My nature career has been splendid and long.
It started with wiggly tadpoles, summit-seeking ladybugs, and the smell of freshly turned earth in the warmth of May. Then it expanded into bright orange autumn leaves held up to the sun, secret nests of garter snake eggs under the porch stoop, and yellow stains applied artistically to the knees of blue jeans with the rich heads of dandelions. Pretty soon, it was feisty blue-speckled crayfish in the creek at the bottom of the hill, bats that darted hectic messages across the evening clouds, and the sleepy summer rhythm of cicadas and crickets.
It evolved into the eerie aquatic-sounding love songs of Rocky Mountain elk, the raspy laughs of playful ravens, and the metallic scent of sun-warmed granite with bright white veins of pure quartz. After that, it was nothing but the nickel-coated rush of nearby lightning strikes and the miniature alpine bouquets that clung to the summits of 14ners along the Continental Divide. (Occasionally, the warp-speed joy of a snowy couloir glissade and the sublime peace of napping in the all-together on a basalt heat sink as thick and wide as a dark grey Ferrari.)
These days, it’s drinking in the elegantly blended perfumes of wild clover, lupine, and rose along the Columbia River and tracking acrobatic lizards through cities of bunch grass while golden eagles carve lazy half circles in the sky. Sometimes, it’s absorbing the thunder of hundred-foot waterfalls while dangling bootless toes in frigid spring melt. Recently, it was tickling my nose with the sulfurous fumes of a geothermal kitchen atop a Cascadian volcano.