Mr. Bresky is an award winning writer and photographer. His new book to be published on Amazon.com in November 2016 is called The Paper Makers: More Than Run of the Mill. The book traces the history of Oregon's first two paper mills through the eyes of former workers and over 50 black and white photographs.
My Best Teachers
Father Time and Mother Nature
by Robert Bresky
My Best Teachers
Father Time and Mother Nature
by Robert Bresky
Published Jan 24, 2014
Genre: BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Adventurers & Explorers
Our World Needs the Best Teachers and Healers
My best teachers were not in the classroom and my best healers were not always in the medical profession. My father and mother taught me things you cannot measure with a test like patience, discipline, and self-reliance. Nurses and doctors labeled my physical and mental impairments and treated them with the best science had to offer. But, they did not heal my body and mind. Healing came from within. It took time and was nurtured by love and nature. This book introduces you to the people, jobs, places, and schools that made me who I am today. You'll meet my devoted wife and our greatest accomplishments, Christopher our son and Rachel our daughter. I share sad and funny anecdotes growing up as the oldest son with four brothers and two sisters. You will learn what it takes to be a survivor of depression for 33 years, cancer for 10 years, and a middle age public school teacher for 8 years. Share the highlights from 35 years of public service and compare experiential learning in the outdoors to more traditional classroom and lecture hall learning in an Ivy League school, graduate school, and Catholic elementary and secondary schools. Learn the importance of buying memories rather than stuff as I take you to parks, and natural areas in Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Tanzania, Africa. Discover why I left the teeming masses of the East Coast to go West.
The following is a transcript of my August 10, 2015 Q and A session with Duke University Graduate Students about my 2014 book My Best Teachers Father Time and Mother Nature and the volunteer experiences that inspired my book.M: So our first question is what do you do as a volunteer with Metro? V: I lead field trips at two parks or three parks now. Oxbow Regional Park along the Sandy River, Scatters Mountain Park, which is on Scatters Mountain, only about 20 minutes from where we are now and third place I’ve volunteered for is Talbert Park which is also on a cinder cone mountain about 20 minutes from here. And I’ve been doing that for about 4 years since I graduated from Nature University in 2011. I do volunteering in the spring, fall, and summer. M: Okay very nice. So how did you come to start volunteering with Metro? V: After I retired from public school teaching I had to find something to do that I would enjoy, it would be fun and would keep me engaged and keep me motivated to be a self learner. I’m a very big proponent of continuing education so I take online classes; try to do as many of the Metro, Audubon, whatever other trainings are available in the Portland area to keep up my skills and the knowledge base and also my writing career and photography. Does that answer the question? M: Sure absolutely. So what about volunteer naturalist was appealing to you? V: Well I’ve always encouraged others and myself and I and I also have a wife who is very much into volunteering, giving back to the community. We’ve both been very fortunate to have great parents, great educations, great jobs, and a great retirement and two great kids. So we’ve had a lot of blessings so we want to share as much as we can with those less fortunate. And I want to do as much volunteer work as I can in my retirement as kind of a way to giving back and paying off our blessings. M: That’s great. So how does what you do fit into the bigger picture of what Metro does do you think? V: Well Metro as a regional government is a great concept I think it makes for a more efficient and effective governing and you can look at the big picture and you can bring together numerous partners like they do city, county, nonprofits to do fantastic things around the Portland Metro area, make it so livable. The nature bond program that Portland has that is supported every time there’s a big bond levy it’s amazing you get more people that are going to support that than school levies because there’s such an environmental ethic in this state and especially in this area and Metro is just kind of a reflection of that. Their Nature University program their natural space program, all that, their parks, recreation, volunteer. All of that feeds into this whole great area that we live in and I agree with their goals of trying to set aside natural areas as part of the land use process to make sure we don’t have urban sprawl that happens in a lot of the cities and so my volunteering in the park is a way of also training future leaders. That’s a big part why; I love working with children. I have two grandsons and as I said two children and I want to leave a better world when I leave than I had when I grew up. Or just keep it from getting worse with all that’s going on with climate change and so the more I can instill that reverence and importance of nature with youngsters is also kind of my driving motivation. M: Very nice. So when do you feel the most energized or excited during your volunteer work then? V: That’s a good question. It’s interacting with the children, answering their questions. Also, trying to engage them and to ask me questions. Getting them so engaged and enriched and excited that they’re wanting to know more so that whole educational group or feedback group is so important and then to see them, the expressions on their face, their smiles. And then to see the changes in behavior from when they arrive to when the field trip is over is pretty remarkable. It’s true for all ages boys and girls, disabled, non-disabled, English language learners, non-English language learners. It’s such a…experiential learning is so important because it works for a broad spectrum of people that don’t necessarily do well in a regular classroom setting. So I got kind of into that through my special education work and knowledge and experience and I see it as especially beneficial to the diverse groups that