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  • Writer's pictureLindsey Shannon

Caught in the Spell of Biotic Community at Rose Creek Preserve

Mesmerized, I arrive at the Rose Creek Nature Preserve. It feels like I have travelled hours or days to get here and not the fifteen minutes it took me. Gloomy as the day is, the hills of the Palouse radiate their famous golden glow. I was struck by John Walton’s phrase “the prairie slopes” in his poem "We Go Walking Through This." The land around me is transforming from the “prairie slopes” to the “crossing logs” and woods Walton described. This place, to me, epitomizes what an edge space is: isolated, diverse, and natural.

The first thing I notice is the isolation of the Preserve. I find myself drawn again to Walton’s poem and his continued use of the word we-“We go walking through this,” “We go walking up,” “We go walking down.” I can’t help but long to be part of that we as well. Do I become part of that we just by being here? I feel like an intruder, even as I follow the well-worn trail. The strength of the wind pushes through me and each step I take echoes through the branches. The vivid image of “aspen trees and / other trees, holding hands” comes to life as I trek and weave through the winding path. “Wild ponderosa branches” are intertwined and entangled in the same way I know their roots to be: a mess of random limbs that are in fact not random at all, each root communicating and sharing their own needs and resources. Are these aspens and ponderosas, their branches and roots, also part of the we?

The surrounding plants—the black hawthorns, aspens, and dogwoods—are in a transitory state. Their reality is shifting. It’s not yet summer with its “purple asters” and bright green hues; prominent grays and browns stand out. The “vein of the creek” is a swift brownish green that stands out against the withering leaves and branches that encompass it. I walk and walk, listen and listen, watch and watch. New things catch my eye: three different colored berries, some reaching high in the trees, some low in bushes. If there are three unique species of berries within 200 yards of each other, how many other species exist in this small edge space community? Is each species, each tree, each branch, each leaf, each berry all part of Walton’s we as well? In the last lines of the poem, Walton writes “We say it again, that we must be confused. / Then we believe we’ve only misunderstood.” I find myself wondering if I had misunderstood, focused so much on Walton’s definition of “we” that I neglected to forge my own. A dragonfly buzzes past me as I exit the trail and I pretend it is seeing me off. That dragon fly the first creature I made part of my “we.”

Lindsey Shannon, Fall '19-Spring '20 Intern, graduated from Washington State University with a major in English Teaching and an Editing and Publishing Certificate.

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1 Comment

Kristin LeVier
Kristin LeVier
Apr 17, 2021

Beautifully written! I'm going to the Preserve next weekend and am now looking forward to it even more.

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