A Gentle Challenge

Text & photo by Virginia Parker Staat

One of our fountains is losing water. At first we thought we had a crack in the concrete. Curiously, however, some days the water level stayed the same. Other days, the level dropped two to three inches overnight. It was time for some detective work. We set up the game camera and quickly discovered the problem. Our rather large, resident raccoon had quadruplets this spring. The kits are old enough to forage with their mother now. They find the fountain irresistible. 

Such is life during the pandemic. Normally David and I would be in the wilds of Alaska, tracking animals to photograph. Instead, we find ourselves working on projects and studying our backyard.  

Racoons – nighttime raid on backyard fountain © Virginia P. Staat

We have only a quarter of an acre of land, yet we are blessed with an amazing diversity of flora and fauna. We have had a bumper crop of fledgling birds visiting the feeders, including our first Summer tanager. It took us three weeks and $150 to thwart two extremely persistent squirrels, both intent on launching themselves onto (and effectively emptying) aforementioned bird feeders. Our pollinator garden is buzzing. And nightlife escapades include frequent visits from our raccoon family, several possums, and an occasional skunk.

While I enjoy our backyard mini-adventures, they certainly do not satisfy my wanderlust or the opportunity to visit with each of you this year. The RMOWP conference has become one of our favorite annual events. With the 2020 conference cancelled, however, it definitely leaves a void. I’ve been thinking of ways to stay in nature and keep in touch.  

Edward Abbey wrote in Desert Solitaire:  A Season in the Wilderness, “wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit and as vital to our lives as water and good bread.” With this in mind, I offer a gentle challenge to each of you. Our outdoor writing and photography need not be squelched during this pandemic. Instead, let’s share with one another what we are doing with our craft and/or how we are filling our need for nature.

Let’s look at some possibilities for this gentle challenge. We can take a single photograph each day like photographer Jim Brandenburg did in his book, Chased by the Light. A writer I know has made a commitment to write an eleven-word story every day for a month. We can look down and photograph or write about the microcosm below our feet or the flora and fauna on our daily strolls. You can certify your yard with the National Wildlife Federation as a natural wildlife habitat or start a nature journal. You can write a review of an outdoor book or a piece of technical equipment that has made your craft easier.

The second part of the challenge is to share it with one another. Our next RMOWP newsletter deadline is October 28, 2020. I invite you to send your photographs or writings so that we can see what you’ve been doing.  Whether you send in a few lines, a photo, or an 800-word article, it will help us all to feel more connected to nature and, especially, to each other.

I’m really looking forward to our next newsletter. I hope you’ll join in this gentle challenge and share your findings with us. Blessings and good health to all.