In Equal Measure to Our Fears

In Equal Measure to Our Fears: Utah Juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) Drawing water from a stone: this juniper grew out of just a few fractures in the surface rock. Courtesy US NPS, Neal Herbert, Photographer
Utah Juniper (Juniperus osteosperma)
Drawing water from a stone: this juniper grew out of just a few fractures in the surface rock.
Courtesy US NPS, Neal Herbert, Photographer
Doubt is a tricky thing. It’s neither good nor bad, it is simply the axis upon which the scales of hope and fear balance. It is the prerequisite of faith, belief, disbelief, and nihilism, all equal paths of equal circumstance. It is the fork in the road which Berra told us to take all the same. In Equal Measure to Our Fears

When I go outside, breathe in the thick charcoal air, see the dribbling water in the once-mighty streams, and hear more stories of growing sickness, I’ll admit that I have doubts which edge on fear. I doubt that this is the last year of record-breaking heat. I doubt that this is the last year of record-breaking drought. I doubt that this is the last year of record-breaking hospitalizations. Such doubt can make you feel hopeless, powerless, and just plain sad. What have we done? How did we get here? Wasn’t this all avoidable? It takes me some time, then, to remember to move on from that doubt and to take a path, but to never forget the place in which drove me to rest and reflect. Though it can feel like a good place of respite, a shady tree to rest one’s laurels or wallow and say uncle to what we’ve sown, there’s still work which can be done. To rest in doubt is to be a bump on a log and not the tree itself. I remember the lessons of the humble tree.

The tree lives because of doubt’s prodigy of conjoined fear and hope. We must also harness both in equal form and measure in order to grow, and to live. In seeing the unified balance there is motion. The tree’s roots reach downwards, clinging to the earth in fear. In this way the world is its. The tree’s branches reach skywards, opening to the sky in hope. In this way it is the world’s. The tree’s roots drink water and move the earth: from fear comes motion and matter. The tree’s leaves drink fire and move the air: from hope comes life and form. Without fear, we would shrivel. Without hope, we would rot. Without fear, we would fall. Without hope, we would suffocate. To be subject to hope, you must make fear a part of you. Latch onto it, and feel that this shade of love is life given purpose. Then you may reach upwards and see that you do so only because you contain that which you cling to.

The fear I feel when I breathe in our Utah air, see green lawns, and hear new numbers on the radio is necessary for hope, and both are only possible because of the blessings of doubt because the future is not fixed. And yet, there is another hidden secret to fear and hope, and that is action. The tree is not a static being. Like all of us, it is in a constant state of becoming. We may be where we are, but where we are does not mean we must remain. Trees grow over boulders, thrive upon cliffs, and so can we. We can move on from La Brean doubt on what shall be. We can continue our journey in becoming. Given this, we then have a question in which to answer for ourselves: the question though is not what shall we become, but towards which light do we choose to work towards in equal measure to our fears?

I’m Patrick Kelly, and I’m Wild About Utah.
 
Credits:
Images: Courtesy US National Park Service, Neal Herbert, Photographer
Audio: Courtesy & © J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin. https://upr.org/
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://www.logannature.org
Included Links: Patrick Kelly & Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Posts by Patrick Kelly

Stokes Nature Center in Logan Canyon, https://www.logannature.org/

The Indomitable Juniper, Canyonlands National Park, US National Parks Service, US Department of the Interior, https://www.nps.gov/cany/learn/nature/utahjuniper.htm (Image source)

Take the Plunge

Take the Plunge: Comparative Landscapes Courtesy & © Patrick Kelly
Comparative Landscapes
Courtesy & © Patrick Kelly
Probably yesterday by the time you hear this, I will have proposed to my now fiance. I wanted to do it earlier, but life held me off from doing it in Utah. Utah wouldn’t let me say what Poland, her home country, was there for. The land needed to be a part of the process.

My fiance grew up a short jaunt south from the shores of the Baltic Sea. The Baltic Sea dominates her stories of childhood. The frigid salt was always in the air, carrying the song of the farthest edge of the world, being inhaled and lived by and because.

When she was 15 she left home to go to a more challenging school and moved to a port city right at the sea’s gate. She went from smells and dreams, to sights and lullabies. Her deepest homeland became centered on its edge.

Near this town, there are the greatest of sand dunes. They were an often visited location by her family growing up, a National Park to take pride in loving. To be closer to them meant to be closer to those memories of belonging. The wild dunes against the wild sea. Momentum affixed with momentum. Pure knowns of land, and beyond. This is the special place.

It’s there that I will have proposed because I love her, and she is only who she is because of this place, so therefore I love it, too. I have to.

