Sunday, July 30, 2006

Day on the Prairie

Saturday I spent the afternoon at an activity sponsored by Washington State University Extension, "Day on the Prairie", and came away with a greater sense of peace than I have experienced all week, with its sorrowful events in the MidEast, in Seattle, in the GLBT community, and in my life.

Central Whidbey Island has the unusual geologic feature of many square miles of prairie. Central W. I. is in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains and gets far less rain than other western Washington areas. Both human and natural shaping of this countryside have resulted in a huge expanse of rolling hills, treeless plains, grassy slopes, and dunes. At one time, cannons at Ft. Casey were ready to defend the U.S. coastline from attack during WWII.

Both native and introduced species of birds and plants have flourished in this environment, and "DOTP" was an effort by WSU to engage the public in investigating its secrets, protecting its assets, and revitalizing lost elements of prairie land. Short classes and tours on a variety of topics were available and I selected two-----"Wings Above the Prairie" and "Native Plants of the Prairie".

You might know I signed up for the "Wings" class so I could ask an expert about the dangers of eagles and owls! The instructors were reassuring but cautious: yes, it is possible that a large raptor might injure my cats but it is unlikely that any bird would approach my house deck to attack. They mentioned that crows are often an alarm system for the presence of owls and eagles and to listen for crows in an uproar. And they suggested calling a local vet to ask about incidences of attacks, if I was really worried.

I came away from DOTP much refreshed, not only by the experience of leaving behind temporarily the woes of the week but also by rubbing elbows with others who are rebuilding the damaged land, salvaging tender native plants, educating others about the beauty of this place. It was healing to spend time in pleasurable learning, away from the scary headlines and news reports, away from email and voicemail that just makes me fret. I was tired in the best way when I got home. It was a good day.

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