Escape to nature
Star trails over Butala Homestead in OMB at dawn, SK (Photo by Alan Dyer)
By Sharon Butala
Indeed, the chief gift of my new life turned out to be living in nature: Peter and I lying in bed on a summer night with all the windows open and hearing the hissing snarl only feet away of a passing bobcat, or maybe it was a lynx, or even a cougar, and then, as we froze and listened hard, hearing not another sound; at the hay farm Peter calling me softly to come and watch a small herd of elk appear against the skyline on the hills to the south as we stood at the door of the old log house gazing up, not moving; lying on our stomachs in the tall grass on a bank above a slough to see the wild swans on their migration north gliding back and forth on the dark water; hearing the first V of geese in the spring circling from the east or the west, honking, looking for water and feed, flying so low over us that we could hear the powerful beat of their wings as they captured air and pushed it away. It did something to you, as if your heart weren’t in your chest anymore but was rising into the air with those great birds. More than once there were pelicans, it seemed to me the most skittish of the great birds, at least when they were in our country, and sometimes, rarely, a moose that had strayed too far south, and at the ranch there were always antelope skimming the hills in the distance, flowing in pale, dreamlike bunches over the fields. Deer were there, both mule and white tail, every morning and every evening. And coyotes, the most interested in humans, their signature songs background to the rising and setting of the sun. I got used to seeing golden eagles, hawks were everywhere, and in the spring or fall a lone bald eagle or a pair of them might pass by or roost in our trees for a day or so, or blue herons came, flapping their great wings in a leisurely, half-clumsy fashion, as if they had all the time in the world, and were lords of everything they saw. In winter, snowy owls, so eerie and beautiful, so purely white that they startled you as they suddenly rose up off a fence post as you passed by down the snow-covered trail.
It seemed a miracle to me that I had been fortunate enough to have found this nature-driven world to escape to.