Metro is trying to reach out to with these programs. M: So then on the flip side, when do you feel the most frustrated in your volunteer work? V: When I come into a natural park to lead a program and I see some of the trash that’s been left around form the weekend campers and partiers and all that stuff and I feel sorry that the park staff will have to clean all that stuff up. And they have to have an annual SOLVE cleanup along this river because of all the rafters who come and party. It used to be a lot worse, they have kind of improved the situation now but a lot of people this has been a tradition for many years for many generations of people to get into a rubber raft a kayak you name it whatever floatable…tubes, I’ve come down in an inner tube, I’ve come down in a kayak, I’ve come down in a raft. It’s a blast, it’s a wonderful pretty much gentle river except up higher near the source where there’s some class 2,3,4 rapids. Yeah so it’s got a little bit of everything but I’m not so skilled to go and try the white water. I would only go with a guide to do that. So I stay to the lower part of the river as did my kids and my wife when we were younger when they were growing up here. And then I would fish form the banks along here which is just within a 30 minute walk from my house. Anything else? Oh yeah frustration… Frustration that they don’t have, that they’re not putting enough money into some of these parks. This is a county park and I know they’re strapped for funds but they could use a picnic table here. They could use some soap in the bathrooms. It’s very clean and it’s well supervised by a guy who lives here but this place gets heavy use during the summer and probably year round with fisherman. This Clackamas has got steelhead, it’s got salmon, it’s got trout. It’s well used year round more so in the summer more than any other season. It’s got or it needs a few more amenities. M: Okay, so when you feel this frustration. What keeps you going, in your volunteer work? V: At the end of every nature hike we sit around the circle and we have a sharing session with everybody who participated, the adult chaperones the teachers the volunteer naturalist leaders. We all sit around and share what we liked about the day the best. Just to hear them, especially the children, get excited about stuff and share what they got turned on by and which hike they liked and what they liked the best and then coming over and shaking their hand, giving you a hug smiling and laughing the whole time. You can’t put a price on that. I get a lot out of it. I get out more than I give, I think. M: Wow, so just seeing the impact you’ve made. V: Yeah M: So you’ve mentioned it before but do you have any personal goals that your volunteer work is helping you reach and if so what are they? V: Well my personal goals as I said in retirement are to continue to write, hopefully publish books that will spread the news about nature and how important it is and what the issues are and what we should do about those issues and get involved and motivate other people maybe to jump on board with their money and their time. And the photography, I just led a field trip a couple weeks ago out in Oxbow park and I had never gotten this close to two fawns before; you know this close on a field trip. So I got out my iPhone and I snapped some pictures of these two fawns with their doe mother just coming out of the woods and it’s just a magic moment when. That’s another thing that keeps you motivated when you can get up close and personal with the wildlife because you’re there in the park a lot and you get to see that, those special moments, that’s incredible. M: So you mentioned previously this book that you have here. Can I ask that you talk about it again here briefly? V: Sure. I think it’s best to read my jacket cover: “My best teachers were not in the classroom and my best healers were not always in the medical profession. My father and mother taught me things you cannot measure with a test like patience, discipline, and self-reliance. Nurses and doctors labeled my physical and mental impairments and treated them with the best science had to offer. But, they did not heal my body and mind. Healing came from within. It took time and was nurtured by love and nature. This book introduces you to the people, jobs, places, and schools that made me who I am today. You'll meet my devoted wife and our greatest accomplishments, Christopher our son and Rachel our daughter. I share sad and funny anecdotes growing up as the oldest son with four brothers and two sisters. You will learn what it takes to be a survivor of depression for 33 years, cancer for 10 years, and a middle age public school teacher for 8 years. Share the highlights from 35 years of public service and compare experiential learning in the outdoors to more traditional classroom and lecture hall learning in an Ivy League school, graduate school, and Catholic elementary and secondary schools. Learn the importance of buying memories rather than stuff as I take you to parks, and natural areas in Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Tanzania, Africa. Discover why I left the teeming masses of the East Coast to go West.” M: Very cool. Very nice. Thank you for sharing that. V: You’re welcome. M: So getting back to the questions then. If something happened and you weren’t able to continue volunteering as a naturalist anymore. What do you think you would miss the most about it? V: Definitely the children and all the outdoor experiences. And the physical activity too. It gets me out there exercising in the woods and that’s very healthy. M: So now I want you to think of a location that you visit often as part of your volunteer work. It could be a park a natural area… Do you have a location in mind? V: Yeah Oxbow. I spent my most time volunteering there for a regional park. M: So now I want you to think about what you see when you go there, what you hear when you’re there, and what you do while you’re at that site. What do you like about it? V: First thing I see when I drive into the park is the beautiful Sandy River, which is just as pretty if not prettier than this. So the water and the life of the river fill my senses first thing. Any wildlife I might hear; ospreys in the background, the calls of crows any kind of wildlife activity that I can take in without seeing it