Wilderness — A Meditation

Friday, March 30, 2012

Buffalo Field Campaign

The following article came this morning as an email from The Buffalo Field Campaign, the only public policy organization working in the field to support America's last remaining vestiges of the once masters of the great plains of North America. I thought you might enjoy their commentary.

It's easy to get stuck in the office. Grant deadlines, public comments, press releases, action alerts, emails, and other work make for countless hours at the computer. But I signed up for morning patrol on Saturday and joined Justin, a graduate student from Bozeman, and Andrea, a massage therapist from Austria, for a most amazing field patrol along the north bluffs of the Madison River.

Our assignment was to walk from highway 191, near the park boundary, to Horse Butte, about five miles to the west, in order to get an idea of how many buffalo were on their way to their calving grounds. With temperatures forecast to be in the 60s and the buffalo migration between Yellowstone and the Horse Butte Peninsula in full swing, we knew we were in for a special patrol. We were not disappointed.

After scurrying up the steep and sandy hillside to crest the bluff we left the highway behind and quickly picked up the deep and well-worn path of the buffalo. This trail, trodden by thousands of hooves each spring and littered with tufts of buffalo hair, is well worn and provides easy passage through deep snow drifts, around fallen trees, and across the steep and sandy face of the north bluffs. It is a path I have been following for the past 15 years.

A few hundred yards in I was stopped by Justin's voice. "Elk," he whispered, pointing ahead. We watched as a dozen wapiti made their way down the bluff's steep face, crossed the small tributary below, and dissolved into the thick trees along the river. We three humans continued on, talking in quiet voices. A little further on our gazes were pulled skyward as two bald eagles floated overhead. We stood and watched them, wishing we could fly.

A couple miles in Andrea said "there they are" and I looked up at the familiar shape and color of buffalo, grazing beside the trail. We approached slowly, giving them as much room as we could without stepping over the edge of the bluff. The buffalo, three pregnant cows and two bulls, acknowledged us with a few glances before turning back to their grass, unimpressed.

The hike took about three hours. We stopped often to take in the views of the valley and surrounding mountains and to watch wildlife. Close to Horse Butte, where the open water of the Madison River backs up against the frozen surface of Hebgen Lake, we watched and listened to more than 60 trumpeter swans floating on the surface. A quarter mile further on we saw two coyotes walking on the thin ice, eying a group of swans. After they trotted off we noticed three great blue herons wading in the shallows. We watched them take flight and cross the lake.

As we neared the Butte and the end of our hike we caught up with a herd of about 35 buffalo. Energized by the spring air, yearlings ran about and sparred. We stood and watched before making our way around them and heading on along the bluffs. With nearly an hour to go before our scheduled pickup time, we decided to sit on the south facing rim and take a rest. From where we sat we could see other buffalo high on Horse Butte. The previous day's patrol had reported seeing more than 100 buffalo up there. Lying back I let the spring sun soak into my face as scenes from the hike replayed on the back of my eyelids.

Suddenly I felt a deep rumbling in the Earth. Looking up we watched as the herd came bounding from the trees, stampeding along the top of the bluffs, heading toward us. We stood up and watched them. When they were about a quarter of a mile away they stopped. A pair of bulls locked horns and pushed each other back and forth. Another bull stood on the edge of the bluff and forcefully kicked sand behind him. It shot out in a rooster-tail arch and cascaded a full 50 feet to the beach below. Others of the herd wallowed in the dirt, scratching their backs and shedding winter hair.

This is the way things are supposed to be. The path we walked is the buffalo's way. It belongs to them. But the wild peace and beauty we observed on our patrol was tainted by our knowledge. In the next few months, in the heart of the buffalo's calving season, the Department of Livestock; Fish, Wildlife, and Parks; the Forest Service; and the Park Service will disrupt it all with their ATVs, horses, and helicopters. They will chase and terrorize hundreds of buffalo and their newborn calves, running them back along the north bluffs, over highway 191, across the park boundary, and eight miles deep into Yellowstone National Park. They will disrupt everything in their path with their noisy machines and explosive cracker rounds fired from shotguns. Buffalo will be their targets but grizzly bears, bald and golden eagles, pelicans, trumpeter swans, sandhill cranes, wolves, coyotes, elk, moose, and other species will all be collateral victims of this spring's "hazing" operations.

There are never, at any time of year, cattle on Horse Butte or along the Madison River corridor. Yet every spring the agents come to clear the land of buffalo in the name of livestock. Every year Buffalo Field Campaign is here, on field patrol, at public hearings, in the halls of government, and behind the computer, doing everything we know and can imagine to protect the buffalo and their migration.

