Vanishing Open Spaces
When it's gone – it's gone!
by R T. Douse
It is late Spring now, and from where I'm sitting on my
patio, faint honking leads me to scan the sky and I spot a
ragged V of geese on their way North. It's a comfort to know
they always pass over this time of year. Maybe they always
will. But I'm no longer sure. Not
anymore. Their numbers are declining, ever so slowly, and it
occurred to me there
may never be as many geese flying over my home in future years as there
are this Spring. There will be many geese,
of that I'm sure, but not so many as the years go by.
The other evening I spotted a small gray fox running along the rock
wall that separates my little piece of heaven from
my neighbors. What a joy it is, I thought, to live
in this incredible place of abundant wildlife, and be able to watch
and enjoy their antics. The fox paused on one of the higher
rocks to defecate, and then, after pausing to look at me directly,
continued on his way along the wall to its end and disappeared.
It was in that moment I realized two things. One, animals
have no need for spoken words in order to communicate
effectively. Two, we might never have more wildlife to enjoy than we have right
now. Perhaps that little fox knew it too,
and was telling me exactly what he thought of me. As if I were to
blame. And in truth I am.
I took a pleasant country drive the other day. Heading East
toward Oak Run, one gets an idea of how the countryside might
have looked a hundred years before. Along the meander of Oak
Run Creek are impressive stands of Valley Oak. Rising in
elevation, and along the ridges on either side, are stands of Blue Oak
and Grey Pine, seen clearly against a blue sky with
its Tide clean clouds. Passing the Hathaway Ranch,
I continue on up the hill to the little town of Oak Run.
myself a snack for later, and having nothing better to do that day, I
decide to make a morning of it and take the Oak Run to
Fern Road all the way to Whitmore. It was incredibly
beautiful that day and, because of the rain the night before, the smell
of Yellow Pine and Incense Cedar reminds me of smells I had not noticed
since I was a kid. I wondered if this is the way it
will always be.
I stop for awhile where Clover Creek passes under the road just to
savor the sound of the rushing water and the smell of the
pine and the fir trees and the cool damp earth. Driving over
the ridgeline and down toward Whitmore Road I pass ranches
with cattle grazing in the open areas, and an occasional deer hunkered
down in the shade of a Blue Oak. In the clear air of
that morning, Redding in the distance looks like a little toy town one
could reach out and touch. It occurs to me that this
might not last. That this experience I was having today might
not be possible tomorrow.
My mood lightened as I passed the Cow Creek Ranch, knowing that its
beauty would always be there to enjoy. I continue
to Millville and then over and across Millville Plains to the Fenwood
Ranch that I also knew would would offer open spaces
forever. And the Hathaway Ranch I had passed earlier in the
day? It too would be protected from development.
of these ranches, and others as well, with the full
cooperation of their owners, have already been protected from the kind
development that would destroy the very reason most of us love this
place. Over 20,000 acres are now under conservation
easements, and are protected due to the efforts of a small but
dedicated group of volunteers who, working with Shasta Land
Trust, believe that this beautiful place is worth protecting for
ourselves, our children, our grandchildren, and even their
grandchildren. In fact, for everyone and forever!
It takes a little time and it takes a little work, but joining and
also fun! And the result is the reward. I think
it's worth it. Maybe some of you reading this will think so
R T Douse is the author of the contemporary science fiction adventure
Next - an omen,” available at Amazon.com
in paperback or Kindle.