By Katherine Lacaze, Communications Coordinator
If you are ever looking for the perfect fall activity for a Staff Fun Day, I’m here to tell you there is nothing better than picking apples and pressing them into cider on a perfectly crisp day in Nehalem.
I discovered this earlier in October, when our staff at North Coast Land Conservancy created just such an experience. Throughout the day, we occasionally stepped aside to answer work calls or send emails or discuss public access maps for the Rainforest Reserve. However, those few hours were primarily filled with chopping apples into chunks—before happily realizing that step was superfluous—and taking turns operating the cider press and, quite literally, tasting the fruits of our labor, both fresh and cold and then warmed up with spices.
It was a day to breathe and laugh, to enjoy and appreciate one another not as coworkers but as people.
I remember when we first talked about doing an apple-picking-plus-cider-pressing-day during a meeting. It was right around the end of September. And in that moment, the idea of doing a fun staff-bonding activity felt a little overwhelming, maybe even out of place.
We had a tentative date for the Rainforest Reserve closing—Oct. 26—and it was already starting to feel like we were in a funnel, spiraling down toward a monumental and definitive moment in time at a quicker and quicker pace. Everything we had talked about and planned for months, not to mention strived toward for years, was coming together, with all of us caught up in the force of the current.
It didn’t feel right to be taking a break with so much work waiting to be done, as well as the mounting pressure to ensure it was done right. I felt almost panicked, thinking, “I haven’t earned it yet!”
Stewardship Director Melissa Reich operates the cider press.
But as Katie pointed out, the busyness, and its accompanying pressure and stress, gave us all the more reason to pause. Afterward, she assured, we would resume our daily tasks refreshed, ready to finish prepping a press release and develop public access signage and share the news with elected officials. And I’m just mentioning some of the tasks I’m directly involved with. There’s a whole lot more that goes into purchasing 3,500 acres of land at the end of an $11.8 million campaign.
All I can say is that she was right, and I feel grateful to be part of a team that prioritizes social and mental health while also pursuing a mission of conserving Oregon’s coastal lands.
There’s a tendency, when we feel stressed or overwhelmed, to simply put our heads down and keep trudging. While there may be times when that’s the right strategy, or the only one, resulting in the type of perseverance that pays off, it more often than not keeps us deep in the weeds, trying to push forward but meeting futility instead. We hit a roadblock—mental, physical or otherwise—and our project or process won’t budge. No matter how much we want it to.
It may seem counterintuitive, but the best remedy is often to pause. To stop pushing. Breathe. Go outside. Get a change of scenery. Laugh with loved ones. Maybe make apple cider. And then come out the other side, all the more ready to keep moving forward with fresh energy and perspective.
On a more personal level, it’s a reminder to me that mental well-being isn’t something that needs to be “earned.” Self-care isn’t a reward that comes only when we’ve proven our worth in terms of productivity and we’ve squeezed out every last ounce of ourselves to manifest a project. Meeting our own emotional and psychological needs is paramount to giving our best to what we’re passionate about: land conservation. Not to mention a pause every now and then creates the space for gratitude to blossom anew, or even just to recognize and acknowledge how thankful we truly are. And is there any better motivation than gratitude?
As I started up a ladder to pick apples, I made a joke that I felt like Anne of Green Gables. But Anne does make a comment in L.M. Montgomery’s classic that I can fully relate to: “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
I love every aspect of this season. The colors, which quickly progress from a rash of vibrant reds, yellows and oranges to a gauzy palette of grays and browns. The wet, crisp weather. A time of harvest and savoring the Earth’s bounty before we hunker down for a dark, wet northwest winter.
As strange as it may sound, making fresh apple cider on an Anne-of-Green-Gables day and putting down my to-do list for a couple of hours allowed me to stop being busy long enough to remember how much I love what I do and with whom I do it. Most importantly, it created space to reflect on everything we have to be thankful about this fall. And it’s a lot: Family, friends, coworkers, loved ones. Meaningful work that will positively impact future generations. Earth’s precious harvest. A caring community. Our breathtaking coast that cradles our souls just right.
And now, we can add one more thing to the list: the Rainforest Reserve. …. I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.