An experience with a flock of young pinyon jays was a reminder of the important role memories play in our lives.
Vast broken land unfolded before me as I looked east to the distant Henry Mountains of southern Utah. Like sand dunes frozen in time, red Navajo sandstone mounds mixed with rugged gray canyons. Pinyon pine and Utah juniper forested the red desert sand wherever the rock gave way.
Birds were plentiful in this habitat. In fact, we had just spotted a Scott’s oriole and a loggerhead shrike so I decided to look for more birds. At the top of a small canyon a quarter mile away, I could hear birds and could even see them flitting against the sandstone cliffs but I just couldn’t identify them.
That canyon seemed like a birding paradise though and curiosity finally got the best of me. With a tripod-mounted spotting scope over one shoulder and a tripod-mounted camera and trashcan-sized lens over the other, I set out for the canyon. I stepped carefully, not only to favor a recently injured ankle but also to avoid the fragile soil crusts prevalent in the area.
The birds, pinyon jays in this case, were in full voice as I approached the canyon rim. As is their habit, they called incessantly during flight. As I set up the scope and camera, a dozen birds worked both sides of the canyon, flying back and forth.
I did a little phishing by kissing the back of my hand to make a wet squeaking noise. I was almost immediately rewarded with a pair of young jays that hung around and hammed it up for the camera, moving from tree to tree looking for the source of the sounds.
I was immersed in the experience. I forgot the camera, the spotting scope and even the binoculars for about 20 minutes. The flock of jays foraged around the small canyon, perhaps 100 yards across, crossing and chasing each other back across as they searched for food and landed in nearby trees. But slowly, the flock stopped crossing to the west side of the canyon. Then they were at the top and then they were lost to both eye and ear as they moved eastward. I was left with only empty trees and the sound of the pinyon scented breeze and memories of a unique and interesting experience.
It was then I realized just how important memories, even seemingly small and insignificant ones like this one, are in the fabric of our lives. So often people and experiences dance through our days and then with little fanfare they are gone. Sometimes, despite how important they were at the time, they leave no more physical trace of their passing than a bird’s flight. Without memories, what would they be? I am truly awash in memories that help people and events live forever in my life.
As I was writing this, my step-mom, a wonderful woman who has been a part of our lives for over 26 years, left this world at 93. Thirty years before, my own mother lost her battle with cancer. Their legacies are kept vibrant not through things but through memories etched in my heart and soul. I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything in the world.
Awesome memories are sometimes like flecks of shiny mica in the otherwise gray concrete of life. Sometimes they are like galaxy stars on a new moon night. Regardless, they are as important to the quality of our lives as food or air. Making lots of memories this summer is a high priority for my wife and me. I hope it is for you too.
Wildlife License Plates
Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.
No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.
Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.
Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program. Go figure.
"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson
That is embarrassing but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), The Best of Nature is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.
Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.
Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.
"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman
"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.
To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version
Copies are also available at:
Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls
Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center (425 Capital)
Perfect Light Photo Supply
Museum of Idaho
Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming
Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah
Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho