Rewilding My Borrowed Space
It’s like Christmas or a birthday, this waiting. The anticipation of knowing something — gifts — are coming. Except these are gifts of my choosing, and they are not for me alone.
My backyard has been in a state of rebuilding — a rewilding project on the tiniest scale — for several years. The landscape association doesn’t have authority over our backyards. I have big plans for my small native place. The unceded land of the Nuwuvi, the Southern Paiutes, descendants of the Tudinu, or Desert People, who have lived along the Colorado River since 1100 A.D. I steward the corner of it I dwell on the best I can.
I spent several weeks recently in spaces where the wilderness remains strong, only lightly touched by humans. It could easily overtake the yards and homes bordering it, and in many places, has. That abundance of and closeness to the wild is a privilege and a responsibility. Most of those living near such spaces take the responsibility seriously.
With concrete walls and streets segregating each patch of open space in my neighborhood, only the birds can make use of these tiny oases as though it were a single expanse. Lizards can roam through a few connected yards. So too the desert squirrel. It’s something, I suppose, but there’s no space for the tortoise, roadrunner, or hare.
A few years ago I had to stop in an intersection because a coyote stood there, bewildered, threatened, trapped in a suburban maze. It bolted south, which, at the time, was the best choice. The quickest path to wide open spaces where burrows and bighorn sheep still forage. The edges of those spaces have retreated, and I doubt today that coyote would find them.
I need the proximity of wilderness. I am connected to and alive in the world when I can see a new side of nature each day. So I bought gifts for myself and the land, and the creatures who can inhabit it. I ordered plants and seeds to fill the landscape. Native desert willow and local wildflowers. I’m aware of the perversity that I had to order these from companies that are not local. That carbon had to be spent to get them to the place they belong. But the truth is, the local nursery doesn’t carry them. I will visit that nursery again and comb through what they have, but mostly, what fits their definition of native is anything that might grow in a three state circumference.
But that’s not what I seek. My gifts are to the pollinators flitting over my eighth of an acre. To the lizards hiding in my walls. To myself so that I may know what I see belongs here. My house and neighborhood disrupted this landscape, but I can offer a small healing of some of those scars.
I’m the author of the novel At the End of the World and the poetry collection An Important Sky. My short fiction and poetry have appeared in Translunar Travelers Lounge, Star*Line, and others. I’m also co-host of The Time is Right: Living a Creative Life podcast. You can learn more at kevinjfellows.com