Tag Archives: wildlife

Full Nest

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Listen to the sounds of my Montana marsh

Every spring when the birds come back I feel so grateful, and also, a little bewildered.  Are we really that worthy?  How can they leave Belize or Costa Rica and do quick fly overs in New Mexico and Arizona and want to brave the jagged frozen Rockies and the turbulence and the cold to come back to Montana?  How can they look down over white-out and say, “There.  That’s where I’ll land.  That’s where I’ll make my home and my family and teach them everything—absolutely everything.  And then send them off.  And then empty my nest of even me and leave again…back down to the desert and to the jungle and to the sea.  Only to do it again.”

Just when I’m thinking that I can’t stand it one more day—my life in infinite shades of grey, ice shrapnel defining my every winter step….they come back, casting their votes on this place I call home without migration.  They need this place of echoes and countenance I guess, to do the work of their lives.  As they’re heading north, I’m telling myself I need what they’ve had– color and light and for my body to be winged and nimble…and not braced against the air outside my front door.  I’m tired of my daily buck up—the forced flinging open of my front door every morning to feel Montana’s fresh slap—you’re alive and you can take it.   So that I can be grateful then, for the retreat back to the warm woodstove breath of my house.  Even in spring.  It won’t be a warm outside welcome for months.  Not Belize warm.  A Canada goose stands on the ice of the pond in the meadow.  A mountain bluebird on my hoar-frost encased mailbox.  I look at the chickadees and ravens and magpies and flickers—are we really worthy of all their faith?

I have watched.  For twenty-five years I have watched.  I know them by their faces, their nests and feathers and flocking.  I know their symphony, and sometimes Stravinsky cacophony that is the world outside my door beginning in March.  Oh that cunning allegro, oh that fine mezzo again, oh that tricky staccato followed by that day-is-done decrescendo.  But I have never really learned who is singing what.  I don’t know why.  It’s similar to the way I go through an art museum:  take it in first.  Then step forward to read the plaque.  What’s in a name, if you don’t feel your way to it first?  It was the same way with trees and wildflowers when I moved to Montana.  I needed to feel the wholeness of it all and know it by season.  Know that when the dandelions are out, that the bears are coming to the avalanche chutes.  Know that when the calypso orchids are blooming, it will be time to celebrate my first born’s birthday.

But yesterday, it was time to know the symphony by its players.  It overcame me like a long lived itch that I suddenly needed to relieve.  I don’t know exactly why and maybe it doesn’t matter.  Maybe because I’m finishing a novel I’ve been writing for two years and I already miss its characters.  Maybe it’s because a year from now, my youngest child will be planning his college migration.  For whatever reason, yesterday, I sequestered myself to my bed and cranked open the window as wide as it would go.  And I listened to the marsh below, piece meal.  Song by song.  All day.  Picking out their riffs and going on the internet to birding websites to hear the songs from the singers I suspected.

Who knew that a little thing like a nuthatch made that roadrunner’s meeep meeep?  I’d thought it must be a furry creature all these years, slicing through the forest’s music.  And that upward aria I’ve heard for so long, usually at dusk?  A little thrush I’ve never laid eyes on but who surely lives in my back yard, faithfully and hopefully:  the Swainson’s thrush.  I knew the bossy red-winged blackbirds, of course, because how can you miss them?  And the ubiquitous robin’s song.  You have to be paying no attention at all to miss those.  And the chickadee’s my tree, this time of year.  But the one I really wanted to know, was what I’ve always thought must be our western version of the mockingbird—that schizophrenic song that doesn’t know quite what it wants to say.  And yet it says it over and over.  I scoured the internet and my bird books trying to find what bird was behind this rote sentence in too many genres.  I’ve always wanted to tell it to settle on one.  I like the poetry at the end, personally, not the throat-clearing at the beginning, or the screeching in the middle.  I figured it had to be something rare.  Something elusive.  Maybe even exotic that I’d missed in all my wandering in the woods, looking up, paying attention.

Finally, at the end of the day I thought, What about a sparrow?  A regular old sparrow.  What song do they sing?  And you guessed it.  That one.

My son came in and said, “What are you doing?”

“Learning my bird songs finally.  Did you know that the most simple birds make the most unique songs?  And the smallest make the loudest.  And the biggest birds, sometimes the faintest.”

“I’m going skiing.  It’s the last day the mountain is open.”

“We need to make that list of colleges to look at, you know.  Soon.”

“I know.”

Then my daughter wrote me a text from her college dorm room in California.  “I’m going camping for my birthday.  You know I swam with a blue whale over spring break in Baja.  I don’t think I told you.”

And I wrote her back, “I’m so proud of you.  I hope you know that.”

And I thought…maybe it’s time to learn them all…so I can say a proper good bye.  Because they come back, you know.  They come back.

