Landis Portraits: Anita Sanchez

By Nolan Marciniec

It was only a mat­ter of min­utes, but Ani­ta Sanchez’s first encounter with the Arbore­tum proved to be a last­ing one. 

Ani­ta was work­ing at the Five Rivers Envi­ron­men­tal Edu­ca­tion Cen­ter when she respond­ed to a request for a wild­flower talk from Fred Lape, the Arboretum’s founder. She was greet­ed by the elder­ly Lape and was imme­di­ate­ly struck by his great gen­til­i­ty” and his Old World cour­tesy.” She knew that she was in the pres­ence of a remark­able per­son – and a remark­able place only ten min­utes from her new­ly acquired home.

Ani­ta has since giv­en many walks and work­shops, some­times in con­junc­tion with her hus­band, Sci­ence Edu­ca­tor George Steele. She not­ed that she often refers to her Arbore­tum vis­its as going to my branch office.” Walk­ing its trails helps her to over­come a writer’s block or unrav­el a snag in her work – com­bin­ing work and play.

A nature writer with a wide age-rang­ing audi­ence, she admits an affin­i­ty for the less appre­ci­at­ed of the plant world. Her first book, The Teeth of the Lion, explored the famil­iar and often despised dan­de­lion. Her cur­rent work, Leaflets Three, Let It Be!, extols poi­son ivy’s invalu­able role in nature. I look for char­ac­ters that get a strong emo­tion­al response from the read­er.” she con­fessed. Oth­er works include a his­to­ry of the Shak­ers dur­ing the Civ­il War and a his­to­ry of the inva­sion at Sandy Bay, Mass­a­chu­setts dur­ing the War of 1812. With a release date in 2016, her newest book for young adults, Car­o­lus Lin­naeus and the Nam­ing of Every­thing, is a trib­ute to the great botanist.

Ani­ta earned a degree in ecol­o­gy and con­ser­va­tion from Vas­sar Col­lege in the heady years after the first Earth Day. She began a career in nature-cen­tered edu­ca­tion for chil­dren near­ly 40 years ago, becom­ing an edu­ca­tor at heart as well as by pro­fes­sion. Con­cerned about the grow­ing trend of children’s iso­la­tion from, and some­times, fear of nature, she has devel­oped pro­grams that reas­sure chil­dren who grow up in the sub­urbs with man­i­cured lawns” that nature is fun and safe.” 

She would encour­age peo­ple of all ages to vis­it the Arbore­tum – for self­ish rea­sons,” she said, not­ing that recent stud­ies have shown pos­i­tive health effects from being in the nat­ur­al world. For­est bathing,” it’s called, and it can sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduce heart rate, blood pres­sure, and stress lev­els. Vol­un­teer­ing at the Arbore­tum would be real­ly good for you,” she said.

Ani­ta often thinks of that meet­ing with Fred Lape many years ago. There’s so much bad envi­ron­men­tal news these days .… . It’s easy to fall into apa­thy and despair. But I tell kids one per­son can make a dif­fer­ence,” she mused. It start­ed with an idea and a love of this place. I think about the hun­dreds or maybe thou­sands of peo­ple who’ve come here and learned. I think about what he has done for future gen­er­a­tions, not only of peo­ple but of plants and animals.”

Just as Fred Lape made a dif­fer­ence in Anita’s life, so Ani­ta has made a dif­fer­ence in the lives of others.

Winter 2015

Volume 33 , Number 1

Share this

The Latest from Landis

Oct 07, 2023 | Nolan Marciniec

The Landis community mourns the loss of Anne Donnelly on October 4, 2023

Anne Donnelly was the first of the many friends I’ve made at the Arboretum and... read more

Oct 01, 2023 | Fred Breglia, Executive Director

From the Director’s Desk: Update on the Big Tree Search

Landis Arboretum has successfully kicked off its most recent Big Tree Search, and the tree... read more

Oct 01, 2023 | Erin McKenna Breglia

From the Garden: Your Autumn Garden Must Haves!

It’s certainly been a rainy summer, but the rain has helped keep our plants green... read more

Oct 01, 2023 | Nolan Marciniec

Landis Portraits: A Series About the People Behind the Plants at the Arboretum - Chuck Mueller

Chuck Mueller Volunteering, Chuck Mueller said, “is something you have to believe in . ... read more

Oct 01, 2023 | Nolan Marciniec

Volunteers Celebrate Meeting House Renovation

Shawn Bevins, Jim Paley, Craig Blevins, Fred Breglia, and Peter Bakal On a Sunday afternoon... read more

Oct 01, 2023 | Sam McClary

Apples and Man: A Book Review

Apples and Man, by Fred Lape “Apples and Man,” written by Arboretum founder Fred Lape... read more

News Archive