Montana Wolf

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Msg of a Lifetime At Whitewater Draw

I pulled into lonely little Whitewater Draw, about 25 miles east of Bisbee. I'd been coming there for  years. My soul knew it as one of her homes, where sandhill cranes wintered in the desert cold valley air. WWD, where I'd frozen my hands at winter solstice, waiting for the first glimpse of sun with gf Emilie. Where, I'd photographed and written articles on the great-horned, barn and long-eared owls, waterbirds and the subtle-solace beauty. But I'd never spent the night, until now.

The cranes, like the Bosque del Apache a few days earlier, had taken flight for breeding grounds north. The major pond had been drained, its bottom recently burned. I said hello to Jim, the manager, and caught up on WWD's current state. Water was scarce, so were funds, but the birds were oblivious. The crane count for the winter had been over twenty thousand.

I walked the empty pond edges, catching glimpses of warblers and  vermilion flycatchers. The only standing water was a shallow flat that attracted the long-billed ones: godwits, avocets and ibis. A stunning array of wallow, dip and scoop. Four cranes arrived at sundown, migrants from Mexico who showed their long flight in ragged feathers and nervous demeanor, in contrast to the calm beauty of the ones who wintered. I assumed they would stay the night. They didn't. They fed a few hours in the shallow waters and lifted off with the moonrise.

The evening was glorious. Great-horned owls skimmed the fields; song dogs yipped and yowled as I sat beneath a zillion stars, as home as one can feel. I slept deep and rose with the dawn to the symphony songs of an awakening world. My journey from Taos to Bisbee/Naco almost over, I sat with the past days' memories -- chance meetings, campfires with old friends, stunning landscapes and the wild spirits that inhabited them.

I decided to check my email on my Smart phone. I'd bought the dang thing, I may as well use it, I mumbled. Hmmm, Colorado Humanities... I opened and read as the words congratulated me "once again" on my selection for the Colorado Book Award, and would I attend the finalist's reading in Denver on April 25th? I gasped. Did I miss something here? WAS I a finalist? Was it a mistake? My nervous fingers emailed back. Yes, I was assured, but since I was on the road I hadn't received that official letter. Holy cow, it was REAL.

I was over the top with some of the most important news of my life, Teak, Hobo and the birds as I jumped up and down and yelped. Would they like some champagne? No, too early in the morn. And so I headed to the pole barn where I'd long ago taught a nature writing workshop under the eyes of the great-horned owl pair. They were there, staring down as if they expected me.

Human celebrations would come soon enough. For now it was me and the wild, to whom I owed my very existence... and the book that brought it home.


News, slideshow and a link to an article on WWD on the new snazzy website!


  1. Oh, wonderful, wonderful, and most wonderful ...!!! Congratulations! I love this post, the photos, the experiences, you bring them home. I can almost feel the air and hear the flutter of wings. We'll have champagne here, for sure! Enjoy Colorado!

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Pari. Just rescheduled for Salida for June 6th! Hope you can make it. Hope to do an indie pub class, too. xoxo