Jay and I joke that I have a goldfish memory. It is particularly bad when it comes to numbers. I used to deliver flowers during holidays and in the time it took me to read the house number and then look up to try to spot the house, I had already forgotten it. So when when we got a new assignment on our Grand Canyon Trust trip to identify and count native grasses and forbs, I said, “What’s a forb?” and then started to freak out. I kept saying, this is not my strong suit, I am never going to remember 30 new plant names, much less be able to match them to tiny bits of life buried between logs and rocks and sagebrush.
A couple of days later we were listening to the Dirtbag Diaries (thanks Kirstin for the recommendation). There was an episode about a guy who took up rock climbing when he was my age. He was given a rope as a gift and didn’t think he was ever going to become a climber. It just wasn’t his strong suit. But he did. And it made him question why we define ourselves so early on in our lives and speak about what we can’t do as if that couldn’t change. I mean, already over the course of this year I have taken on many new roles that I never imagined I would … burn nurse, sawyer, four-wheel driver, fire department tornado relief representative, …. and now I can add native plant identifier to that list.
Ok, so I still wasn’t magically fabulous at remembering the names of the native plants, but I remembered several, and I was working with Donna who was really good at remembering the grasses and forbs. Of course I didn’t really need to memorize the accurate scientific names since we had a professional botanist with us. All I had to do was get close enough that she would know what I was talking about. Which is how I ended up shouting things like “5 polygamy” and “2 pussyfoot” (polygonum and antennaria mycrophylla or pussytoes). All in all it turned out to be a good afternoon in the field, digging in the dirt, learning new things, and laughing with new friends.