Sunday, August 7, 2011

Guest post: From NYC to cowboy country

A guest post from my sister Lisa. Last summer, she wrote in from Costa Rica, and now she writes from Oregon, where she is a botanist for the Bureau of Land Management and spends her days looking and identifying plants: finding "special status species," assessing recovery following wildfires, determining the sustainability of livestock grazing activities, and collecting seeds for restoration projects. I'll get to see some of this in person, since I'm planning a trip to Oregon next month!

Just a typical workday landscape!

Cattle drive on the way to Bend

After two and a half years in NYC, I got a job in the high desert ecosystems of central-south Oregon, in a town of 2,000 people. In a little over two months, I’ve had more sunny days, more adventures, more fun and more excitement then I did in those two and a half years. (Sorry NYC! Maybe I’m just the right type of person for this landscape, where there are only about 4 million people in the whole state, while Julia is the right type for the place with 8+ million people right next door.)

Drake Park in Bend

At first, driving 1.5 hours to my field site every day past endless mountains, plains and mesas of sagebrush was unsettling and uncomfortable, strange and not really very exciting. Some switch went off about a month in, and the fullness of my love for this new place ignited. Cowboys, horses, cows, eagles, badgers, antelope, bighorn sheep, hawks, sandhill cranes, burros (the list goes on) are commonplace. There is so much quiet here. So many stars. The first day I got into town, I went to the grocery store, and people I didn’t know said hello to me.

Live Blues out in the sunshine behind Deschutes Brewpub

The places I work have epic names and for epic reasons: Crack-in-the-Ground (facilitated by an earthquake), The Lost Forest (a mysterious ponderosa pine forest in the middle of the desert). I spend hours every day listening to wind through trees and birds talking to each other, examining the intricacies and diversity in this seemingly homogenous set of ecosystems.

Crater Lake (12 feet of snow in mid June!)

Along the way, I’ve also fallen in love with Oregon in its entirety. Trips to Crater Lake, Bend, Eugene, and most recently a trip (yesterday) where I ran a 10k up the Steens Mountains from an elevation of 7,800 to 9,700 feet (my favorite activity by far) have breathed so much excitement and relaxation into my life simultaneously. Whereas the awkwardness and clamour of NYC filled me with a lot of anxiety that I thought would never go away, I feel like I become progressively less anxious-prone every day here. Plus, local craft beer costs less than Corona (about $6 a six-pack). In sum: beer, friends, friendly people, dogs and horses, eagles and quails, sky and ground, love and life.

At the top of the Black Cap Butte (6500 feet) overlooking Lakeview

Steens Mts east rim at the race finish


  1. lovely post and pictures! i agree, although bustle can be fun, people saying hi to you at the grocery store is more fun for me :)
    Also- wow on crater lake!!! :)

  2. so glad to see more posts on Color Me Green! :)

    i go back and forth between feeling like an 8+ Million type of girl and a wide open spaces type of girl. but not an in between type of girl.

  3. very married - thanks, i'm finally getting it together to start getting these posts out of my head into the blogosphere.