For the Buffalo,

Dan Brister

Executive Director

Buffalo Field Campaign

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Brisbane Abode

Google's been at it again. Here's the most recent drive by shot of our Brisbane abode. It looks just a tad off kilter, a fact that surprised me because I've always experienced it as a grounded dwelling full of laughter, good humour, and lots of busy folks.

The street in front of the house from which the Google drivers took the photo is on quite a slope; however, and since the car from which the photo was taken is the angle of the shot, the house looks a tad like it's about to take off.

Nonetheless, I assure you that the native wildlife (humans as well as other species) keep the 120 year old dwelling well attached to the forest of greenery and garden surrounding it.

It feels so good to see it manifest before my eyes. I must admit I miss Brisbane and surrounds when I am not there.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Relationship School

This morning on the NY Times op ed page, David Brooks waxes eloquently on the Relationship School, an elementary school in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

What to my wondering eyes did appear but Claremont High School's Family of Man program reinvigorated. With the support of the NY City's Teacher's Union and money from the City's Education department, teachers and students are actively involved in interdisciplinary projects with four teachers and sixty youngsters in one room....sound familiar?

You betcha it does. I am so pleased to see this program in contrast to all of the 'test happy' alternatives that have taken over education in America.

In the Relationship School, it is the relationship between individuals that count. Tiers of success are not emphasized. Instead, there is an attitude that we all work together to make sure that every child earns the A....Community success becomes more important than individuals standing out.

These educators know what I know and you do, too. The best way to solidify a learning is to teach it to someone else. The highest level of success in any new academic area happens when one understands it well enough to teach it to someone else.

I am energized by the very thought of this program and hope you will check out the article and maybe even the link to the school itself. Happy days when the circle comes around again to its starting point, especially when it means that youngsters are given the opportunity to succeed academically and socially in a celebratory engaging atmosphere.

Here's the link, but you can access the article by just clicking on the title to today's blog:

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ex Pats - Do we suffer from nostalgia?

The New York Times once again published an article of interest in their op ed section. Some may wonder that I consider myself a global citizen since my citizenship on the planet really only encompasses two countries. Under this definition of global citizenship, what is it that we call a German who lives in France or a Brit living in Hungry? Aren't the both members of the European Union? It's rather like a New Yorker moving to Los Angeles ( I know, highly unlikely).

Although the two cultures that I call home these days both speak the same language (well, kind of) and although most Americans really see Australia as the 51 state and a few Aussies see themselves that way too, it is nonetheless true that the these cultures are not more different than the culture of Louisiana is from that of Maine. Come to think of it, the English spoken in these two states is just about as diverse as that spoken by Aussies and Americans.

But the article is not about language nor about what we find funny. Rather, the article is about what we call 'home', what composes for us the comfort zone we associate with our birth community.

As many of you know I fled my Michigan birth community at age 21 and made a decision to never return. Have to admit, I reniged - tree or four times- in the intervening 50 years, but never for more than a week-end each time.

I don't miss home. I have no nostalgia associated with that place. And therefore, because this is true of me, I assume it is probably true of a number of other planetary citizens. I challenge the conclusions of the NY Times article.

On the other hand, the first two years I was in Australia for lengthy periods of time, I did sneak down to the Macca's for some 'french fries' on a few occasions - just a taste (albeit the worse sort of taste possible) of home - Not my Michigan home, but my California home where I lived for almost 40 years. I suppose you could call my desire for that taste 'treat' a bout of nostalgia.

You can access the entire article with the link below or just click on the title to today's blog. And you can agree or disagree with me by posting a comment here. That would be fun for me.
Happy reading.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

United Air Lines Longest Serving Flight Attendant

Ron Akana at age 83 has more seniority than any other United employee. Looks like retirement is right around the corner though.

I know this blog is being more than a little eclectic these days, maybe on all days, but the New York Times video you can watch if you click on the title to today's blog entry just caught my 'old' attention.

Reminding me that being over the hill isn't the same thing as giving up or slowing down, Ron's life choices impressed. You may with to check out this 50 million mile air traveler.

Let's Take the Long Way Home

Gail Caldwell's pulitzer prize wining memoir of her friendship with Caroline has kept me quietly enjoying a couple of my most important relationships.

I read a bit and then sit remembering incidents from the past in which a dearest one has shared with me unforgettable moments.

