New Hampshire nature lovers may recognize Rosemary Conroy’s name — she pens a nature column for the New Hampshire Sunday News every other week. They may know her voice as one of the co-hosts of New Hampshire Public Radio’s “Something Wild” segment. Maybe they’ve seen an exhibition of her wildlife painting. Or maybe they’ve just passed her driving down the highway in her black Volkswagon Bug (it’s a diesel, of course), with the conservation license plates that say it all: EENUFF. Regardless of the medium, they’ve likely come away with the same message: This former New Yorker and Antioch College graduate believes there is something very special, something worth observing, caring for and protecting here in the Granite State.
How did you find your way to a career in nature?
I worked in computers in Manhattan for six years. I was pretty sure the corporate life wasn’t for me. I wasn’t inspired by it. So I started looking around for something else. I was in Prospect Park in Brooklyn one day and stumbled upon a man leading a bird walk. I’d never done one before. It was complete revelation that these beautiful birds could live where they did. It gave me a lot of hope. That’s what set me on this whole path in life.
What’s your favorite New Hampshire season, from a naturalist’s perspective?
Spring is the exciting season. There’s so much going on in the spring. The frogs are out. Birds are coming back. Trees are budding and leafing. Skunks are already [in late February] mating. Owls are mating. Six weeks from now is when all the babies are born. We have a lot more daylight. The light is what drives everything. In April, we have the wood frog season. Spotted salamanders will be out having their orgies in the woods. Every day another bird comes back.
What is it that makes New Hampshire so special from a naturalist’s point of view?
New Hampshire is where two types of ecosystems come together. We’re the northern edge of the territory for a lot of southern species and the southern edge a lot of northern species. So there’s a lot of diversity. We have really wild weather — a lot of systems come together here. And we’re really lucky that we have large unbroken tracts of forest. Having that habitat really allows animals to thrive. Right now we have more turkeys than we have had in 100 years, more moose, more bear ... fishers in Manchester, and I don’t mean the baseball team.
Speaking of forests, two years ago you left a position as the communications director at the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests to pursue your painting. But you say it wasn’t an easy decision ...
The hardest part about leaving the Forest Society was leaving behind all my coworkers. I always had this sense: I’m part of this phenomenal group. New Hampshire looks the way it does because of the Forest Society.
It must feel good to have been able to merge vocation and avocation.
I really love my life. I feel so incredibly blessed. I’m doing what I love. I really wanted my life to be about something bigger than just myself. I care passionately about the natural world. I wish people spent more time in nature. They’d find the peace there that the culture we’ve created doesn’t lend itself to.
One of ways you’re trying to open people’s eyes to the nature around them is to shift their sense of perspective …
I like taking little things and painting them really big. I do a lot of turtles, frogs and salamanders. Last year, I did a series on the red eft [a juvenile red spotted newt]; I painted them on a 30-by-40- inch canvas. I want other people to see them in a different way. They’re really quite dramatic. But they’re tiny and easy to miss if you don’t take a good look at them.
So where to from here? Bigger projects? New ground?
I really enjoy having time to go outside and not feel guilty about it. This culture tries to keep you filling up all your time. But I have these three outlets that I can reach people, and that’s great; that’s enough. It’s more about quality than quantity.
For a list of upcoming gallery exhibitions and a sample of her columns, check out Conroy’s Web site at www.studiobuteo.com.
This article appears in the April 2004 issue of New Hampshire Magazine