Finding wild where you are

Leitner quote.png

I recently returned from a six-week exploration by Land Cruiser across Botswana and Namibia. I was afforded the luxury of writing, sketching, and painting every day in my nature journal with live—as in just feet from me, in most cases—elephants, zebras, giraffes, leopards, hundreds of birds, as well as discovering dozens of new-to-me plant species. I was in naturalist and sketch-artist heaven.

At home now, my surroundings suddenly became . . . well, mundane. I won’t lie. A bunny in the backyard just wasn’t the same as 65 elephants drinking, bathing, and play-fighting deep in the African bush.

It has been hard to keep up the daily sketching, and I struggled with withdrawal from intense nature experiences.

But the day after the bunny-you-are-not-an-elephant episode, I went for my usual 5K run and re-learned the joy of finding mysterious things in the familiar:

  • Two coyotes slipped across the road just 20 feet from me and circled a privet hedge . . . out of which shot at least three rabbits . . .

  • The coyotes then trotted down to Campbell Avenue, one of the busiest in Tucson even at 6 am, and I watched in horror and fascination as they stopped, watched traffic (literally surveying all the cars as they went by), then when a break came trotted to the median, where they waited, watching the correct and opposite direction, then proceeded across at the next break. Do they learn this from parents / grandparents / great-grandparents?

  • Turning back to my run, a Cooper’s hawk swooped across my path, with a mockingbird literally on its tail and back, bombarding, pecking, and scolding . . . Why does the hawk not swoop up and grab its attacker from the sky, instead of “scree-ing” in annoyance and fleeing?

  • And finally, as I rounded the third kilometer, I stopped to watch another Cooper’s hawk bathing in a rain puddle at the side of a quiet residential street.

Proof that one does not need to cross the globe to Africa—you can find the Wild where you are.

And so I give you, Yard Bunny, restored and appreciated:


Postscript: My husband Jonathan Hanson has long been writing about what he calls “Fractal Exploration”—you take smaller bites of the world, and examine them more closely. Here is an essay he wrote within the last few years about slow and deep travel: Fractal exploration …