Guest Post from Lawron Ingersoll
“Stuff your eyes with wonder. Live as if you’ll drop dead in ten seconds. See the world.” — Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
This summer, I had the privilege of spending a week in Oracle, Arizona as a reciprocation for taking part in Alison Deming’s Grand Manan Field Studies in Writing. I was there to attend Biosphere 2’s Summer Science Academy, and also to experience life in Arizona contrasted with life on Grand Manan Island. I suppose I knew that it would be different in all the ways new places generally are, but I couldn’t have anticipated all the intangible nuances that go with the obvious differences.
The first — and most obvious — difference was the climate. As an islander, I am very much accustomed to the smell of salt in the air, but that doesn’t happen in the midst of the Sonoran Desert. One thing I wasn’t aware of was that everything in the desert is most obviously trying to kill people. Even the air has a nearly hostile dryness when compared to the foggy, temperate place I call home. The temperature was an entire twenty degrees Celsius hotter than my hometown, which caused me to chug an entire bottle of water at thirty-minute intervals. People aren’t joking when they liken the heat to that of an oven. It is interesting to think just how much the temperature of a place can affect the vibes it gives off. The desert brought out some primal part of my subconscious that told me to drink enough water and watch out for anything that may try to kill me. Contrasted with the happy-go-lucky, snake-free mentality in which I generally operate, I felt the slightest bit more aware that I inhabit a body which could easily fall prey to dehydration and, well, predators.
Speaking of, the wildlife in Arizona is entirely different from what I know up North. This difference in particular fascinated me, as I love animals, entomology, and biology. The earth is so wildly biodiverse, and going several degrees of latitude away from where I usually am reminded me of this. Desert cottontails, Gila monsters, assorted lizards, and tarantulas were among the species that I had the privilege of meeting, none of which I had ever seen before. Some of the most interesting and beautiful creatures I encountered were the mesquite bugs that live all over the Biosphere 2 campus. Their gorgeous iridescent colours, as well as their sheer size, are two things that I had never seen before in an insect.
The sky seemed broader in Arizona than it does on Grand Manan, as if representing my own horizons broadening. Everything, in fact, felt bigger, maybe because everything also felt different. It made me want to spread my arms out and feel the expansiveness of it all. Another thing that made Arizona radically different is the tangible hugeness I felt there. The mountains were expansive; the desert was seemingly unending, but the openness of it all made me feel free.
Travelling always makes me feel more connected with the world, but this particular trip made me feel more connected with people as well. Everyone at Biosphere was so hospitable and kind. I was able to bond incredibly quickly with many of the youth there because I was finally amongst people who shared my scientific interests. The entire program can only be described as a congregation of young people who are passionate about science. Travelling and meeting people from all over the US with a shared love of science made me remember just how many people there are out there with whom I can truly connect. I am immensely thankful to everyone who made this possible, including Alison Deming, Paco Cantu, Marsha Colbert, and Kevin Bonine, whose efforts were seminal in making sure I arrived in one piece. This entire experience has only deepened my conviction that science is the route for me. It also served to inspire me to take charge of my own future, because my path is carved out by none other than myself. University of Arizona, you have not seen the last of me.
“And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” – Kurt VonnegutB2 Summer Science Academy, cultural exchange, ocean meets desert