Left of Nowhere

I’m looking at a blank page and wondering what to write about. I’ve been writing journal

prairie warbler

prairie warbler

entries for 43 years, so you might assume I’d have it figured out by now. Most of the time my route comes naturally, but every once in a while it’s good to think about the writing process. First of all, I get off my fattest body part and walk outdoors. I decide to open up my senses and discover something new.

cedar waxwing

cedar waxwing

Maybe there’s something I can focus on to guide me on my way. I haven’t seen the prairie warbler in years. Maybe I can find the bird uphill, among the shrubs and short trees of its usual habitat. Even early in the morning, the air is getting hot and humid. If I’m going for the hike, I’d better move before the walk becomes unbearable.

Near the back line of my property I find some heavy rocks flipped upside-down. They are flat rocks that had roofed a world of ants inside the soil. The ground is torn, so I think about bear. I should keep my eyes open for the chance of seeing He-Who-Flips-the-Rocks, though in likelihood I’ll see Lady Godiva riding bareback over the hill before I get a glimpse of Mr. Bear.DSCN0479

I start with what I know, what lies close at hand. I climb through the tall grass of the steep hill, walking-stick pushing at the heavy growth of summer. I listen for distinctive call notes of a prairie warbler, the rising, high-pitched zi-zI- ZI! delivered against the humid air. I hear yellowthroat, song sparrow, field sparrow, mourning dove, and cedar waxwing, but no prairie warbler.

DSCN0362Not till I descend from the high ground and pause do I discover it. I am watching and listening to a willow flycatcher there among the autumn olives when I see another bird. It’s yellow and white, a fleeting life that checks me out while flitting from bush to bush. And that’s the thing about the prairie warbler and so many other creatures of a rural landscape. If you don’t stop to watch and listen, if you’re just passing by and thinking there’s little more to see, you miss it.

Blending in with your environment makes all the difference when you’re out. Any hunter or gatherer will tell you that. You pause, you listen and take stock. Even for a little thing, a wonderful thing, like the glimpse of a prairie warbler. Spirits of a place enter your life and make a difference in how you see things day to day.DSCN0498

Who says there’s nothing to do in a place just left of nowhere? You take small steps in adjusting your relationship with nature. You center yourself with others. You’re important, but not God’s gift to creation. You take pleasure in acknowledging your existence. You might even write about what you’ve found while wandering.DSCN0492

I’m no expert on the matter, even though working as a naturalist for all these years. I simply offer the experience as a tip to those getting started, and to those interested in a life shared by many creatures. It’s not easy work, and forget about money. Nonetheless, the effort seems worthwhile.DSCN0486

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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4 Responses to Left of Nowhere

  1. lesterkish says:

    Funny, I too thought of Lady Godiva on my most recent hike. Must have been all of the horse poop on the trail. In my case, the likelihood of seeing a bear was more real. Both failed to make an appearance. Best regards.

    • Thanks for the update Lester. I’m afraid Lady G. is more “endangered” in our neck of the woods. But heh, let’s keep our eyes open!


      • Bob Stanton says:

        Some beautiful photos, Walt. My favorite: the two track fading to a vanishing point off yonder. Sights like that one have compelled me onward through many of my own rambles. Always want to see what lies around the bend!

      • I think we’re drawn to the same perspective, Bob, to the vanishing point and the mystery of what lies beyond (or, in the case of a good trout stream, what lies beyond the bend. Thanks!


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