This quote seems most salient on a Sweet Home Alabama Saturday evening of good music, the comfort of my Aussie bloke, and this excellent book:

'It's taken years for me to understand that dying doesn't end the story; it transforms it. Edits, rewrites, the blur and epiphany of one-way dialogue. Most of us wander in and out of one another's lives until not death, but distance, does us part—time and space and the heart's weariness are the blander executions of human connection.'

Let it not be so, dearest ones! Let us continue in communication with one another.

Friday, March 16, 2012

5:45 on a Friday morning

Being on the far western slope of this Central time zone brings a late sunrise in our little corner of paradise. Picture wasn't taken until almost 8 o'clock this morning, but I was up and out of the cuddly warmth at 5:45. A few games of snood, a solitaire game or six; finally the key strokes woke the Aussie who showered and then made coffee for both of us.

Lovely morning.

Johnny Appleseed cloud cover and warm temperatures make me relatively sure that we'll reach the 69 degree temperatures promised by the weather folks.

The slough in this picture is still frozen, at least the top of it is frozen. Four geese were wandering around the middle of the ice this early morning. Along with thousands of their fellow travellers, they stopped by for a drink and some left over seeds from the surrounding fields before heading farther north for spring nest making.

We, too, are thinking of our nest. Today we head 80 miles east to Minot to shop for ceiling materials for our upstairs. Soon, very soon, the bed moves to the second story. Hooray..

Roam Free

After my first visit to Yellowstone, I joined the Buffalo Field Campaign as a contributor. It saddens me that these massive, but magnificent critturs are endangered as they roam outside the confines of Yellowstone. Perhaps you will find the following report worth a moment of your time. You may even choose to contribute to the efforts on their behalf.

The following article came as an email today.

Spring is definitely in the air here in Yellowstone Country. The sun waxes, temperatures rise, the snow melts, and wild buffalo are on the move with the awakening of the earth. The gentle giants carry the season in their quickening steps and the next generation in their wombs.

Buffalo Field Compaign continues to run full patrols in both the Gardiner and Hebgen Basins, as buffalo begin to cover a lot of ground. It seems that the agencies are, for now, sticking to their word on allowing buffalo to roam for a while in the Gardiner Basin. Last week in Gardiner, for the first time in recent history, a few family groups of buffalo were able to simply enjoy walking the landscape without threat of hazing, even on Church Universal and Triumphant land. It was strange for us to feel that the buffalo were safe on lands where they have always been harassed or killed for even gazing towards. To be sure, the Montana Department of Livestock was watching the buffalo closely, but under the new Gardiner Basin tolerance decision, the agency was unable to touch them. While this was a big win for those particular buffalo that week, it is a small step in the larger effort to protect the buffalo's access to their historic habitat.

One mature bull was not so lucky. After daring to step foot near buffalo-unfriendly private land, he was chased into the hunt zone. One morning we saw him grazing peacefully along the Yellowstone River. That afternoon we found his enormous tracks in our yard. The next day we discovered his remains along with those of a younger bull. The younger bull had lost his entire family to hunters the weekend before and, until the mature bull arrived, had spent his mourning alone. These two bulls and two other buffalo were shot by Nez Perce hunters this past weekend. With these kills, more than 4,000 wild buffalo have tragically been eliminated from America's last wild population since the year 2000, when the Interagency Bison Management Plan was signed.

This young bull was shot by Nez Perce hunters late last week. The weekend before, the other four buffalo that were in his family group were also killed by hunters. He had been alone for a number of days after losing his family, until a mature bull was pushed into this area, where they met up and eventually died together. BFC photo by Stephany. Click photo for larger image.

Montana's Hebgen Basin brings its own challenges for the buffalo and BFC volunteers, as the shaggy mammoths migrate through the Madison River corridor to their traditional calving grounds around Horse Butte. In order to get there, buffalo have to cross the high-speed Highway 191, used heavily by eighteen-wheelers. BFC volunteers are out watching the roads closely, armed with our gigantic hot pink warning signs, and our night patrols are going out every evening right now. While BFC's efforts to warn traffic of buffalo on or near the roads have saved numerous lives over the years, without safe passage infrastructure it is unfortunately impossible to prevent all accidents. Warnings only work when they are heeded. Very early Tuesday morning, just after midnight, a buffalo was hit and killed by a motorist.

Montana is finally admitting that buffalo live in the state! These helpful signs have recently appeared along Highways 89, 191 and 287 in both the Gardiner and Hebgen Basins. BFC commends the Montana Department of Transportation for taking this important and necessary step, which will benefit wild buffalo and motorists alike. BFC photo by Stephany. Click photo for larger image.

