I recently traded blue for brown. And what a difference it has made.
For the past eight-ish years, I’ve volunteered at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, wearing a blue t-shirt with just about any old pair of shorts or skorts or capris–in khaki, oatmeal, gunmetal, or green. I’d rove the northernmost point of the main Hawaiian Islands in the shadow of its historic lighthouse, its beacon long since de-commissioned and the place turned over to the birds. I’d share feats and facts with visitors about Laysan albatross as they’d soar by and the wedge-tailed shearwater moaning in their underground burrows.
Then, last week, I donned a pair of crisp brown shorts and a button-front cream-colored shirt. And things changed.
Whereas when I wore the blue, I used saunter among a group of visitors, gently inserting my knowledge into their experience as they took in the extensive coastal views from the very tip of the peninsula, now I cannot take a walk to the Point without going unnoticed.
When my friend and fellow volunteer, Dolores, first saw me in the brown, she said I looked–in the exact words of this venerated octogenarian, “Badass.” She said it was the big, brown ranger hat and sunglasses that did it. I’ll love her forever for that.
I think my walk has changed, too. Instead of sauntering, I step with a little more purpose. One might call it authority. Here’s why: People look at me differently. In fact, they look at me. They make eye contact, say hello, walk toward me with purposeful questions like what is that bird that looks like a goose (a goose—the nene) and what is that tree with the pineapples in it (the Hawaiian screwpine—hala). And I suppose I feel I have to look official. I cannot loaf in the brown and cream.
People also tell me I have the best job in the world. Now, when I am doing some interpretive ranger work—which is another way of saying talking story about the wildlife found at Kilauea Point—I could not agree more. But it strikes me as funny when people roll down their car windows and say those same words when I am in the parking lot directing traffic. I still agree, of course, but I smile inside.
I know we’ve all heard the sentiment, “The clothes make the man,” by Shakespeare, but I recently discovered someone else’s riff of it. Our man Mark Twain said, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society.”
Clearly, Twain is right. If I were to go about the refuge naked, I’m sure I’d gain some attention, but I wouldn’t command any influence. Thank goodness nudity is not the uniform of park rangers.
Brown won’t last forever in my wardrobe, however. I’m only helping out at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge as a 60-day emergency hire until they fill their permanent park ranger position. Besides brown’s not really my color. In the mean time, I’ll continue sharing Reports from Ranger Rogers.