2023 Land Stewards Field Note: John Mathewson

by | Field Notes, Land Stewards, LS 2023

What sandy trails and drain dips taught me about life. 

As my crew walked along the trail, our sights set on a big project about a mile ahead, I noticed a large sandy section through a low point in the trail. As we passed by it, I addressed my confusion regarding the oddity. I said to our trail lead, “I don’t get that. How is there so much sand built up here?” 

“It’s a drainage issue,” he said, “When the snow melts in the spring, all the water runs down the trail, collecting silt and depositing it at low points in the trail.” Drain dips are built on steep trails to create avenues for water to escape the trail, preventing large ruts from forming on slopes and large sandy patches from forming in the low spots. Because the water gets stuck running down the trail, unable to escape this blind conformity, the quality of the path suffers. The thing is, all the trail needs is a series of drain dips. Open avenues for the water to run off the trail and break that conformity. 

As we moved up the trail from that point, I kept thinking about that sandy patch as a metaphor for my own life. Do I want to spend my life digging a rut into a big sandy low point of conformity, or do I want to build those drain dips and escape the endless march toward complacency? I think too many people choose the former, and I know I’ve been on that path in my life, not wanting to break the conformity or subvert the expectations thrust upon me by the people around me. 

These last three months have been integral to my development as a recent college graduate looking for his place in the world. The experience I’ve been fortunate enough to gain in just a few short months will remain with me for my entire life. 

This is a picture of me and the two other MAI members on our crew (Taylor and Grace). The people I have met through this internship have been some of the loveliest, most interesting people I have ever met, and I’m incredibly lucky to be able to work with them every day.