that I belonged to it.