I tell this story because here in Utah, we are only who we are because of its place and the elements which make it special, too, for so many. We are full of our own special places with special stories, both past and present. The challenge we are facing, though, is whether we love the very land of Utah enough for it to be included in our future. Do we love Utah enough to refill the Great Salt Lake so that it helps push our snows higher into the mountains with its warm uplifting air, and lets more water flow back for everyone come spring? Do we love Utah enough to plant native flowers instead of lawns, and pick serviceberries over hedges so that our springs still carry the songs of birds? Do we love Utah enough to know that there are no sacred or unsacred places, only the sacred and the desecrated? Do we love Utah enough to keep it a homeland, not just its heart, but its every edge, too?

I say we take the plunge. I say we make it official.

There is a place where we are who we are, and for many of us it is Utah. It may be a memory of Utah long ago. Or maybe you have to really think about if you’ve found it yet. Or maybe you are there right now. Regardless, we all have a place where we can feel free on the edge and heart of our homeland. There is a place which is where we love.

Where is yours today? Where will it be tomorrow?

I’m Patrick Kelly and I’m Wild About Utah
 
Credits:

Images: Courtesy & © Patrick Kelly
Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://www.logannature.org
Included Links: Patrick Kelly & Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Posts by Patrick Kelly

Stokes Nature Center in Logan Canyon, https://www.logannature.org/

At Home in the Dark

At Home in the Dark: Western Screech Owl Fledgling Courtesy and Copyright Katarzyna Bilicka, Photographer
Western Screech Owl Fledgling
Courtesy & © Katarzyna Bilicka, Photographer
All year I wait for the summer evenings. All year I long for the oddity of ‘warm and dark,’ of trilling owls flickering from treetop to treetop, and for the scent of hot baked earth cooling as on a sill. Summer evenings evoke in me joy in being out of doors, living within the intact Eden which lies just below our own preconceptions, and deepening my appetite for life. Summer evenings, those dark arid cradles of Utah’s providence, have other benefits, too.

It’s in the dark that you can live in the footsteps of local literatos. We can heed the words of Utah’s Ed Abbey, that: “There’s another disadvantage to the use of the flashlight: like many other mechanical gadgets it tends to separate a man from the world around him. If I switch it on my eyes adapt to it and I can see only the small pool of light it makes in front of me; I am isolated. Leaving the flashlight in my pocket where it belongs, I remain a part of the environment I walk through and my vision, though limited, has no sharp or definite boundary.”

It is also in the dark that we can allow our eyes a rest from glowing rectangles, and for the rest of our navigational senses to pick up slack. Our ears listen for how sound meanders in the landscape, detecting the clitter clatter of dogs on the deck, or chickens working their scratch. Our nose picks up the scent of a neighbor’s firepit to the east, and when the wind shifts the humidity from another neighbor’s evening watering to the west.

It is in the dark that we can also learn to see that we share spaces with corpuscularities and nocturalites. Those trilling owls, Western Screech Owls to be exact, who emerge from their deadstand cavities and prowl for rodenta. When one spots a human watching it, it watches back, then dances a shimmy-rumba-polka. I imagine that it’s waiting for us to communicate, too.

The dark also brings the insects galore which fill the nights making good on their pollination out of the heat of the day, playing odds with the primroses and their opening hours, and some finding the blood meal they need from undeeted legs, arms, head, feet, and neck. Friends will tell you when there’s a mosquito on your face. Good friends will smack your face for you.

Lastly, the dark gives us our stars. I often need to remind myself that it isn’t that they are out at night, but that they are just no longer obscured by the light of day. The stars are always there, but in day they are dimmed into the blue sky void, and in our city nights given mute by our love of lights which would make Lycurgus roll over in his simple, unmarked grave. That said, they are still there for us to see as we have for as long as life has existed on this earth, but only if we choose to see them. Long ago, looking up and wondering was our choice, and luckily it still is today.

So as your summer progresses and perhaps you find yourself in need of a sigh of relief from woe, I’d invite you to leave your flashlights, glowing rectangles, and worries inside. Step out of doors at dusk and stay into the evening. Hear the music and laughter of a party down the block. Smell the tapestry of worlds that is held in the wind. Feel the mosquitos live because you live. Choose to look up and see infinity in the stars. Know that the dark is not a scary place to be if you learn to see it for what it is and can be.

I’m Patrick Kelly, and I’m Wild About Utah.
 
Credits:

Images: Image Courtesy & Copyright Katarzyna Bilicka, Photographer, all rights reserved
Audio: Contains audio Courtesy & Copyright Kevin Colver
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://logannature.org
Included Links: Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Posts by Patrick Kelly

Stokes Nature Center in Logan Canyon, https://www.logannature.org/

Abbey, Edward. Desert Solitaire. Touchstone (January 15, 1990) http://www.amazon.com/Desert-Solitaire-Edward-Abbey/dp/0671695886

Western Screech Owl, Overview, All About Birds, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Western_Screech-Owl/overview

Western Screech Owl, Utah Birds, http://www.utahbirds.org/birdsofutah/ProfilesS-Z/WesternScreechOwl.htm
Featured Article by Eric Huish: http://www.utahbirds.org/featarts/2004/OwlBox/OwlBox1.htm
Gallery Pictures: http://www.utahbirds.org/birdsofutah/BirdsS-Z/WesternScreechOwl.htm



