Belonging in Bernheim: Your Voice, Our Mission

By bernheim

Lauren Furjes, Membership Manager

  In my first year as the Membership Manager at Bernheim Forest, I’ve engaged with numerous visitors and members and look forward to meeting many more. I’ve camped out with you at our Member Camp-Ins, watching the setting sun and the stunning showcase of stars over the Big Prairie. I’ve greeted you as you enter the Visitor’s Center, meeting children and their grown-ups, ready to venture out to say hello to the Giants. I’ve met brilliant artists, dedicated volunteers and donors, passionate land stewards, and families who have been making memories at Bernheim Forest for generations. My favorite part of meeting you has been hearing the stories of your connections to this place. Your connections to this land are beautiful, unique, and deeply personal.

  Like many of you, my connection to Bernheim Forest goes back to my childhood. I grew up with my mother in Kentucky, but my father lived in Oregon. My father was a poet, speechwriter, and avid hiker. He was kind and thoughtful with his words and enjoyed nothing more than taking in the natural world with his senses. You could see it in the way his eyes glimmered with the exposure of a new vista or the bounce in his long stride as he hiked.

    Every fall, he would visit me in Kentucky to celebrate my birthday, and his favorite thing to do together was hiking the trails at Bernheim. Going to Bernheim was simply something he had to do when he visited.  It surprised me that a person who lived in the famously scenic Pacific Northwest was so awe-struck by a Kentucky forest. We didn’t have snow-capped mountains, no sky-scraping waterfalls, no curtains of moss or ferns of dinosaur proportions. The scope of this forest’s beauty only became clear to me after my father passed away in 2016. The memories of our time at Bernheim Forest became a golden shimmer on every leaf I see here. The forest glows for me now.

     I remember calling my stepmother to tell her that I had gotten the job as Membership Manager at Bernheim. She was beside herself. “Your father is so proud of you. He’s going to be there with you.”

    On my first day working at Bernheim Forest, I swung open the door to the building my office would be in and stopped in my tracks. The mudroom to the building felt like my father. Something about the way the sunlight came through the windows, falling onto a pair of hiking boots left by the door, the color of the wood panels on the wall, and an old felt hat hanging on a coat hook. The room even had a distinct, nostalgic aroma. It smelled just like my father’s office where he did his writing. Was this my father’s embrace? Was this his way of telling me I had landed exactly where I belonged?

               I knew it was. The forest speaks to us in ways that science can’t fully measure.

  Because this forest is a part of our personal histories, and because we are deeply connected to this land by the threads of our hearts, I want to ensure that belonging as a member of Bernheim is just as meaningful. I want to know how we can build the experiences that you want to get out of being a part of the forest. What will bring you closer to the natural world? How we can make Bernheim Forest glow for you and the loved ones you bring here?

  Your insights as a Bernheim member are invaluable to us. We have developed a survey specifically for our members and your contribution would be greatly appreciated. The survey consists mainly of straightforward questions designed for quick responses but also provides ample space for more in-depth feedback if necessary.

 When you are finished with the survey, you will be taken to a coupon for a complimentary cookie or coffee from Isaac’s Café. It’s our way of expressing our gratitude to you for both supporting Bernheim with your membership and helping us enhance your experiences here. I hope you will take a moment to reflect on your meaningful connections to Bernheim while you enjoy your treat.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you and to the memories we will make together in the coming years!

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