I was born in Florida in 1951, the fourth girl in a family of six children. Two brothers came after me. My father, a third generation Floridian, was a cattleman like his uncles before him. He loved the land and knew the family ranch like the back of his hand- every pasture, every marsh and hammock, the pine trees where wild turkeys roosted at night. He knew every cowboy and their families. He shared with me his love of the Florida prairie, taught me to ride, hunt and fish, to respect each human being and this earth. My mother was from a small town in Virginia. She had an adventuresome spirit and at age eighteen earned her private pilot's license. During WWII she volunteered as a pilot ferrying planes to Army Air Force training bases in Virginia. She also loved nature. We would walk on spring evenings and listen for bob white quail, watch cardinals at the bird bath. Even the alligator that lived in the pond across the road delighted her. Mama had an eye for color and design which was evident in the warmth and beauty of our home and in the gardens she grew. One of the wise things she told me was to go outside and weed the garden if I was feeling blue. Getting your hands in the dirt always makes you feel better, she would say.
With the confidence and spirit my parents' lives unwittingly sparked in me, and with the sense of belonging in the natural world that I gained from a childhood spent mostly outside, it makes sense that I would explore new terrain. The summer after my sophomore year of college in Virginia, I signed on for one of the first Colorado Outward Bound School courses offered to women- 28 days backpacking in the mountains. Every step was an immersion into the intensity, diversity and wild beauty of nature. All my senses woke up. Even through thick boot soles I felt the firm density of granite, the kind cushion of pine needles, gravity's pull holding me to the earth. When we broke through ice to dip naked in the stream after a morning run, the sun's warmth was a prized luxury. Colorful lichen, the myriad tiny mat plants growing above tree line, the unexpected stability of talus slopes we crossed…I noticed, and I wanted to learn more about everything.
I had planned to major in literature. After the Outward Bound course I changed my major to Biology and transferred my senior year to CU. When I graduated I moved around a bit, worked as an Outward Bound instructor, an elementary school teacher , a laborer for an adobe construction crew, a nurse's aid. I went back to school to study medicine and became a Physician's Assistant. My first job as a P.A. was in a Navajo clinic in New Mexico. Three remarkable Navajo women worked with me as Clinic Aids, and each Wednesday afternoon one of them assisted me on home visits. It was my favorite day at work. We drove miles and miles on dirt roads in a dust colored Dodge Ramcharger…past sage brush and sparse grass where grandmothers, dressed in skirts of ocher, scarlet, or purple velvet, herded their sheep, and over sandstone mesas dotted with juniper and pinon pine trees. We would get lost or get stuck and eventually find the hogan or cinder block house we were looking for. Custom dictated we remain in the vehicle until someone came outside to greet us. I would check blood pressures, draw blood, take throat cultures, sometimes standing there by the truck, sometimes inside the home. Once I examined my patient while a Navajo medicine man created a sand painting on the dirt floor beside me. The land and the people of the Navajo Nation were rugged, captivating, and indelible.
Throughout these adventures I periodically kept a hybrid naturalist's journal/ diary, with sketches, water colors and text. These journals were my first art teachers, and the more I painted, the more I wanted to paint.
After almost two years on the Navajo Nation I moved back to Colorado. I married and stayed home to raise our son. By the time he was 3 or 4 he could recognize wild rose hips and knew they were edible. While staying home I began devoting more time to natural history and to art. For about fifteen years I volunteered as a naturalist and illustrator for Boulder County Parks and Open Space. I attended art workshops and just kept drawing and painting. In 2006 I exhibited my work for the first time.
Our son is now grown and is off starting his own life adventures. Richard and I live in the country north of Boulder. We have the best black lab, Catfish, and 15 chickens that lay delicious blue and brown eggs. One of my favorite things recently is to wander aimlessly on our land or in the mountains and explore at a toddler's pace. There is always something at which to marvel. I lead wildflower hikes every summer for The Nature Conservancy, and every Thanksgiving we join my siblings and their families on the family ranch in Florida.