Elektra Mathews-Novelli: Seeing the Sliding Glass Door
Elektra was an EarthCorps member in 2007. She most recently worked for Pacific Watershed Associates as a Forest Hydrologist doing salmon habitat restoration and large wood implementation.
Have you seen the movie Sliding Doors? If not, it’s about a woman trying to make a train and follows how seemingly inconsequential moments nonetheless alter the trajectory of future events. Elektra believes her sliding door moment came in April 2007.
“My friend lived in Seattle, so on a whim, my friends and I drove up to visit him on a Friday.” Her friend, Kevin, was an AmeriCorps member working with CityYear. The next day was Earth Day, and Kevin was joining CityYear at an Earth Day event sponsored by EarthCorps. Even though he urged Elektra to sleep after the long drive from Sacramento, she tagged along.
“We were pulling invasives in a Seattle Park, but we were doing it with a fire line, and we were singing songs and it was a great day. I was like, I want to do this!”
She recalls that she applied as soon as she got home but found out that she was ranked number 11 and EarthCorps only had 10 spots for new Corps members. “I was pretty bummed. No one wants to be a runner up.” A month later she got a call; a spot had opened up! “That Earth Day changed my life. I joined EarthCorps and now I do restoration for a living.”
Being one of the younger Corps members on a crew isn’t always easy, but for 19-year-old Elektra, it was a formative experience. The impact was multifold:
Elektra had grown up in a city but found that working and learning outside was what she wanted. Water, soil and trees was her calling. “There was a three-month stream restoration project that we worked on and that I LOVED. I let that lead me.”
Elektra’s worldview expanded. Her EarthCorps crew leader was from Mongolia, and half of the crew were International Corps Members. The different perspectives – “There was one girl from the Midwest that saw the ocean for the first time and another girl from Cameroon who wanted to know where the donkeys were to carry our gear” – opened her eyes to the global nature of EarthCorps work and habitat restoration.
Elektra had never been interested in college but following the advice of the Education Manager she decided to go to school. She has a degree in Forestry from Humboldt State.
“My brother asked me the other day, ‘What’s your sliding door moment?’. For me it was going to that EarthCorps event on Earth Day with Kevin. I don’t know what I would be doing right now but can’t imagine it would have anything to do with the environment.”