The Perks of being an Intern


Sometimes its a little too easy to get caught up in what you don’t have. For me currently, the big ones are internet, cell service, and the ability to make it to the coffee pot before my twelve other bunkmates do. While I’m surviving amicably with my books and the company of those around me, I like to remind myself of the small wonders, which are beyond plentiful on the refuge.

Here at Dismal, I don’t even have to leave my porch to be impressed with some creature or another. I’ve spent entire afternoons perched on a mildly uncomfortable, government-issued chair on the porch, whistling with the bob whites that live just beyond my line of vision. There are normally two, sitting in trees opposite each other conversing casually in the mornings and evenings. At first I was hesitant to join the quail in their lexicon, but now I can sing with the best of them. They whistle, I whistle, all afternoon, a sing-song call of bo-b whiiite!.

For several days, there was a Cope’s grey tree frog occupying the glass door of the crew quarters. I had unlocked and locked the door back without realizing the mint green frog was within centimeters of my hands. I peered close, mentally outlining the organic patterns on its back, collecting details to take back to the books and biologist.

The refuge deputy manager and I poked through amphibian identification books, turning the bunkhouse visitor into something of an event. I showed the biologist the picture I snapped, who informed us that we didn’t know anything about frogs, but let us know the true identity of the green guest. He told me a way to confirm would be to look at the undersides of his legs, and with the excitement and passion of an elementary school student, I captured the frog that evening, trying to cup it in my hands as it bounced on my forearms. This direct contact was nothing I would have attempted three months ago, yet I wanted to know.

I did manage to get a look at the legs, they were yellow, as expected.

And it’s an absolute luxury to be able to know.

Most days are like this, I went out to visit the frog pond behind the refuge office and as the biologist and I walked the friendly trail around the back, he would jump from the walkway, pointing at this or that lizard or fungus. The people who work and play here have the careful eyes of an artist, picking out what seem to be the smallest of details – like the amount of blue on the belly of an Eastern fence lizard – while my own gaze scrambles to find what they’re talking about. I enjoy talking to the scientists and birders and insect enthusiasts that frequent these parts, especially when their sentences hang in the air unfinished as they tilt their head, listening for a bird, examining the wings of a damselfly, or straining to assess the look of a tree line.