SM&P Staff Enjoy Atlanta’s Great Outdoors
Anyone who has visited or lived in the Atlanta area knows that our climate and natural beauty are well-known and loved. We have short winters and many months of warmer weather allowing time to grow a wide variety of plants and to observe Nature in her full finery. Best of all, although we have stunning scenery to enjoy all around the metro area, we can also enjoy our own micro nature preserves right outside our windows. SM&P staff do both.
Paralegal Meekie Goessling grew up very aware of the life around her. “We had farm animals,” she said. “It was just for fun because my family liked animals. We took care of horses, goats, pigs, geese, chickens, and various other types of birds.” She doesn’t farm now. But Meekie still likes birds – the wild ones — along with her husband, Greg. “My husband grew up bird watching with his dad, and he has taught me how to spot some of the different species.”
Meekie shared a picture of a robin sitting in her nest in a tree outside the Marietta office. “When I saw the nest, I immediately thought ‘Greg would love to see this.’ So, I dropped my stuff in the office and went back out to snap the pictures I took to send to him. He works outside all day, so when he sees animals, he takes pictures and sends them to me.”
The robin caught her eye because of its distinctive orange belly. “When I first saw her, she was perched on the edge of the nest, and I had a really good view of her. The nest is really visible because the leaves on that tree are not super dense. Anyone who comes to the office would be able to see it.” Meekie encourages people coming to the Marietta office to take a minute to look at SM&P’s special mascot.
Victoria Turney, client relations director and avid birder, thought that watching and feeding birds was an old-person hobby. But she was quickly corrected. “I have found it relaxing and heart-warming to combat the sounds of traffic,” she said. “I am a proud bird grand-mom to another brood of Eastern bluebirds in my backyard. At the time of publication, I am confident both of these nests will be empty, but it is nice to see the cycle of life unfolding.
Robins and bluebirds are small and flashy compared to the somber barred owl that stops by partner Melanie Prehodka’s home. “Hootie is bigger than a hawk. He visits our backyard most evenings,” said Melanie. “He and I have conversations. I have a decent owl call, apparently. Other barred owls sometimes join us.”
Melanie doesn’t have a Hootie-dedicated feeder for her wide-eyed friend. But she and her husband do have a plank installed on the deck railing that they sprinkle with bird seed for the day shift. They also put water out for them. “So we get a lot of birds.”
Partner Ryan Proctor started gardening while working from home when the pandemic started. “I was working at a card table in a closet,” he said. “My wife bought the first garden as a gift so I would have to go outside. We bought several more because it was fun. I found it so interesting watching how different plants do in differing environments.”
Ryan and his family live on an acre of forested land with a creek and a waterfall. “There is all manner of plants and flowers,” said Ryan. “There isn’t a blade of grass — just ferns, ivy, and wildflowers. We also have snapping turtles, coyotes, deer, mink, and a lot of birds, such as hawks, hummingbirds, egrets, and herons. We also regularly grow and release butterflies. The kids like this.”
Ryan’s interests aren’t limited to the wild. He has an interest in the domesticated as well. “I have four hydroponic gardens in the house — lettuce, herbs, tomatoes, and peppers. I also have four keyhole gardens outside growing asparagus, broccoli, tomatoes, green peppers, jalapeno peppers, banana peppers, cayenne peppers, and cucumbers. Tending them is very relaxing. Eating them is the opposite. I pickle the hot peppers and use them on sandwiches.”
Vivien Moore, account manager assistant, loves watching her vegetable garden grow and being a bit more self-sufficient. She tenderly oversees strawberries, Big Boy and cherry tomatoes, yellow sweet corn, Red Sails lettuce, carrots, and green peppers, and an assortment of herbs: chives, dill, thyme, Greek oregano, Italian basil, Italian parsley, and rosemary. Her culinary prowess must be amazing.
“I also enjoy seeing the variety of birds that visit our back forest and recording their unique bird calls,” Vivien said. “I was even able to catch a pic of a Peregrine Falcon.”
Legal Projects Assistant Amber N. DiPersia travels far beyond her home to commune with nature. “I go hiking and camping nearly every weekend in the mountainous Georgia/Tennessee/North Carolina region,” she said. “Part of the reason I moved to Atlanta from Orlando is because it’s just a day’s drive to so many nice outdoor spots! I use it as a chance to unplug and just be alone, which scares my mom.” Amber hopes her mom won’t read this account of her colleagues’ many backyard adventures.
Innumerable studies tell us that a relationship with nature is good for human health. But SM&P staff had figured that out long ago. We expect that forest bathing and garden tending will remain a part of their lives for decades to come.