that also stimulates me, my hearing and what was the last one? Eyes, ears, the smells of nature… um the air is so clean over there and it’s nourished and kept clean by all the beautiful trees specially it’s one of the closest, I think it’s the only area that is close to Portland that has ancient trees. We’re talking six and seven hundred year old trees. So just to be able to interact with them when the rest of the state there’s only 2% of old growth left in the state. It’s a real treat to be able to drive a half an hour to get to it. What was the last part of the question? M: What do you like about it? V: Once again the nature trails through those old growth trees. It gives you a little bit of both. The serenity of the woods and an old growth forest and then of course the river with the bugs and the whole food chain with the healthy bugs population which helps ensure a healthy fish population which helps insure a healthy bird and mammal population so it’s just a well maintained and operated park and it’s been, I’m so glad it’s been preserved for future generations. M: That’s great. And then you may have touched on this already but what makes Oxbow special? V: Well it’s the staff over there. They’ve had great rangers there; they’ve had great naturalists, full time naturalists who taught me in Nature University. They have great seasonal naturalists who also taught me in Nature University and I see them often when I go to the parks and then the other volunteer naturalists who I meet when I go out to the park. Not just that park but any park. They’re really; I have a bond with them because we both enjoy what we’re doing. A lot of them are former teachers, and a lot of them are very knowledgeable about some aspect of the outdoors. Like people that specialize in birding or tracking buffs. To get all that expertise in a group is so enriching you can’t help but learn something new every day even though you’re going to the same location. Every time you learn something new either from what you see here or who you talk to. It’s really powerful. It’s powerful. M: So related now imagine that you could travel to Oxbow 20 years in the future today. What would you hope to see there? V: I’d like to see a healthy fish population. I want to see cold water that salmon can live in and breed in and steelhead can rear their young in and migrate to the ocean with. That is my biggest concern now is the climate and the warming of the planet and how that has affected the rivers, ecosystems around here. There have been die offs of salmon on the small rivers here, the Clackamas, Willamette, the bigger rivers, Columbia and it’s all because of global warming, I’m convinced of that. Climate change is wreaking havoc of course nurtured by fossil fuel dependence and that’s out biggest threat. Top priority, top issue of mine for the future and if we don’t get a handle on reducing pollution and carbon emissions it’s only going to go downhill so I want to see more done to reduce the world’s and Oregon’s dependence on fossil fuels that will lower the carbon emissions, reduce the temperatures and reduce the volatility in weather systems and help the rivers maintain the temperatures that are needed to maintain healthy fish and wildlife populations. M: Wow. I’m really glad you shared that actually because it’s a great tie in to my next question. I’m going to ask you now a few questions about how your volunteer work has affected your everyday life. So first question with that in mind is on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being terrible and 10 being fantastic. How good of a job do you think you do at taking care of the environment in your everyday life? V: I’d say 8 M: So why do you say 8 and not 7 V: Because I drive very fuel efficient cars, Toyota Carollas we’ve had for 11 years. I recycle. Pretty much everything I can. We donate to environmental organizations that are promoting the same agenda that I’m promoting and I agree with. And I’m volunteering in the outdoors and with Metro, that’s a big plus. M: very nice. And then what do you think it would take for you to become a 9? V: Maybe put solar panels on my house. Maybe get down to 1 car. Maybe reduce my environmental footprint by downsizing, moving to a smaller place, selling our house. That’s about it. M: That’s great. So now I want you to imagine that you were talking to someone who could potentially donate a million dollars to parks and natural areas in your community. What would you tell them to convince them to donate that money? V: I would say that I used to think that education, when I was teaching profession, I thought education was the number one issue and that I was putting all my effort into that and working there. Going around and canvassing and the neighborhoods for pro-education votes, pro-funding for the public schools so I spent not only time teaching but advocating and becoming an activist for education issues. I used to think that was the most important issue of today. I thought that anybody who spent money on education would get the best return when you considered all the costs and benefits. Now after having been involved with Nature University, taking some sustainability courses, some geology courses, some history anthropology courses, getting more educated about climate change, sustainability, all that stuff. Now, I am convinced that it is the environment now that is crucial and it’s going to create worldwide benefits that are going to exceed all the costs. So If somebody was a wealthy individual who knows who also values what they can get from their dollar when they put it to good use they need to realize that what they’re doing in terms of nature education, setting aside historic and natural places. That is going to return more in terms of global, national, local, city benefits than any other investment they can make. M: That’s great. So as a final question for our interview. How has volunteering with Metro changed the way that you think about parks and natural areas? V: It’s just made me understand how much more important they are, how much good they do for not just me and my family but for the people that I have met and taught and interacted with. I think that’s it. M: That’s great. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. We really appreciate it. We love to hear everyone’s stories about why they volunteer.