If you had to run into a burning building to retrieve one of
your possessions, what would it be? There are very few items I own that are
imbued with enough significance to be irreplaceable, like the spotting scope
left to me by my late mentor, Jeanne Fossani. This little post is a tribute to
Jeanne and her continuing legacy of environmental advocacy around the world.
All the following photos in this
entry were taken through the eyepiece of her scope.
Jeanne was the leader of a teen naturalist trip to Costa
Rica through the North Branch Nature Center in Montpelier, VT. I was interested
in nature, but not to the extent that I wanted to build my career around
protecting it. She encouraged me to wake up at 4AM that first morning in the
rainforest to experience the dawn chorus. As I understood it, no teenager had
ever seen 4AM unless they hadn’t yet gone to sleep from the night before.
Begrudgingly, I got myself up and walked out of the bungalow. Birds were dripping
from the trees, and the cacophony of their calls seemed deafening. She pointed
her old Swarovski spotting scope on a high canopy. Little blue and yellow and
red gems were flitting through the acacias like a scene out of Fern Gully. I
saw a Resplendent Quetzal, South America’s most beautiful bird. I realized that
the landscape is full of hidden treasures that are only really apparent if you already
know what to look for and have the right tools for the job. I was hooked.
|754M of Lamar Canyon Pack|
|Phantom Springs pack|
I returned to Vermont and kept up the same attitude to
birdwatching. Jeanne taught me everything she knew. She was fighting cancer and
needed some help, so I would come over and water her plants and fill her bird
feeders. She took me birding along Lake Champlain, and we saw rare gulls and
ducks through that scope.
Jeanne died in 2007 and I had her scope in my car when
I first heard the news. Her friends and colleagues encouraged me to keep the
scope because they thought she'd want me to have it, and I didn’t
know how to get in touch with her family anyway.
|Lamar Canyon Pack|
|Grizzly at the edge of the woods|
|Black bear cubs|
So for the last 6 years I’ve used the scope the same way she
did: to excite people about our world’s most amazing creatures. I treated it
not as my scope, but as a tool for paying forward what Jeanne was all about. I
think about all the things that scope has been trained on. Photons have actually
bounced off a snowy owl, funneled through the lens, and hit people in the eye.
|Northern Hawk Owl|
|Polar bear mom and cub|
|Trumpeter Swan and ducks|
I upgraded my equipment after the polar bear season, but I wanted Jeanne’s scope to continue being used to show more people amazing things. Natural Habitat guide Brad Josephs over at www.alaskabearsandwolves.com
is now responsible for Jeanne’s scope. Provided that a coastal Katmai grizzly doesn’t literally eat it, it will be in great hands in an incredible place.
If you want to know more about Jeanne, go here: