I’ve always had a love of the outdoors. Mom got me into garden club when we lived in Bermuda when I was nine. I got my garden badge when I was a Girl Scout. My dad was also a fisherman so I fished with him all the time. Even deep sea fishing. My dad was also a big hiker. We started camping as a family when I was six-months old. We hit all the major parks in California. I think that’s why I ended up living next to Yosemite…I could never thrive in a city.
When I was a kid it was the 1950s, and at a time most moms were stay-at-home, my mom worked. We had no family in the area and there was no such thing as “day care,” so in the summers I was shipped off to camp. I loved it! I rode horses, and swam, and hiked and had tons of other kids to play with, which was awesome being an only child. This was way before technology, so being outdoors was our entertainment. We didn’t even telephone home. We wrote letters every once in a while. Or not!
My dad was in the military, so we lived all over, but one of my favorite places was Bermuda where we lived from the time I was eight to ten. We lived right on the water and had tide pools in the front yard. They would put a little life-preserver on me and dump me off on the top of the reef and I’d paddle around the reef looking at everything! I loved it there.
There were a couple of brief times I lived in a city – I lived in Guadalajara when I went to college through an exchange program called Home Stay, and I also spent about one year in the Bay area. Oh, and I lived in Fresno for two years…that was brutal. But on the weekends I was up in Yosemite, and eventually I moved here.
I’d had various careers in my life, and one was training horses and riding. During that time, I got to work with the 4-H program and inner-city kids, a program where they’re brought to the open land to ride around the hills. They’d never even seen a hill, or a horse, or even forested land. You could just feel their awe and excitement and pure joy.
I also spent a couple of years working for the Japanese Home Stay program. We would bring in forty kids at a time from Japan who didn’t even speak English. We’d pair them up with American kids and I’d take them camping. These are kids who had never seen stars in the sky, because they were living in Tokyo where there was so much light pollution. Watching them experience nature for the first time was just incredible. To bring these kids into the country and see things they’ve never experienced was so fun and fulfilling.
It would be so nice if people would send more kids to camp–or just get them out into nature. Get your kids away from their screens and go hiking, swimming, and camping—even if it’s just putting up a tent in the backyard or a blanket on the lawn. Then look at the stars. I think the one thing that binds us all in this community is just the feeling of being so lucky to live here. I know I am!
Carolyn Mather has lived in the area for 34 years and currently resides in Nippinawasee. Aside from her love of gardening, she’s also a classic car enthusiast, and helps organize several local car shows.
This is Us is a series of local profiles with first-person stories, written in a way we can get to know the people in our community on a little deeper level. Click here more information about this series.