I liked my tour of Perkins Arboretum so much that I did it again. And again. And again. My guides—Judy Stone, botanist and associate professor of biology; Catherine Bevier, amphibian specialist and associate professor of biology; and Herb Wilson, ornithologist and Lesley Brainerd Arey Professor of Biosciences—took me behind the curtain of woods outside my office window and introduced me to a wonderful natural world right on campus.
Birds galore, trees of all shapes and sizes, four different types of frogs. Did you know some frogs spend their days high in trees and crawl and hop their way to nearby ponds at night?
Fascinating, all that life going on a five-minute walk from my desk. But something else struck me during my hikes. The professors said many of their Colby students have never spent time in the woods. As Stone put it, “People really have lost touch. A lot of people can’t identify any plants.”
I shouldn’t be surprised, but I’m still mildly horrified. In suburbs, city parks, rural Maine, birds chirp, frogs croak, trees offer shade. We’re surrounded by nature but too often look right past it—until we open our eyes. Or have them opened.
It’s a beautiful and complex world out there. Read the story and you, like many very fortunate Colby students (and one magazine editor), may never look at the woods in the same way again.
* When we reported on the death of CIA officer Elizabeth Hanson ’02, who was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan in December 2009, few outside the agency knew what led to the attack that claimed Hanson and six of her colleagues. A recently released book by Washington Post reporter Joby Warrick, The Triple Agent, lifts the veil from the secret world of the CIA and Hanson’s brief but remarkable career.
Hanson was a targeter, in CIA parlance. She sifted the stream of information collected by intelligence agencies and used it to locate and track people identified as terrorists. It was a job that called on all of Hanson’s critical thinking skills. It’s unlikely her story would have been told without its tragic ending. While Colby may have other alumni working for the CIA, I hope the curtain of secrecy will not be drawn aside here again—for this reason.
Gerry Boyle ’78, P’06