Perspectives of Seven Ponds Nature Center

Director Mike Champagne, Office Manager Dan Hayes, and Naturalist Lois Rheaume
Seven Ponds Nature Center's three retirees

Where there is no vision, the people perish. Proverbs 29:18
In 1967, the year I graduated from high school in Warren, Rip and Patty Schemm and Don and Bee Naish founded Seven Ponds Nature Center in Dryden. They devoted the center “to conserve the natural environment as a sanctuary for native plants and animals, as a living classroom for environmental education, and as a peaceful retreat for its visitors.”
About twenty years ago, my first experience with Seven Ponds was one of spiritual healing as a grieving mother. Trees of all ages and species embraced me like those of my beloved Breaks Interstate Park, Virginia, where family memories of three generations belong. Although the Breaks’ ecosystem is mountainous, the soggy paths and glacial lakes at Seven Ponds were as welcoming as the Cumberland’s rocky ridges, waterfalls, and brooks. 
            Seven Ponds became my home away from home. With it came friendly staff and a group of like-minded women who love to dig and study herbs in the center’s Herb Garden. There I learned the benefits of growing and using lavender that changed the landscape of my life.
Mike Champagne, the Director, and I discussed different models of operation for a lavender farm I developed on my property. Birder extraordinaire, Mike joined the farm’s list of programs we offered our harvest guests.
Lois Rheaume, the naturalist and humorist who taught me to appreciate a naked tree, was a speaker for my last Farm Girl Revival in September 2014. Lois loves to talk native plants and animals, and a crowd loves to listen.
With this in mind, I anticipated a large gathering last Saturday to bid farewell to Mike, Lois, and Dan Hayes, the office Manager. Fond of the three retirees, I aimed for a front row seat with a fellow herb buddy.
The room swelled with Seven Ponds volunteers and birders, astronomers, photographers, beekeepers, and Wildflower Garden folk—members of clubs who also call Seven Ponds their second home.
Knowing their audience well, Mike, Dan, and Lois proceeded to host a “roast thyself” in answer to questions Mike had printed on the chalk board. Ever the Director.
We laughed for two hours as the guests of honor reminisced their past thirty years with polished wit, playing off one another as if they’d rehearsed the show. I felt blessed to belong to a place and band of people where “natural” is an abiding human and earthly value.
“Our founders didn’t want their names on the new building,” Dan said. “Don once said that a gift is to be given anonymously.”
Dear Reader, from my perspective, the founders’ mission thrives. On its 50th Anniversary, the purpose of Seven Ponds remains the same. “We believe in the importance of the continuing existence of native plant and animal ecosystems. They are valuable for their own sake and as places for peace, enjoyment, reflection, retreat, and spiritual renewal.
“We value and respect individual effort and personal growth, but it is as a team that progress is made and goals are met.”