A five-minute walk from my front door waits a wetland fringed by reeds and encircled by walking trails. The ponds are a haven for ducks. Even this deep into December, I see them in rafts on the unruffled waters. Not a surprise: It’s been a mild winter so far.
Earlier in the year, there were seen-but-not-heard sora (secretive, long-legged waders). During the fall, red-tailed hawks patrolled the skies. Now and then, an osprey cruises above the waters. I have also seen prairie dogs and Harris’s antelope squirrels in the grasslands around the ponds.
It’s my favorite place to walk, largely because I don’t have to get in a car to reach it. Having this kind of access to nature is crucial. A person who writes and edits stories about wildlife needs to have some wildlife close at hand. I don’t need them for material for my work — it doesn’t matter if I ever write about these birds or this wetland — I just need to be able to get there. They give me the typical experiences and feelings one has in the natural world. I need this place, to refresh the well from which words flow.
The fact that this wetland was created by the local water district to reclaim treated wastewater is beside the point. The birds don’t care where the water comes from, and neither do I (and neither, apparently, does my neighbor, who lets his dogs swim in the ponds despite posted warnings). Water lures birds, birds lure me, and life is good.
I wish everyone could live within walking distance of a place they enjoy, whose creatures they care about. Would we treat each other better if we could spend time alone in the natural world every day?