I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the colour of my Ranger uniform jacket. It’s nothing special, just a washed out green colour. But each time I look down at my sleeve or catch a glimpse of the colour in a mirror or the truck window, I feel this interesting sense of peace. I look down at the pale green and up again at the forest around me – I feel like I belong there and am making a difference with my presence somehow.
Being a Ranger has taught me many things over my last two seasons. But the thing I reflect on most is how I’ve learnt to really slow down and look around me. Peer at the sunbeam glowing on the bark of a tree or the distant sound of birds chirping in the wind. It’s something I’ve thought about for a long time – taking in my surroundings and letting them have an affect on my soul.
As I hike up and down backcountry trails, I stop and look at some moss or other vegetation on the trail – not for any particular work reason, but because I feel something. A sense of wonder and belonging. Seeing the earth so connected – the plants growing on top, around and beside each other. Everything seems to be touching and acting as one. I don’t always feel this connectivity with humans. It’s so beautiful.
That Ranger green – I often find myself admiring the patches on my jacket shoulders. They picture a mountain range surrounded by forest and a lake (usually my office views haha). I think about the parks I work in a lot, even on my off time. I think about how they evolve and change constantly. How they each smell and sound different to me. I reflect on the way the sun hit a mountain peak or the how the water mirrors the landscape like glass. I ponder these thoughts and wonder if the many others who visited one of these places do too.
For me, my job is more than just a 9 – 5 (well its actually 8 -5 so…haha) it’s a lifestyle. I was recently sharing a outhouse cleaning story with a hiker about how cleaning backcountry facilities on a regular basis makes me very empathetic for janitors and other staff who clean public washrooms. Each time I use one now, I am constantly being sure to pick up any waste on the floor that someone has left and never leave a mess behind. Because I know the feeling – I know what its like to scrub “interesting” things off the seat and floor.
My job can be tough – there are days when I can’t wait to rip my uniform off and throw my boots in the closet. There are frustrating days, mentally and physically exhausting ones. There are days when I check my watch and pray for time to fly by – but these are few and far between. A coworker of mine once said – find something you love to do 80% of the time. Because that 20% is easily forgotten (usually this refers to cleaning pit toilets or hauling out garbage). 80% is a number I can work with. And honestly – I adore that 80%.
That forest green. The colours of the season are changing with each new day. I can see the oranges beginning to take over. I watch as a leaf floats by in the wind. Fall is fast approaching. As I zip up my coat to my chin I draw in a deep, cold breath. It almost stings my nose – mountainous and fresh. With the season changing I will be handing in my uniform come next month. I’ll be folding it into a small blue bin labelled “Pemby Ranger“. I’ll think about that bin for the days to come afterwards. I’ll wonder where it’ll live for the winter and how the contents have helped change me as a person. How that uniform has helped me grow.