Editor's note: Sarah graduated from the University of the South at Sewanee and was the recipient of the 2011 Raoul Conservation Scholarship. She completed her first position with the Nature Conservancy as the Seasonal Educator at the Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge along the Atlantic Flyway in NJ. Her interest in birds and TNC brought her to The Silver Creek Preserve for an internship during the summer of 2014.
Water in the West is different. Life-giver of the desert, water is religion. Perhaps this land was never meant to hold so many men, so many thirsty plants and hungry cattle, and yet hold them it has.
In July, I watched my first wildfire belch smoke into the sky. Thirty thousand acres burned in the span of an evening; smog filled the valley for over a week, blurring the sky with haze. The land seemed hostile, the sky denying us badly needed rain.
|Sarah birdwatching on the preserve © TNC|
In August, rains came, dampening the hay on the ground. There is tranquility amid the clash of sky, the earth, and its inhabitants. Fishermen travel from around the world to stand hip deep in cold water, casting back and forth, back and forth.
In the failing light of evening or the gentle rising of the dawn, the still water is a mirror to the sky, blurred only by the insect hatch hovering close to the surface. Wrens chatter in the cattails and swallows perform their acrobatics, snatching bugs from the air before returning to willow branches. In the fields, harriers glide low, searching for mice, while a kestrel hovers, waiting for movement in the grass to give away its prey.
|Sarah removing fence © TNC|
As I drive east, I wonder if I will be disappointed by the stature of my Blue Ridge Mountains, underwhelmed by the Shenandoah Valley, disenchanted with the Piedmont. The West has a feverish draw, causing me to wonder how long I will be content with the closeness of the air and the closeness of the people, having seen a night so full of stars that there was hardly any darkness.