My summer had been like many teenagers: long days spent watching TV, talking on the phone, and going to the beach. But during the last few days of August, I went to an island in Maine with a group of strangers.
We arrived on the 95-acre island, and I was overtaken by the beauty and serenity I saw and felt. There were only eight buildings on the island, all devoted to studying the island's plants and animals.
While there, we went on a whale watch. We saw finback and humpback whales, closer than I had ever seen them. We went right into a pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins. My heart melted when I saw a mother dolphin swimming with her tiny calf.
Our group explored the whole island, alone and in groups. and I took many pictures of the beautiful plants and animals. I liked to go exploring alone; I felt at one with nature. I would listen to the birds, and just think.
We had to attend a lecture about birds. How boring, we all thought, but during the lecture I realized that I was enjoying learning about the tiny songbirds that lived on the island.
After this lecture, I couldn't wait to go to the bird banding station the next morning. We got to see how they catch the birds and helped carry the birds back to the station. They showed us how they band the birds, and what measurements they take of the birds. When they finished, they informed us that we would be releasing the birds. When it was my turn, I helped the small bird and patted her soft head. Then I placed her on the palm of my hand so she could fly away. But she didn't fly away. She nestled down into my palm, and stayed there a while. I studied her black body with yellow and white markings, her tiny beak and her delicate feet. I felt connected to this little bird, as if she were part of me. I felt as though she trusted me, that she knew that I wasn't going to hurt her.
That time in Maine has changed my whole outlook on nature. I've always taken it for granted, thinking that it would always be there. During the ride home on the dirty, smoggy highways, I realized that if we don't do something to save the land, the clean water, and the animals, they won't be around much longer. I don't think that I'd want to live in a world without those things.
I've realized that even though I'm young, I've got to do my part. I now want to work outdoors, to help save the environment, the wetlands, the rainforests, the oceans.
Now I spend a lot more time outside: hiking, reading, or just sitting in the woods, listening, watching, and thinking. L
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.