By Amber Paige
It used to take a miracle to get me out of bed before noon on the weekends, but I have become a morning person for Soul Trak. Last Saturday, I grabbed a friend and headed off to the United States Botanic Garden with a group of other Howard students I barely knew, where we met the rest of the Soul Trak crew. It was beautiful out – another day of delightfully odd winter weather. Ruth, my friend, and fellow HU ambassador had organized a scavenger hunt for us, which we discussed before we were released into the gardens. Eyes peeled for flowers like the “African potato” and the “fantasy love” Anthurium, we were eager to get started.
Through the doors, we were greeted by a band singing environment-themed songs. The energy in the room was bright, helping me wake up and shake off anything that would have dragged me along otherwise. The journey through the different ecosystems simulated in the building was fascinating, from the dry, desert room lacking in color, to the hot, humid, vibrant tropics. I didn’t want to leave. It was interesting to walk through and even breathe easier in some areas than in others, with only glass doors separating the atmospheres. I searched everywhere for the flowers in Ruth’s scavenger hunt but was ultimately forced to ask for help. That’s what we have this a community for after all!
Following our garden excursion, we walked to the National Museum of Natural History, where we visited the butterfly pavilion. This was another little room with a simulated ecosystem, and this time I nearly started sweating immediately. The dome was hot and crowded, but space was just as beautiful as the garden, with a diverse bunch of flowers, butterfly species flying around, and even some still in their cocoons, warming up for their debut. I tiptoed through the path because it would have been devastating to step on one of the butterflies, some of which already looked like they had been through some things. We were all in awe of the tiny, fragile creatures who landed on the brightest hats and scarves, commanding the space with their breathtaking patterns.
Being among the butterflies, lush flowers, bushes, and trees – most of which I had never heard of or seen in person, and some of which didn’t even seem real – magnified my understanding of our responsibility to help save the earth and all the things that live here. I continue to be surprised by new information detailing instability in our environment and the lack of global alarm.
I am learning every day about what needs to be done, and while it prompts me to strive to be a part of the change, it is also revealing to me the importance of savoring my time with nature as much as possible. That is a major reason I am grateful for organizations like Soul Trak, whose values bring us closer to what matters. In learning more about the organization, and with every new encounter, I am increasingly excited about the community being fostered here!