Full Moon Serenades

Swainson's Thrush & Western Meadowlark Courtesy US NPS Robbie Hannawacker, Photographer (thrush) Albert Myran, Photographer (meadowlark) Combined by Patrick Kelly
Swainson’s Thrush & Western Meadowlark
Courtesy US NPS
Robbie Hannawacker, Photographer (thrush)
Albert Myran, Photographer (meadowlark)
Combined by Patrick Kelly
The serenades around where I live begin early. Today it was during the full moon at 3am, in a break from the blessed rain. The chorus is mostly of robins, but one voice sticks out as new; a call I do not know; a love letter to curiosity of who could make such a call. I have hope that I’ll be able to find who sings like a Geddy Lee who has found Xanadu. It isn’t the first mystery bird I’ve encountered though.

I do remember my first, how can one not, that first call which bamboozled and hypnotized me years ago, both awakening and soothing that inside of me which makes me human. I used to live in a small cabin in the middle of Alaska, and during the eternal summers I’d hear this bird’s haunting call lull me to sleep. It was a Weddell seal of the woods. A UAP that sang.

At first, I didn’t want to know who it was filling the woods with quicksilver honeydew, drop by drop. I somehow felt that the magic would be lost, that by knowing the source I would ruin the spring. But then one day, the music maker appeareth. He was brown, squat, with a small thin beak, just sitting on a spruce branch at my eye level. When he sang, I found I was not disappointed. The Eden of unknowing bliss was not left behind. Instead, where once I saw an it, now I saw a thou. He was singing. The noble, sylvan Swainson’s Thrush.

This trend continued on for me, and once I moved to Utah, I found even more new strange songs. I learned to let the choir sing from their perches, and wait for them to show themselves. The newest singer I discovered was last summer, out in the last intact meadows which border the Bonneville Shoreline trail in Cache Valley, fast disappearing to the grind of half-acre plots and four-car garages which confuse godliness with gaudiness. In their loss, also deplete becomes their song.

Once I heard this new serenader, an avian Van Halen, I began repeating the trail just to hear his song. Like the thrush, which at this point was many years prior, his song seemed to have no source, it simply emanated from the golden grasses and muted sage which, pressed by wind, created a woven mat of gestalt terroir and echoed off the small crevices which led to the mountainsides.

So days and weeks went by as I hiked with my dogs. I’d keep an ear to the pastures and when I heard him, or his premonition upon the wind, I’d freeze and bend in. And sure enough, a certain day came where on this hike I listened, heard, and then saw him. Speckled brown back, golden chest with a black chevron, perched atop a scrubby little juniper calling into the wind. A Western Meadowlark at work.

So if this summer you hear a new sound in the full moon morning and don’t know who makes it, don’t shy, ignore, nor give up. The best thing you can do is to keep listening and keep waiting, be it your first or just most recent. Eventually the caller will pull the curtain back of their own accord and be revealed. So here’s my wish of good luck to you, that you will find what you’re listening for out in the world.

I’m Patrick Kelly, and I’m Wild About Utah.
 
Credits:

Images: Courtesy US National Park Service(NPS) Robbie Hannawacker, Photographer (thrush) & Albert Myran, Photographer (meadowlark)
Audio: Courtesy US NPS Media / David Betchkal (thrush) & US NPS & MSU Acoustic Atlas/Jennifer Jerrett (meadowlark)
Additional Audio Courtesy & © Kevin Colver, J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin.
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://www.logannature.org
Included Links: Patrick Kelly & Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Posts by Patrick Kelly

Stokes Nature Center in Logan Canyon, https://www.logannature.org/

Bonneville Shoreline Trail, Logan Canyon Hiking, Bridgerland Audubon & Cache Hikers, site per Sarah Ohms, https://logancanyonhiking.com/bonneville.htm

Bonneville Shoreline Trail, Cache Hikers, http://www.cachehikers.org/Descriptions/BonnevilleShorelineTrail.html

Bonneville Shoreline Trail, Official Site(2016), http://www.bonnevilleshorelinetrail.org/

Swainson’s Thrush, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Swainsons_Thrush/overview

Swainson’s Thrush, American Bird Conservancy, https://abcbirds.org/bird/swainsons-thrush/

Swainson’s Thrush, UtahBirds.org, http://www.utahbirds.org/birdsofutah/ProfilesS-Z/SwainsonsThrush.htm

Western Meadowlark, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Western_Meadowlark

See Western Meadowlark in Sagebrush Communities in the Intermountain West, Bird Habitat Guide, American Bird Conservancy, https://abcbirds.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/SagebrushGuide.pdf

Western Meadowlark, UtahBirds.org, http://www.utahbirds.org/birdsofutah/ProfilesS-Z/WesternMeadowlark.htm