Back to Loving Green

     There's something I recently became an expert in: catching swimming tadpoles with bare hands.
     I still clearly remember that before, there was a time when I had been an innocent child who was never afraid of anything in nature. I had grown up in a neighborhood full of rows of apartments but had always been interested in insects and animals. I remember me taking my friends on an 'adventure' on the way home from elementary school, to observe the ants, find weird-looking berries, and even crouch down in a shelter made of some rocks (which I called a cave). I also liked to catch dragonflies with a vibrant pink net I bought in a small store in front of my apartment.
     As I became older, wandering around looking for insects somehow didn't seem to suit my age. I grew farther and farther away from nature and wildlife. And from some point, I found myself shuddering when finding an earthworm squirming or feeling a leaf brush against my bare skin while walking.
     What brought me back to loving Earth just as it is, was attending high school. Being in a boarding school located deep in the mountains of Gangwon province, I found near me all sorts of greenery, together with the little insects and animals. Me two years ago would have screamed to see a big fat bug on my shoulder, but now I'm not that panicky in that kind of situation.
     Catching tadpoles in a small pool behind the school dorm and moving them to another stream was what I did during sports club period.

The new stream we made for the tadpoles

Every Wednesday, I go about the mountain behind (to be more precise, all around) the school with several students and a teacher. We do different activities: put up chunks of logs for the birds to live in, hang a mineral rock for the wild mammals to lick, and set up cameras in front of badger holes to record their movements in the night. We climb up and down very steep slopes, grabbing at roots and branches on our way not to fall. 
     In February, when I first started this activity, I felt really awkward wandering around like this in the mountains. I was quite afraid I might fall down when walking on harsh terrains and did not enjoy getting pieces of branches stuck in my hair after the trip. But I was feeling completely different after a few months. I began to appreciate what I met in nature -- every plant and tree, every strangely shaped insect, every bird was unique in its way.

A colorful beetle I found in the bushes

I could not believe how I had always neglected their presence, getting goosebumps on my arms when a fly buzzed by. This wasn't how it's supposed to be. Why try to get every creature that isn't human out of sight, when there are millions of different species alive on this planet? Why try to isolate ourselves from nature by putting us in "hygienic and insect-free" rectangular cages that we call home?
     I caught the tadpoles, one by one, and safely carried them to a nearby pond that wasn't ephemeral. They were soft creatures (and unbelievably fast, too!), and I liked how they swam swiftly in the water. How come I never had a chance to see them this close? I realized that I loved observing nature, and I sincerely cared for it.