One's priorities change over time. The inevitable and the unexpected, and the balance between wants and needs all come into play. Getting drafted in 1966 and suddenly moving from New Jersey to west Texas with our three children was jarring, yet eventful in a very positive way. We selected our El Paso rental home mostly because of its convenience to schools, work and shopping. The expansive blue sky and the mountainous backdrop were pleasant but not necessary. Likewise, our subsequent homes in New Orleans and Dallas were chosen with similar needs in mind.
after 27 years, when retirement approached and we were "empty nesters"
did we think about what we really wanted in a home. My love for the
southwest was an overwhelming consideration. For Mary Lou, proximity to
family was an equally important factor. On one of my business trips to
New Mexico I learned of a new subdivision under construction. In a
moment of free time I visited the site and called the number on the real
estate agent's sign. After a short visit I selected a home site and
called Mary Lou to seek her agreement on entering into a contract.
Despite her reluctance about the fact that I had not yet even set a
retirement date, I knew she shared my feelings about the region.
Besides, two of our children lived within a few hours drive, in Texas
New Mexico, living at 7,000 feet elevation, we had our mountains and
four seasons.The tremendously varied habitats provided great birding. Of
course, the nearest shopping centers and health care providers were
located twenty or more miles away, accessible only through a single
mountain pass that could be choked by a blizzard or a traffic accident.
After eleven years we reconsidered our priorities, and took the dramatic
step of moving to south Florida, to be near our younger daughter's
family. In lieu of mountains we wanted to look out over water. Eyes that
are fixed on a distant vanishing point are eyes at rest.
daughter actually selected our Florida home. We ratified her choice
and moved here in 2004. We had not yet sold our New Mexico home when,
three months later, her husband got a big promotion to Chicago and they
moved away with our two baby granddaughters! It took us two years to
make the weighty decision to purchase a second home in Illinois. We
hoped to balance our newly discovered love of mild Florida winters with
our need for family. Now the view was not an issue. We needed only a
"crash pad," a place to stay when it was hot and humid back in Florida.
We selected a town-home only two miles away from our daughter's house.
was a new unit, in one of the first of 36 buildings that were scheduled
to be part of a complex with homes for over 200 families. We knew that
subsequent construction would fill the surrounding open space and blot
our our view of the horizon. The housing crisis hit as the seventh
building was finished, and the developer was unable to complete the
project. Construction was put off indefinitely, and the land, the
equivalent of four or five city blocks around our condo, remained
undisturbed for six years. As it returned to an imperfect grassland, it
became an unexpected birding treasure. The above photo was taken in
2010, after the land had been healing for four years.
Thunder was usually the only ominous sound under the prairie skies.
but not unexpectedly, this week we also heard the roar of bulldozers as
the entire area was being cleared and graded. Time to stop and remember
how nice it was while it lasted.
Our front door provided an ideal vantage point for viewing birds that rested on the color-coded utility markers.
American Kestrels nested in one of the large trees along the main road.
Horned Larks built their nests early in the spring near our front doorstep.
Savannah Sparrows sang and defended their territories.
American Pipits visited during migration into winter.
At least one pair of Eastern Meadowlarks raised a family out in the largest open tract.
Red-winged Blackbirds shared a pothole with muskrats.
pile of construction rubble provided another high perch in the treeless
empty lot. We could drive around the corner and park, using the car as a
blind, and just wait for the next bird to occupy it. Lazy birding at
Spotted Sandpipers sang all spring. The area had room for several breeding pairs.
Song Sparrows visited and probably nested along the shrubby margins.
For the past two years, Vesper Sparrows serenaded from the roof of our condo and surely found nesting areas in the weeds near the old mound of topsoil left when the area was first cleared.
spring, melting snow and rain created roadside "fluddles" that
attracted other birds. The only photographic challenge was to park with
the sun at our back.
Solitary Sandpipers passed through during spring migration.
Sandhill Cranes brought their colts to feed in the field right near our doorstep.
Both Canada and the smaller Cackling Geese made use of the "floodles."
On one occasion, a "blue" Snow Goose paid a visit (photographed from inside an upstairs window).
A Great Blue Heron seemed to be hunting insects and possibly voles out in the fields.
Red-tailed Hawks roosted on streetlights over empty roadways.
Many Killdeer courted and raised their chicks every spring.
Along the far edge of the property, American Goldfinches, flowers and butterflies delighted us with their color...
I can mourn the loss, but cannot reverse progress, and will revel in remembrances of a plot of land no longer vacant.
Index of earlier ROSYFINCH RAMBLINGS posts