In my house we are sitting down to evaluate our end of year donations. This time of year can get so hectic and crazy with holidays, gatherings, school vacations, and more, but I have carved out some time to ponder the people and things that I am truly grateful for. This got me thinking about Marc Gussen and the Closter Nature Center.
We met Marc when my oldest daughter, now 20, was 4 years old. Since that time we have spent as much time in classes with Marc as possible. He is an amazing wealth of knowledge about plants, animals, and just about anything having to do with nature.
Besides being a naturalist extraordinaire and a student/teacher of primitive skills, he has participated in the Punkin Chunkin for the last several years. This is a competition where teams use catapults to throw a pumpkin as far as possible. Marc’s team and their torsion catapult, Chucky IV, won first place again this year. Read about it at www.punkinchunkin.com. Marc is also an avid fisherman and builds custom fishing rods. He lives a very Spartan lifestyle and spends most of the winter living on the beach in Baja California, Mexico. I had the honor of joining him last year with Jeff, Tommy, and Anthony Lisa as well as Dylan Perna (Jane McGurty’s son) and Tyler Balistrieri of Camp Common Ground archery fame. (Eve came alsoJ) We lived in a palapa on the beach – really just a structure built of palm fronds - and snorkeled and kayacked around for a week. An amazing adventure!
Many of you know Marc too since the Closter Nature Center kindly shares him with us for our Lost Arts week at Common Ground Center. He really is a Pied Piper of kids…and adults too! This is why Closter Nature Center has a special place in my heart. It reminds me a lot of Common Ground in many ways. They have 135 acres of open land preserved right here in congested Bergen County, NJ, which my kids and I have thoroughly enjoyed over the years. Common Ground has donated 560 acres of their land to the Vermont Land Trust, keeping it preserved forever. Let’s hope that Vermont doesn’t look like New Jersey anytime soon, but I love to think that the CGC land will forever be wild and free just as the Closter Nature Center’s spot is in New Jersey. And we can continue to watch and follow Marc on his nature journeys through these pristine landscapes.
I personally contribute to the Nature Center in support of Marc and to help preserve their continued presence in our community. I hope that you and your family have been able to take some time this December to consider what experiences, people, and places have affected you this year. Happy New Year!