Saturday, February 06, 2010
Final thoughts on the Rio Grande Valley trip
Who would've thought you could go, fifteen years later, to the very place you grew up and see an entirely different place? I finally got to see the Rio Grande Valley last weekend not as a kid bored out of her mind and thinking she lived on an earthly Tattoine, but as a birder, grown up and in love with nature. I loved the outdoors as a kid, but I was somehow harder then; I never thought of nature as something we could or would destroy. Cities were where everything happened, or so I thought, and all I wanted to do was get out of the Valley and see the world. My childhood playing with frogs and toads, getting bitten by a lizard, being chased and scared by an owl--I figured when I grew up I would live in a big city and go shopping and work and just buy stuff like grownups did. It never entered my mind that I could grow old and learn to appreciate nature in a completely different way, not as just a place to play but as a classroom, a sanctuary, a church.
Being back in the Valley was fascinating; much had changed, but much remained the same. People still had shack-like houses along the highway with "yards" full of junk, there was still too much emphasis on development and "progress," and there were not nearly enough young people out there enjoying the natural world. I guess they were all in the malls and outlet shops. We didn't see one child in any of those birding areas, not one. There was a group of late teens taking a guided walk at SANWR, and a couple of giggly teen girls at Estero Llano, but they were barely engaged in the beauty around them. Like a typical oldster, I wanted to grab them by the shoulders and say, "Appreciate this! Believe me, you'll want to remember it for the rest of your life!" But they continued on their way and so did we.
Right after that, we saw and heard that Swainson's Hawk. What a moment it was, standing there listening to the Birdjam, both of us smiling from ear to ear when we heard that call, and we knew.