In just a few short days, my internship will be over, and I will fly to Washington, D.C. Last night, I went to the local park for an evening program and bat mask painting for the last time. Children from around the neighborhood came with their friends and dogs and love of all things messy and artsy. While I helped one little girl with a jar of glow-in-the-dark paint, she started asking me questions about my job.
Are you a police officer?
I told her, no, I work at Lava Beds National Monument. I don’t work with the police, but I do work with some really incredible people and together we protect the wildlife, the environment, and the history of the park.
Do you like it?
I love it! I get to watch bats and birds, and meet new people every day, and do arts and crafts in the dark with visitors like you. Sometimes I’m surprised that I get to do so many fun things as part of my job.
How long have you been working there?
Since May but I have to leave soon to go back to school. I only got to stay for a few months, so I’m almost done.
She asked me, very off-handedly, while she colored her bat mask a wonderfully vivid, scientifically inaccurate purple, if I was sad that it was over. As she mixed a neon purple crayon with a pool of flourescent, glow-in-the-dark yellow, I realized sad was too simple a word. I was sorry I didn’t have more time, I was excited to present my project in D.C., I was disappointed that I hadn’t gotten to explore every single cave in the park, I was eager to see my family again, I was relieved I hadn’t seen a scorpion during my stay, I was already missing the people I’d met, from the coworkers I spent hours hiking with, to the group of women in their seventies who cackled as they waved my preserved bat in each other’s faces and eagerly asked which cave I did not recommend they do, so they could go do it. I was grateful for every new experience that I had here. I was feeling a lot of things.
But I figured this child didn’t want a complicated answer, so I told her, yes, I’m sad it’s over.