‘Hidden is your paddle,’ Critter Cindy

Critter Cindy Blobaum, left, Dallas County Conservation Board naturalist, analyzes a rock for Maegan Wiese, 10, of Earlham on a Rock Bar Ramble at the Snyder Tract near Minburn in summer 2015.

“Critter Cindy” Blobaum, left, naturalist with the Dallas County Conservation Board, is retiring after 13 years with the department. Environmental Education Coordinator Chris Adkins, right, wishes her well.

In the summer of 2009, a new naturalist joined the environmental education staff of the Dallas County Conservation Board, and nothing has been the same since. Now, after 13 years, a whole generation of learners in Dallas County has joined Cindy Blobaum in her joyous exploration of our wilds.

Having shared this time with Cindy, these learners will also never be the same. Cindy’s enthusiasm, curiosity, science and wonder infected all who ventured into the wilds with her. “Critter”-isms abound! Every DCCB school group field day, public program, library hour and classroom visit reflected her presence.

Our friend Cindy will be retiring from the DCCB naturalists’ staff with the first of the year. As DCCB’s Environmental Education Coordinator, I am taking this opportunity to recognize the work that Critter Cindy has done here during her tenure. I think the renowned writer Gary Snyder was thinking of Cindy when he penned the following words:

The real work is what we really do.
And what our lives are.
And if we can live the work we have to do,
knowing that we are real,
and that the world is real,
then it becomes right.
And that’s the real work:
To make the world as real as it is
and to find ourselves as real as we are within it.

Thank you, friend, for making our world here in the wilds of Dallas County real through  your work. Your teachings have become part of the landscape at Kuehn, Voas, Hanging Rock, the Raccoon Rivers and all of DCCB’s other classrooms. Your spirit, creativity, commitment, dedication and love for the wilds have painted an indelible hue across this land, like the first light of one of your beloved sunrises.

Thank you, friend, for adding your stories to the wilds of Dallas County. As we continue to walk this trail and step inside one of the stories of our place that came from your teachings, we will experience not only the memory of the land but the memory of Critter Cindy.

As we continue our work here, perhaps the most real thing you instilled in us was not a love of the wilds but, more importantly, a love for all the learners with whom you shared your work.

The Ojibway nation has a phrase used at times like this. When a friend must leave, you accept it, but you still hold a wish that the friend would stay. The Ojibway were water people, of canoe and paddle. On occasions such as this, they would tell their departing friend, “Hidden is your paddle,” reflecting the wish that the friend would tarry but acknowledging the need to go.

And so, from all of your friends here at DCCB, “Critter Cindy, hidden is your paddle.”

Any friends of Critter Cindy out there in our reading audience that would like to pen Cindy your own thanks and farewell, please send your messages to: conservation@dallascountyiowa.gov, and we will forward them to our retiring friend.

Chris Adkins is the environmental education coordinator in the Dallas County Conservation Department. He lives in Earlham. This column was republished from the Raccoon River Greenbelt Newsletter, Winter Solstice 2021.


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