Today's Backyard Adventure was one we almost missed. It surfaced recently in an unexpected folder - no doubt the result of a botched drag-n-drop. We're happy to have found it and would like to offer the author our apologies, and readers, his submission. It's a nice reminder of why we started the Backyard Adventures series in the first place.
TCL reader Greg Russell lives in Riverside, CA and teaches biology at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa. He's grown up in the West and, as a result, has been within reach of wilderness most of his life. Our call for your backyard adventures reminded him of an essay he'd seen in an old Patagonia catalog. Says Greg, "It made me look at the concept of 'wild' in a whole new way, and now, as a father, I want to instill that in my son."
The message of Ernest Atencio's "Little Wild Places" has stuck with me since I first read it in a Patagonia catalog years ago. As a teenager hungry for Big Adventure, I had failed to see the wildness present in my own backyard. After reading that essay, it was if reptilian scales had been peeled from my eyes. For the first time, my backyard came alive with wildlife—horned lizards, orioles, finches, robins, kestrels—and a stone wall to boulder on, even if it did take a little imagination. It was enough to fill my soul with hope and contentment. Big Adventure, I found, was anywhere you were willing to look.
Since then, I have graduated college, gotten married, earned a Ph.D., become a father, and purchased a home in urban southern California. As I sit here looking out my window on a January day, I am reminded to look for the beauty and Big Adventure in those Little Wild Places. If I were to go in my immediate backyard, I could show you where to find alligator lizards, or show you the group of jays that lives in the pine tree next door.
[Owen & Stephanie Russell at the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve near Murrieta, CA. Photo, Brent Deschamp]