This summer, I was chosen by the Bureau of Land Management as the 2019 Artist-in-Residence for the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area (NCA).
The NCA contains the largest concentration of nesting raptors in North America, and one of the largest concentrations of nesting prairie falcons in the world. It also boasts the highest recorded density of ground squirrels, which is why so many raptors nest there.
For the residency, I wrote poetry about the sagebrush steppe ecosystem along the Snake River and the birds of prey that live there.
It was a normal day of camp. The first day actually. Half a dozen third and forth graders were bent over a picture of my mother in her serious Twiggy years as a teenager.
Their task was to invent a character portrait for the woman in the photo, and they were doing a typical job of it.
Already they had decided:
- She had one neon green eye and one neon gray eye which both glowed in the dark as she slept in her red velvet bedroom.
- She was a professional murderer who invited people over to tea only to stab them when they were not looking.
- She ate chocolate covered crickets, blood crickets, and human finger cheese.
This is when things got weird. They also decided:
- She lived in a decrepit, old mansion haunted by a friendly ghost named Hari Cari and an evil, haunted doll named Annabelle.
That is when things changed, though we did not know it at first.
Earlier this summer, the kids in one of the creative writing camps I teach through The Cabin Idaho (a Boise-based literary center) came up with an imaginary troll named Evil Knievel that haunts the tiny, hobbit-looking supply closet in one of the classrooms there.
It’s a total hobbit hole, only rectangular.
Naturally, after the kids had invented it, they wanted to feed it.
So they started drawing pictures of food and slipping them under the door for the troll.
The Cabin Idaho asked me to teach a writing camp for kids this summer in conjunction with The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey. Yesterday afternoon I and two awesome Cabin staff (Katie & Ashley) met with the education coordinator at the center for a tour and planning session.
I mentioned that I found the book A Feathered River Across The Sky about the extinction of the passenger pigeon deeply moving and was planning a writing activity around passenger pigeons and other extinct bird species.
The education coordinator mentioned that though they deal primarily with birds of prey, they had a passenger pigeon in their specimen collection.
Naturally, I got super excited when he mentioned that we also might be able to swing by the specimen collection to view it.