Going Native

Although I originally lived in Seattle, I don’t have any real concrete memories of the city life as my family moved to a fairly rural area along Puget Sound when I was but a toddler. As far as I can remember, therefore, I was surrounded by nature and wildlife. A symphony of birds were within earshot whenever I wandered outside, and I’ve learned to identify many of them by sight and call. My sister and I created trails and wandered among the 100-year old trees behind our house. We woke up in the summer to see harbor seals resting on our raft.

Both the ordinary and extraordinary were beautiful,  and I still remember when a small pack of porpoises visited our bay and we took our rowboat among the sea creatures and watched in wonder as they swam up to our boat to investigate this newly encountered object. Sighting a Golden-Crowned Sparrow hiding in the bushes was just as amazing as when the rare Orca or Humpback Whale briefly visited our bay before going to other grounds. It was during these years that I started to view the natural world as something that was greater than just a resource to be exploited. Sitting on the beach looking out at the bay and Mt. Rainier behind it, there was the realization that humanity was dwarfed by a much greater power. Nature is our home, the ecosystem in which we lived in, and all living things were to be admired and cherished.

When I moved to Seattle at the ripe age of eighteen, it was a time of transition for my life in more ways than I could count. The city held a lot of advantages, and was a new arena to explore as a newly-minted high school graduate. Yet something seemed amiss, and it took me years to fully realize what was missing. Always living on the water, I immediately (and logically) suspected that it was simply the fact that I lived more than a mile away from the closest large body of water. Yet this explanation always seemed incomplete.

Walking through campus, some of my favorite locations were the slightly overgrown Grieg and Medicinal Herb Gardens: rarely visited by others, they were sanctuaries where plants thrived, squirrels explored, and birds felt confident enough to emerge from their hiding places. Going to find a moment of serenity during a hectic week, I would sometimes find a lone duck resting in a small pond. As I watched her go about her bird-like business and sat on a small brick wall covered in moss, it was here that I felt most at home.

I often find myself drawn towards nature and trying to witness wildlife in their natural settings. By Union Bay, near the Stadium, I will sometimes hop the low barrier by the road and go up the overgrown trail into the nature reserve. It is here that you can almost forget the city exists. The reeds softly rustle in the wind as you hear the ducks softly communicating to each other in the distance. When I was at home with my family today, I suddenly realized I had spent a quarter of an hour observing the bumble and honey bees collecting pollen in the sweet-smelling roses. Despite all of these years, I’m still learning the many vocalizations of the Towhee, and discovered a new one (to me) just this morning.

Seattle offers its own brand of nature: the battle-tested Rock Doves and the inquisitive crows. It’s easy to miss the plants and parks, but they will offer their secrets if you’re willing to look for them. And if you stop next to a grove of bushes or trees and listen carefully enough, you’ll hear the soft chirping of the wrens, tits, and sparrows. It’s then that I’m reminded of the beauty that exists in this world.

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