J.B. MacKinnon, Orion
Art: Bobby Neel Adams
Of all the feelings said to sweep over us in wild places—awe, peace, a sense of the divine—there are a few that rarely get mentioned. My last two-week trip into the woods, for example, was frankly depressing. The year had been a cold one, and the forest was not its usual refulgent self. A black bear was hanging around, skinny and sickly from the bad berry crop and probably bound for death by starvation in its winter den. Pink salmon had just begun to spawn in a nearby creek, where their battered bodies were a reminder of the grand cycle of life, yes, but were also an intimately dismal spectacle. Then I discovered a colony of bats, the year’s pups just learning to fly. Not a lot is known about the mortality rate of bats in this fledgling period, but I am inclined to predict it is high. The little ones peeped fearfully before their maiden flights, and with good reason—I watched several crash into the tall grass, unlikely ever to make it home again. They might, at least, make easy meals for the garter snake I saw that had somehow lost half its face.