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Trails of Life

An executive finds a way to help others via Sharon Audubon Center

By Claudia Malley

The bluebirds always appear around April 1. I spot them on the fence in the field, and if I’m lucky they will fly to one of the trees outside my porch. Some are migrating, others have just been hiding all winter. Seeing them each spring reminds me of how much I love living in the northwest corner of CT. At times I feel like I am a character in a nature documentary, with chirps, squeals, warbles, drumming, and hoots creating an incredible bird-call symphony, a performance that forces me to slow down and listen.

The land surrounding my house in Sharon was gifted to the Sharon Audubon Center by my neighbor Lois Webb, who, like many others in the region, believed in the importance of preserving and protecting land. As I walk through the woods, the small markers on trees delineating Sharon Audubon property gently reminds me that we share this land and forest with its inhabitants, especially the birds.

I learned early that I would be more successful and satisfied in life if I could infuse work with my passions—do what you love, love what you do. I spent 16 years at the National Geographic Society, working to raise support for their mission to inspire people to care about the planet. The scientists and explorers who worked with Nat Geo helped me appreciate the role we all play in making sure our world is protected for future generations.

With the pace of life slowing to a halt during our covid year, I began to not just hear the bird calls, but to think about how I could become more involved with my neighbors, the Sharon Audubon Center. I’ve lived in Sharon for 25 years. I love these forests, and nothing gives me more delight than hearing, then spotting, a brightly colored woodpecker tap-tap-tapping away. I wanted to help others experience the sounds and sights that bring me so much joy.

One cold spring morning in 2020, I met Eileen Fielding, the Director at Sharon Audubon Center. With masks covering our faces, we walked the Fern Trail around Ford Pond and talked about her vision for building a vibrant community outpost. She was curious and funny and exuded commitment. I was also awed by her ecological expertise. I learned about the education and rehabilitation efforts of the Center’s small but mighty team of experts and volunteers, and Eileen outlined how Sharon Audubon Center fits into the National Audubon’s efforts to manage forests, wetlands, and flyovers. With my purpose-based marketing hat on, my mind quickly filled with ideas of how I could help.

Connecting with the Sharon Audubon Center took longer than it should have. But now, as a member of the Sharon Audubon Advisory Board, I’m doing what I love and love what I’m doing. I not only help share the Audubon’s work with others in the community, but also, much like my work at National Geographic, I can help make sure the birds have the habitats they need for generations to come.

It’s funny how you might think you are on one path in life, and if you take a moment to stop and listen, you see that the path is actually a network of trails filled with life and potential—and the sounds of birds in the trees.

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