The Rural We: Gerri Griswold
Gerri Griswold is director of Administration and Development at the White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield, Conn. (The Center, founded in 1913 by brother and sister Alain and May White and comprised of 4,000 acres of protected land, is open all year round for hiking, swimming, kayaking and canoeing, camping, boating, biking, horseback riding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, fishing and bird-watching.) She’s handled bats for 25 years as a wildlife rehabilitator and educator and is licensed by the state of Connecticut and the U. S. Department of Agriculture to keep and exhibit non-releasable bats and, more recently, porcupines, for education. She and her bats have appeared on the cover of “The Weekly Reader” and in a segment for “The Late Show with David Letterman.” Griswold also serves as the morning voice of traffic on WTIC AM and WZMX FM. In 2010 she launched a travel company, Krummi Travel LLC, (named after the affectionate Icelandic word for “raven,” her favorite bird) which takes small groups on trips to Iceland.
I was born and raised in Winchester, Conn. and I live on the farm my grandfather bought in the late 1800s. I first got wanderlust in sixth grade when I saw Stonehenge in a history book. I went to the UK when I was 21, and immersed myself in all of the ancient art and archeology I could find. Luckily, I married a guy who was interested in travel, too. I’ve got a really busy life, so when I travel now I like to visit more rural, remote places where I can relax. I’m not a risky traveler, I prefer places where I can be alone or with local people. Iceland is my favorite place to travel; I’ve been there 45 times. With my travel company, I take small groups and we can get into the nooks and crannies that big tour buses can’t.
I’m a curious person and my curiosity has allowed me to have an interesting life. I have a degree in art history from NYU, and I was a professional chef for many years, but that’s an extremely physical profession. I was a full-time traffic broadcaster for what was Metro Networks, and now I record traffic reports for another company. I get up at 4 a.m. and record them in my studio here. I own a small farm, so I take care of the animals first (a bat, a porcupine, goats, a pig, a peacock, a turkey, a hamster, and a parrot that swears), then I do the radio broadcast, then I take my dog Bradley with me to work.
What first brought me to White Memorial was my work as a wildlife rehabilitator. People get an impression that this is a gigantic institution but, while it’s a big piece of property, it’s maintained by very few people. We’re the largest privately held land organization in the state and we have one of the most beautiful museums in the U.S., which includes precious dioramas painted by James Perry Wilson (whose work can be seen in the Museum of Natural History).
Alain and May White were such land junkies; beginning in the early 1900s, they began buying land and bringing it back to its natural state. They gifted 6,000 acres to the state of Connecticut, which are now some of the best state forests in the country. Alain was a published botanist, and was instrumental in the reforestation of red pines, as well as a chess master who solved German codes.
I’m the editor of the organization’s newsletters, and I arrange Saturday programming here, which is a way to selfishly bring in everything I’ve always wanted to learn about. If something interests me, I figure everyone else will be interested, too. I love extinct species — I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to learn about the dodo bird. Our whole drive is to get children out into nature. I don’t think it’s ever too early to teach kids about animals becoming extinct. It’s important to show how human greed and not being educated about this has caused the demise of species around the world.