Awakening to the spirit and beauty of the northern Great Plains
Sunday, January 25, 2009
"Maybe call it a column. Then it won't be so scary."
Wifely wisdom for a 50 year old digital immigrant. (Took me fifteen minutes just to figure out how to do that link.) Having agonized for weeks over the decision of whether to start this "column" or not, I talked myself into giving it a try when I decided this morning that it is just like a book or an essay: a tool I can use, a means to an end. The end is always the same: to help foster a culture of people who will treat the land with compassion because they have awoken to its grace and wisdom. As for whether this particular means is worthy of the end it serves, increasingly people are suggesting that it may be the best tool of all because it creates networks where people share, connect, and learn from one another. For now, I am giving that theory the benefit of the doubt.
The immediate cause of this foray, though, is that I have a new book coming out and the publisher, HarperCollins Canada, likes all of its writers to have a "web presence." A friend, Keith Fortowsky, is helping me put together a web site (more gnashing of teeth), but suggested using gmail's blogger to get started.
The book is called Grass, Sky, Song: the Promise and Peril of Grassland Birds, (baldfaced promotional interlude: order from Amazon.ca here or from Chapters/Indigo here). Due to be released late February 2009, GSS is a book that celebrates unassuming and secretive prairie birds as a way to bring our awareness to the life of grassland and all that threatens it today. When it is up and running, the web site should have more information about this book and my other two books as well.
Right now, though, on a cold late January day with three feet of snow outside the back door, the world of grass seems as far away as the ocean. Here in Regina, the largest urban outpost on the mixed-grass prairie without a major river running through it, we have converted grassland into an open woodland of 350,000 planted trees. At my feeders, there are nuthatches and woodpeckers, birds that cannot survive on open prairie. We almost never see true prairie birds in the city, but last week as I drove a daughter to her rehearsal, I was surprised to find a small flock of sharp-tailed grouse two miles in from the city limits. They were next to an outdoor hockey rink and skate shack when I saw them flush and fly north toward downtown. Sharp-tailed grouse survive on poplar buds for the winter, so perhaps they had come looking for food on the hybrid poplars in our parks and neighborhoods. Whatever the reason, it was strange and yet somehow reassuring to see them hurtling low over the street, wings bowed down with each glide.
By this time next month, the first grassland birds will be back: horned larks scouting for a mate and a place to nest in the farmland that comes nearest to their preferred habitat of short-grazed prairie.