A Poem of Parting

Last night I went to my last Rock Springs Poetry Slam hosted by my good friend, Janice Grover-Roosa (yes, another hyphenated last name!) of the local library system. While my first passion is writing books, there is something about the instant gratification of poetry that I love, and that has kept me coming back to the form over the years.

This is one of the pieces I read last night:

Wyoming Love Song

A sweet country
Ignored by most
Lost on the map intentionally.
A place of rough necks
And oil widows
The wispiest of rainbows perched atop
Precarious citadels.
Sandstone slipping down
Adobe towns
Full of swallows
And swallowed hikers
Led astray
By intermittent appearances of civilization.

Deer staring with children’s eyes
When surprised at first light
Hawks fan above
Dodging wild winds
Air currents that
Rip at clothes
Hit at houses
And make skin so raw.

A heart-stopping flap of wings
Erupting from sage brush
0 to 60 in a coyote’s breath
A countryside of death
Of Malthusian midnights
Where bones are picked clean
By the sun
By everyone
Everything fighting for a bit of green
A hint of happiness
Barest survival.

No bucolic panoramas
But people always try
Always irrigate
Now irradiate
Grasping for biblical splendour
In what some might call
The land of Cain.
The land of rocks
Of sky
Of little ties to populations
Of bigger size.

Peopled by antelope
Running from predators long gone
White rumps still flashing
Shouting urgency
While humans saunter
Heads up, nods exchanged
A currency of grudging respect
Where fancy doesn’t fuel you
Like a big buffet
Like cheap gas, bud light
Or half-strength coffee
Like slow friendships
Lengths of prairie grass tucked together.

Wild Wyoming

As I might have mentioned before, Wyoming – compared with most places in the continental U.S. – is quite sparsely populated. There are about 500,000 people spread out over the state, and most of these are clustered in small towns and cities.

This means that there are a lot of wild, wide-open spaces.

Last Wednesday, Doug and I attended a talk at the Sweetwater County Library (our local library in Green River) about the wild spaces of Wyoming. Erik Molvar, director of the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance and author of Wild Wyoming, gave an entertaining talk with lots of accompanying photos. Erik good-naturedly bantered with the audience and even seemed to enjoy my cheeky question about ‘wildlife management’ being an oxymoron!

He and Doug really hit it off afterward and got chatting about more ecofriendly ways to extract oil and natural gas from these protected areas. As always, trying to balance economic growth in Wyoming (both mineral and recreational) with the conservation of fragile ecosystems is a tricky business. If we don’t become members of the BCA, we will definitely be signing up for some of the guided hikes they offer to really neat-looking wilderness areas like Adobe Town, which isn’t far from here.

We stayed chatting at the library until closing time and didn’t get home until about 9:30pm or so. We were standing on out front looking up at all the stars when some movement caught my eye across the street.: there was a Mule Deer doe and her fawn walking along. What a magical moment!

I’ve had some more semi-domestic encounters the past week as well. Last Tuesday I started volunteering for the Rock Springs Humane Society. They are chronically understaffed, underfunded, and underexposed (in the PR sense) in the community. I went in expecting to have to fill in an application to be a volunteer and maybe even submit to a criminal background check (like some places I’ve worked/volunteered at in big cities in the past). Nope, none of that. The director, who is two years old than I am, looked at me eagerly and asked when I’d like to start and how often I could come in.

I’ll be spending two days on site a week and volunteering at special events like Dracupaws (Halloween portraits) and Santapaws (Holiday portraits) while I live here. I’m also helping them figure out some new ways to fundraise, do community outreach and I’ll be re-vamping their scrapbook. I discovered that their 35th anniversary is coming up next year, so maybe I’ll write a little ‘history of’ for the organization, too (once the book is done, of course!).

I’m loving both the hands-on and hands-off work so far and I am amazed at how they manage to operate on such a shoe-string budget. Doug and I have already donated a big bag of cat litter, a jumbo pack of paper towels, and I’ve started stockpiling possible sale, raffle, and prize items from garage sales (Doug’s happy for us to help out as long as I don’t bring home 3 dogs and 5 cats!).

The RS Humane Society’s vet bill alone at the moment is $5000 and they operate mainly on donations. If you’re ever in the Rock Springs area or you feel like helping out this no-kill shelter with cash or in-kind donations, they are open 12-6pm, seven days a week. Feel free to email me at dmetchen@hotmail.com if you want to know how you can help.

This is Bear, the most timid Black Lab I have ever encountered! What a sweetheart!

© 2011 Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail. All Rights Reserved.