Forever Changed

photo courtesy of the National Park Service
bald eagle chicks, photo courtesy of the National Park Service

Sometimes nature throws us an experience, which gradually alters our paths. These subtle breezes of accumulated exposure to nature’s mysteries can carve your life in unpredictable ways. Here is one such a story, a story that gives me hope in the resilience of nature if we only give it a nudge and open our spirit to its universal truths. Every molecule of DNA on this planet arose and is dependent on the forces exerted on it by other collections of life. We are all bound together by the influences of another creature’s DNA.  Personally nowhere are these relationships and events more glaringly clear and freely experienced than in the wild expanse offered by the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

I was far from Yellowstone the first time I became intrigued by birds, natures little forest embers, lighting up the world with their magical concerts of color, melody and prowess of flight. I had already visited Yellowstone as a kid with my family and carried fond memorable firsts with Yellowstone’s wild creatures. I carried these memories back to our home in Georgia. From the antics of magpies and bison, to the robber gray jays stealing my Cheetos, I recognized the basic cyclic truths my young mind observed.

Unprepared for my first close encounter of the bird kind I was out one spring day in the long leaf pines of Georgia exploring the woods. On this much needed spring excursion I had decided to wear my fall deer hunting camo outfit and see just how close I could get to the resident whitetail that frequented this dense Georgia jungle of a woodlot. I had been sitting motionless for more than an hour listening and watching as three does casually mingled, browsing and on occasion suspiciously looking my way.  The woods were full of bird song, the deer were very close and the pale blooms of ghostly dogwood were peeking through dense greenery on the forest floor.  All in concert  this dawn chorus was a moment of pure perfection. The whistling “peter-peter-peter” of the tufted titmouse, the crimson Northern Cardinals, the raucous Carolina Wren, the cute Carolina Chickadee, the Redtail imitating blue jays, and the echoed caws of a murder of crows all transfixed my senses.

Suddenly, a really heavy leaf landed on my hatless head.  No wait, this was no leaf for it was now ripping at my 1970s length hair. For several minutes this little bird would not give up.  I cold feel his needle sharp claws digging in as he ripped and pulled on my hair in a spring hormone driven frenzy to gather nesting material.  I slowly raised my hand twice to attempt a swift capture.  But this coil of energy and feathers was too quick, flying to the nearest tree a few feet away, it scolded me ferociously.  Only to return for another tug-o-war with my youthful locks. I finally got a look at it, inches from my face this tiny tufted titmouse scolded me once more before flitting away to change my relationship with nature forever.

From that day forward I began my own journey, driven by a voracious appetite to quench this need to experience another intimate encounters with wild creatures of every shape and size. This path of exploration of nature and it’s residents has lead me to want to defend these creatures and their habitat’s which have so enriched my life through many close encounters with natures gifts.  That’s really what it comes down to for me as an advocate for keeping it wild.  Yellowstone offers these gifts to all that visit her bounty, mystery and opportunity of sharing a once in a lifetime experience.  Countless families and visitors to Yellowstone can recount similar experiences as mine, and Yellowstone has been their catalyst to advocacy.  For many those experiences never stop growing and the need for more can only be quenched when they return to Yellowstone country.

Please join us in our efforts to explore and protect, not just the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, but your own backyards.  There are a few links that explain the growing understanding of Yellowstone’s birds and how the reintroduction of wolves is helping restore the bird populations again.

Guest column by Richard Rusnak,  Rich serves on the the Sierra Club’s Greater Yellowstone Campaign steering committee. 


One thought on “Forever Changed

  1. Rich, this is an amazing story, written in a way that really draws in the reader.

    Thanks! Edwina

    On 4/2/13 1:06 PM, “Sierra Club’s Greater Yellowstone Campaign Blog” wrote:

    > mtsierraclub posted: ” Sometimes nature throws us an experience, which > gradually alters our paths. These subtle breezes of accumulated exposure to > natures mysteries can carve your life in unpredictable ways. Here is one such > a story, a story that gives me hope in the resil” >

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