I fell in love with two things in my youth – nature and journalism – and have dedicated much of my life to both. I am now working my way back to writing for a living, starting with this Eye On Sligo Creek passion project, to share my love for the natural world right outside my front door. I am also again crafting essays, features, travel pieces and more for print and online media. Podcasting is on the horizon, too. A 2020 trip to New York would have been in my future, too — when I would have had the honor of being one of twelve writers chosen to attend the Orion Magazine Environmental Writers’ Workshop. Another day, perhaps — after the pandemic is gone.
I earned my journalism degree from the University of Georgia in 1991 and embarked on an unusual but intensely rewarding life journey with destinations in journalism and environmental advocacy, among others.
I spent my first six months after college roaming the wilds of Alaska, where I encountered moose, bald eagles and salmon, and listened to wolves howl across the Koyukuk River. I then moved to Spain for a year and used my degree to land a job teaching English in Valencia. Returning to Atlanta with a second language, I became managing editor of the city’s leading bilingual newspaper, Mundo Hispanico. That opportunity opened the doors to a freelance journalism career in which I wrote news, features, editorials and profiles for more than 40 magazines and newspapers across the country. I recently published an essay in Salon about the work I’ve done cleaning hoarder houses and working with people afflicted by the disorder.
The arrival of the Internet age walloped my profession but gave me the chance to reinvent myself as an advocate for nature – first as a public affairs manager for the Georgia office of The Trust for Public Land and later as a communications director for The Wilderness Society in Washington, D.C. The serendipitous 2007 move here from Georgia planted me in Silver Spring, within walking distance of the Sligo Creek Trail. Though I have moved several times since then, immediate access to the trail has always been my top priority in looking for a new house.
My hobby of collecting rare books and antiques became more intense in the nation’s capital, giving me the chance to co-found Orion’s Attic — an antiques, collectibles and estate liquidation company serving the greater District of Columbia/Maryland/Virginia region.
My dream now is to downsize that business and make writing my full-time job again by July 4, 2021 – the anniversary of the day that America declared its independence and that Henry David Thoreau declared his by moving to Walden Pond. My life and work have been influenced profoundly by both events. I am forever indebted to our founding fathers and mothers and to my dear Thoreau. He remains my teacher, mentor and friend – and my work here is both inspired by and dedicated to him.
“To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of the arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worth of the contemplation of his most elevated hour.”
Henry David Thoreau
My journey to Eye On Sligo Creek is longer and more twisted than all the tributaries of the Anacostia River combined. It launched in Korea with a boost from an astronaut program, skyrocketed across the Atlantic to Philadelphia – and kept on soaring through a diplomatic organization and a Quaker charity. The flight path reached Washington D.C., where I have spent the past 17 years in the field of data analysis. It is also where I found a cornucopia of chances to begin exploring the world of nature.
I grew up in Seoul, a city where I hardly ever saw wildlife. I didn’t really have opportunities to appreciate the beauty of nature. My only recollections of any chances like that were the times I visited my grandparents in the countryside when I was a child. I have faint visions of fishing, feeding cows and farm life – but those are fleeting images. Nature just wasn’t a part of my life growing up.
After graduating from a college, I landed my first job with Young Astronauts Korea, initiating a number of technology innovation projects. I left Korea in the late 1990s to pursue higher education in the United States. I earned my Master’s degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania while working for the International Visitors Council of Philadelphia and the American Friends Service Committee – a Quaker organization dedicated to peace and justice.
Moving to D.C. gave me the chance to build a career as a data analyst in the field of health and human services – working for the District of Columbia government in a variety of capacities, from Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital to my current role with the Department of Human Services. My work has focused on using numbers to give voice to mistreated children and other vulnerable populations.
My personal life also flourished here. I had opportunities to go hiking and spend more time in nature. I started to play sports like tennis. I met my future husband (Eye co-founder Christopher Lancette) on a tennis court. He had spent his whole life loving the outdoors so I soon got introduced to bicycling on the Sligo Creek Trail and places all over Maryland and the DMV. I also developed an interest in photography as Chris and I had opportunities to cover pro tennis for a magazine he wrote for. I loved the challenge of capturing subjects in motion. I can never forget those moments I was chasing after Roger Federer’s graceful moves and his tennis ball, with my first DSLR camera, at his eye level on the same court he was playing.
My interest in photography has expanded over time and I now carry my camera whenever I can, taking photographs of landscape, water, trails, and wildlife. Nature calls out to me more and more. The more I take photographs in the woods, the more I notice details I never noticed before. As I spend hours at a time photographing great blue herons, I can appreciate every little move they make and unique gestures and expressions. They are my precious experiences.
Although I’m still a novice photographer, I get excited when I take my camera to the field. I feel like a child again every time I learn a new photography technique and use it in the woods and ponds, successfully capture amazing moments and views. I want to share those precious moments seized by my camera along and beyond the Sligo Creek, with people who may not yet have experienced. I hope, I believe my photos will motivate them to get out there to see and feel what nature brings to us. Maybe they will take some shots themselves and share with more people. Maybe more people will take care of Sligo Creek. Then, someday more great blue herons will visit there to please us and our children.