Ever since I was a young boy growing up in semi-rural Wisconsin, I've always had a fascination with the natural world. From collecting turtles, frogs, and snakes at the local creek, to fishing with my dad at a nearby lake, wild places, and the animals that live there, had always been a part of my life. I often had multiple buckets, or an old kiddie pool, with turtles, fish, frogs (the ones that would stay), or snakes in them. I never thought of becoming a veterinary, conservationist, or zoologist, but thinking back now there is a chance I may have missed my calling.
During my 20s, and 30s, I interacted with the natural world, but it was different. It was mainly approached from a utilitarian standpoint. A means of getting fitter for a particular sporting event, or as part of a work obligation. I truly hadn't immersed myself since I was a teenager. Why? I guess because I was too busy, which is a very sad excuse. Unfortunately it's all I can come up with, and have tried to rectify as I've moved into my 40s.
Breaking away from a job that reinforced these bad habits was the first step, and took moving to New Zealand to accomplish (thanks to my very intelligent wife, soon to be PhD). The natural world has been a major part of our lives for the past 3 years, with a significant improvement in mental health, and well-being, rising out of the experience. Though, I will say, the one big difference I've noticed is that the lake/pond life is almost non-existent aside from water fowl. There are no turtles, snakes, frogs, or salamandars to be found. If they are here, I have never laid eyes on them. The fish are plentiful, but quite a few have been introduced. I know this doesn't seem like much, but having lakes/ponds without wildlife is a bit eerie.
The photo below is from my first hike, after having broken my ankle. It was a little uncomfortable climbing up to Diamond Lake in an orthopedic boot, but the reflections we saw were well worth it. Thankful to have had Angela by my side the whole way.