Meet Jan Dunlap
I’m on a mission:
I want everyone to get outdoors and get happy. I call it my #getoutsidehappy! project, and it includes all my books, my speaking engagements, my social media posts, magazine articles, and nagging everyone I meet to reconnect with nature.
Because nature is good for us.
Ever since Gracie, our adopted rescue dog (and the canine behind my now best-selling memoir Saved by Gracie), came into my life, I’ve experienced a personal renewal by re-engaging with the great outdoors. I’m healthier than I’ve ever been (I pump my fist in celebration every time my doctor takes my vitals during check-ups!), I’ve recovered from a debilitating anxiety disorder, I’ve stopped ruminating, I’ve found new passions (I’m now a Minnesota Master Naturalist), and I’m having a blast with life.
I’ve recaptured joy, thanks to finding my way back into nature.
Looking back, I think I’ve been on my way here for a long time. When I was a kid, I fell in love with birds. I thought becoming an ornithologist would be cool. (I also wanted to be an astronomer, a poet, a teacher, and a priest. Kids are really good at dreaming, aren’t they?) I even collected little bird models that you snapped together and painted. They cost about twenty cents each and some had wings that, instead of laying flat against the tiny plastic body, stuck out like the bird was flying. Realism – what a wonderful thing! Then I started first grade and the next thing I knew, I had graduated from Regis University in Denver, gotten married in California, moved to Minnesota, and given birth to five kids.
At that point, all I wanted was to get some sleep.
But life has a funny way of unearthing the embers of old passions and fanning them into new flames. Especially when you’re rested enough to notice.
Back in the 1990s, I spent five years writing a weekly newspaper humor column about raising my family, a few columns of which turned out to be rather poetic – poetically silly, that is. I went to graduate school and got a master’s degree in theology at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, which resulted in my first published book, Purpose, Passion and God: Awakening to the Deepest Meaning of Life. When my last child entered kindergarten, I turned in my school volunteer badge to take a job in a high school career center, where I learned how to talk like a teenager (“sweet” was big back then) and run interference for overworked counselors with their drama queens. Then I went to graduate school (again) to get my master’s degree in English Studies from MSU-Mankato and discovered my own passion for teaching college composition. One night, years ago, I lay on a beach on Minnesota’s North Shore with my family and watched a meteor shower (I still love all things astronomical). And ever since my kids were little, I’ve been pointing out to them the birds that visited our yard or fly overhead.
In 2008, The Boreal Owl Murder, my first Bob White Birder Murder Mystery was published, and I found myself spending more time outdoors researching both birds and birders. I liked it a lot. And one of the things I really liked about writing the Birder Murders was encouraging other people to notice the birds around them; I figured if I could get one more person interested in birds and enjoying this beautiful natural world of ours, I was doing a good thing. Then Gracie joined our household, and I found myself outside year-round, getting healthier and happier by the day.
So now I share all the research I’ve encountered, and continue to find on a daily basis, as science catches up to what so many of us knew instinctually as kids: nature is good for us. My kids tell me I can’t change the world and get everyone outside, but you know what? I’m willing to try.
Anybody want to go for a walk?