I mean no malice against my former employer. My 14 years at Dominion allowed me to earn enough for a house, car, and other material goods. I learned a lot about teamwork, leadership, and work ethic. My department co-workers were some of the finest people anyone would want to meet anywhere. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to work at a solid company.
But, for the past two years, I have been blessed to see scenes like his at my job. I breathe the salt breeze from the York River. The piercing cry of osprey and the odd cackle of green heron greet me as I open the Croaker Landing contact station. Bucks, does, and fawns give me cautious stares as I wheel a ‘Gator on a wooded trail from the maintainance shop to the wet lab office in the visitor’s center. This is York River State Park, my second favorite employer.
As a kid, I loved visiting my aunt and uncle in Gloucester. My brother, cousins, and I all grew gills. We swam, fished, and crabbed from breakfast to dinner. We would sleep on the porch looking at the lights on the river. I dreaded fall and winter, having to leave the York behind until warm weather returned.
My middle school daydream was to study marine biology at the Virginia Institute for Marine Science at Gloucester Point. That gave way to an interest and degree in agricultural education from Virginia State. My one year of full-time teaching was a disaster. I floated from temp agency to contract hiring until I found that running envelope inserting and extraction machines was something I could succeed in and make good money doing it. Other than a few weeks of struggling with a new computer system, my record as an employee was rock solid.
I was 41 and wanted to work at an interesting pursuit, not a monotonous means of income. My first call was to be of better service to my community as a substitute teacher. But, I needed to do something over the summer. So, in March 2009, I went to the office at York River and asked if they needed any seasonal help. The Chief Ranger, Brad Thomas, recognized me as the “camera guy.” He gave me an interview within a week. The next week, he made me an offer to work maintainance, the contact station at Croaker, and interpretive programs such as hikes and kayak tours. I wasn’t about to turn a chance to spend time on the river and get paid for it. It was a childhood wish come true. My willingness to work, love for the river, skills, and talents are being more appreciated by my co-workers recently. Greater things are coming toward the end of this year and the years to come.
Granted, the job here at York River is seasonal. My work is very limited in November and December. I am laid off January to March and rely on substitute teaching to keep food on the table and bills paid. Even during the season, I don’t earn anything near the paychecks, benefits, and bonuses I had at Dominion.
But, I have cut my commute time and distance down by 2/3. My workplace is also one of my favorite places to take photographs. I can catch a few fish for dinner or ride my mountain bike instead of doing my cardio at the YMCA. Above all, I am not confined in a basement with loud machines or enclosed in a cubicle in front of a computer monitor. My office is over 2,000 acres of woods, marsh, and shoreline. I get paid to share it with our visitors. What job could be better?
Okay, there is one thing. I am the pastor of a Christian church. Sharing the love and salvation of God through Jesus Christ is the most important thing I do and receive a salary for. Yet, sometimes I can’t find words to express the joy I feel being here at the park. Today I had to re-cut a small path into the marsh at the confluence of Taskinas Creek and the river. After chopping through some of the tallest salt grass, I saw a lovely sea of salt meadow hay riddled with deer tracks. I had a perfect view of a bald eagle surrendering his perch to a great blue heron. Looking on the river, masses of juvenile menhaden rippled an otherwise glassy surface. Would I give up such a glorious sight to return to a paper dust laden, noisy basement? The answer is in the title.