Now Booking Haven Writing Retreats 2017

June 7-11 (a few spaces left)

June 21-25 (a few spaces left)

September 6-10, 20-24

October 4-8, 18-22

birdmountainbluebirdmale

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Montana Ode to Spring– A Walk In The Woods

…in honor of all mothers of every kind everywhere…

“If it’s wild to your own heart, protect it. Preserve it. Love it. And fight for it, and dedicate yourself to it, whether it’s a mountain range, your wife, your husband, or even (god forbid) your job. It doesn’t matter if it’s wild to anyone else: if it’s what makes your heart sing, if it’s what makes your days soar like a hawk in the summertime, then focus on it. Because for sure, it’s wild, and if it’s wild, it’ll mean you’re still free. No matter where you are.” ― Rick Bass

Sandhill-Crane-good

Sandhill Crane

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photo credit: fwallpapers.com

There are days in Montana when you feel like you are actually dancing with flora and fauna. On just a regular Saturday drive through the woods, in addition to countless critters, today I saw some rare ones:
A Sandhill Crane
A Black Bear

A Loon
A Trumpeter Swan
A Bald Eagle with a fish in its talons

Trumpeter Swan

Trumpeter Swan

arnica

Arnica

And some springtime favorites:
Calypso Orchid (Fairy Slippers)
Glacier Lily
Oregon Grape
Arnica
Wild Strawberry

And my very favorite NW Montana tree: (the only conifer to lose its needles each fall) The Larch, so new and green among its fellow soldier conifers

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Calypso Orchid

 

larch

Larch

lily

Glacier Lily

 

strawberry

Wild Strawberry

grape

Oregon Grape

loons

Loons

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I would love to share my Montana Muse with you at a Haven Retreat
2015 (now booking)

June 3-7 (full with wait list)
June 17-21 (full with wait list)
September 9-13 (almost full)
September 23-27
October 7-11
October 21-25

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”
–John Muir

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Long Ago: Community Entry #25

May we open ourselves to the gift of self-expression with empathy and courage.

As you may know, I am spending a few months in the dormancy of winter, working on a book. And, like last year at this time, I am offering my blog to you. Last year we looked into our Breaking Points and found community and grace in grief and vulnerability. This year we are looking into our past, and finding the weaving of community that stitches us to our present. I will be posting these pieces at These Here Hills. Their authors will be happy to receive and respond to your comments.  Here is the blog post I wrote about this subject.

Contest submissions closed. Winner will receive a scholarship to one of my upcoming Haven writing retreats in Montana, announced mid-February…

Now I am further stepping into the wilderness of Montana and the wilderness of writing. If you’d like to create haven for your creativity…come to a Haven Writing Retreat here in Montana. June, August, and September retreats are now booking and filling fast.  Email me for more info:  Laura@lauramunsonauthor.com

Saving the Community/World by Angelika Bowerman

When I was a little girl growing up in Germany my mother taught each of us kids how precious life is.  We had a small apartment with a balcony and I remember my mom putting out small pieces of cheese and bread for the birds, especially in cold winter times. There were many times that we tried to nurse a sick or almost dead bird back to life but most of the time they died. This instilled in me a sense of wanting to preserve life and to do my part in preserving the environment around me. One of my favorite things to do is to hike in forests or walk a beach appreciating with all of my senses-seeing and hearing my beautiful surroundings.

Appreciating nature makes me an environmentalist of sorts but mostly with my heart. Mind you I help people in my day job but “saving the world” has been a heartfelt passion of mine and I want to find ways to contribute. What I do is I support a handful of agencies that do just that, they are working to save the world.  My favorite such agency is the Nature Conservancy.  I have been a member for several years and enjoy hearing about all the work I do through my measly contributions.  Over the years many articles have made me smile and I feel really good to be in support of such an awesome organization.  The article “The Missing Link” from the 2012 #4 magazine has especially inspired me and I wanted to share these feelings with others. I feel admiration for the vision of the projects, the human initiative and how this inspires me, the individual, to action.

My admiration is endless when I read how the project manager plans the project of protecting the California Connection so that this ecological corridor  will connect with vast ecosystems to the east, west, north and  south. I admire how he and his team actually see the whole picture of conservancy and sustainability of the land. Each time the Nature Conservancy buys a portion of land, they are making a difference not only locally but for our planet Earth and this is mind blowingly amazing to me. The collaboration that takes place by working with landowners, ranchers and conservation groups is short of making miracles happen in my eyes.

The  result of that this project shows Project director E.J. Remson and his team able to secure a corridor of 50 miles of the Tehachapi range in California for conservation and yet improve conditions for cattle operation. The conservationists not only saved this area from construction of more housing projects and development but with their efforts left behind a sustainable community that will leave the land much less abused and open to wildlife. It takes people that take their passion, their talents and their initiative to start a project from the bottom with an idea and spin it into the actual  possibilities.

The initiative of such individuals as E. J. Remson can actually change the way things have been done for a long time.  The cattle ranches in the area of Tehachapi  have been ranched for generations.  Typically cattle graze near a river for water and this area gets easily overgrazed.  The Conservancy helped build water towers across the range to have cattle graze more evenly throughout the land. This not only protects the Ranches but is a crucial wildlife corridor for migratory species.  These special projects inspire me do my part to preserve what I can.

My personal inspiration shows in my back yard; it is a natural sanctuary with tree trunks, berry bushes and big trees that many birds, butterflies and other critters enjoy. I share this little piece of heaven with others that can sit with me on my deck watching the birds around us.

I feel that I am making a difference in a minor but important and steady way.

So while I am not really “changing the world,” I can congratulate myself in doing my portion by supporting an agency that affects major change. I,on the other hand, will read about the awesome and inspiring projects that I support with my heart.

This article on saving the Tehachapi Corridor is in line with what I consider helping a community and saving the world, one project at a time. What started many years ago with my mother affecting her environment is now my firm belief that I must do what I can in my lifetime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Summer Vacation

I’m hanging up a Gone Fishin’ sign for August to enjoy summer with my family and do some good old fashioned novel-writing. Enjoy the rest of your summer and I’ll see you in September! Here are a few highlights of the last few weeks of Montana-ness. yrs. Laura

Red Eagle Falls, Two Medicine, Glacier National Park

Whitefish Lake

Mama moose in Aster Meadows-- Glacier National Park

Two Medicine Lake from Aster Lookout-- Glacier National Park

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