After a lot of pressure from Buffalo Field Campaign, the Montana Department of Transportation (MDOT) is taking this issue much more seriously. Over the years we have enlisted their help with the placement of large marquee signs that flash the warning, "Animals on Road," which are placed at critical points on Highways 191 and 287, and turned on when migration begins in earnest. These signs have been very helpful in the Hebgen Basin, and after last spring's bull buffalo bonanza in the Gardiner Basin, we asked the MDOT to place these signs on Highway 89 as well. To our pleasant surprise, they have! The MDOT even went a step further and are now in the process of putting up permanent warning signs that read "Bison on Road - 55 MPH" (shown above). BFC sends out big thanks to the MDOT for helping to make the dangerous highways a little bit safer for everyone. BFC will continue to do everything we can to keep buffalo safe along the highways that cut through their migration corridors, and we will continue to advocate for safe passage infrastructure that will allow wild buffalo and all area wildlife to make it across the highways alive and unscathed.

Roam Free!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I am an Image

Pinterest is a website I just discovered. You may know of it. What a relief to be able to just post images, no comment necessary.

I started out on the internet back in the early 90s and had no idea of how to download or upload images. What an incredible technological advance to find a web page devoted to sharing images that intrigue and entertain and appall depending on one's sense of 'correctness' and delight.

On Pinterest I am not required to note where I have been, what I have read, who I know. I need not share my most embarrassing moment nor comment on the most embarrassing moment of any of my friends or enemies.

Instead, I am given a blank slate on which to publish the images that intrigue, entertain, delight, or disgust.

You may wish to join me there. Or not! If you want to take a look, just click on the title to today's blog entry.

Stunning Sunrise

Well, we may be missing the northern lights, but the sunrise this morning was breathtaking.

I will actually try and get it together tomorrow morning and if it is as lovely, I'll bundle up and go outside to get a photo to share.

Hope your Tuesday has been and continues to be as comfy as ours here close to the Canadian border.

Espresso machine is working..hooray for a good morning cuppa.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Been a Day or Five

Yes, it has been a while since there was a new post. Ya know, it's been tax time. I always think that chore is gonna take me a day, and it always stretches out to three or four. In the morning, I'll head over to the post office in Lignite, 8 miles west, and mail the whole set of materials off to my tax lady in southern California.

Now, that's another story. Who in North Dakota sends her taxes three thousand miles south and west to have them tabulated? Well, we do or I do. It's such a mish mash of conflicting information what with six months here and six months there etc etc etc.

If there were no editing and writing business, I could probably manage the whole scene for myself, but writing, editing, and tutoring are essential elements of the life style that we've chosen and so I do need help. I know, lots of you already know that! :)

So..spring is sprunging all over the prairie. Snow is melting in the 50 degree sunshine and the honkers are returning. Three big birds arrived on our slough today, honking profusely to let us know that they had arrived. A small black bird perched on the lilac stems this afternoon and a moose wandered through the back yard last night. You ought to see the length of the stride on the big fella. How lucky can we get? If he stays near town no one can shoot him. Maybe he knows that, too.

The Aussie is off to the city council meeting tonight. He may become the new town handiman. A win for the town, surely. Not so sure I'll be pleased to share his labour, but then again, I know that a new problem to solve suits his mood.

The espresso machine will actually make our first cuppa tomorrow morning. While we were gone a touch of ice destroyed the pressure pump and the regulator, but parts arrived by UPS today and fragrant coffee - not boiled on the stovetop- will wake me in the morning.

So, catch you soon. No excuses for not writing, now. Happy March, ya'll

Thursday, March 08, 2012

'A Wrinkle In Time' Turns 50

A Wrinkle In Time at 50? Can you believe it? As fresh as the snowflakes falling outside my window and just as miraculous - cause the sky is deep blue at the moment!

And almost unpublished because publishers couldn't decide which category it fell into - adult or children's literature? As if there were a difference!

Click on the title to today's blog for the whole article from NPR and happy reading..

I strongly recommend Wind at the Door as well...two great stories..for a lifetime of reading.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012


The New York Times - 5 March 2012 - reports on the Attorney General's speech to Northwestern University's Law School supporting the killing of American citizens without 'due process'. Here is the link if you would like to read the full article.

I am appalled! Why bother to have a Constitution, if those sworn to protect and abide by it not only refuse to do so, but work to undermine the basic rights of American citizens?

U.S. Law May Allow Killings, Holder Says


Published: March 5, 2012

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. asserted on Monday that it is lawful for the government to kill American citizens if officials deem them to be operational leaders of Al Qaeda who are planning attacks on the United States and if capturing them alive is not feasible.