Igneous to Sedimentary

Almost a month ago I began my journey from the coast of Maine to my new home, Santa Fe, New Mexico, leaving behind the pink granite mountains I had come to know so well and moving towards the mysterious, warm hues of sedimentary mesas. My last hike in Acadia National Park, where I worked this spring, was on Sargent Mountain, one of my favorite places in the park and a mountaintop home to snowy owls in the winter and smooth green snakes in the warmer months. As I ascended Acadia’s mountains, the granite would scrape my palms, whereas the sandstone of the desert crumbles in my hands, leaving behind a rusty red dust.
Sargent Mountain, Bar Harbor, Maine
I spent my first week of work at the CLM workshop in Chicago and have subsequently been exploring the southwest. Our first week of work here included training and getting to know our new crew. Our crew headed to the Valles Caldera National Preserve for botanical training with southwest botanist, Steve Buckley. At Valles we saw coyotes running through grasslands following elk herds, prairie dogs on the alert, short horned lizards, and countless new and exciting native plants. On our way to and from Valles we encountered dramatic, expansive, red landscapes.
Sandstone Adventures II
Sandstone adventures during work
Botany training trip at the Valles Caldera National Preserve
Our first week of work also included our first couple of collections: baby aster and squirrel tail. The seeds of each species felt uniquely singular in my hands.
Baby Aster: first collection
This week we met with a few other BLM botanists and restoration ecologists and did some collecting and scouting. We worked in several different areas including the Perea Nature Trail, La Cieneguilla Petroglyphs, and the Santa Fe National Forest. Each place presented new and exciting learning opportunities due to my unfamiliarity with the ecology of this place. New Mexico also has very rich cultural and artistic undertones. Petroglyphs, murals, and art museums present opportunities to perceive New Mexico through the eyes of other artists, I am feeling inspired!
Petroglyphs at La Cieneguilla
Echinocereus triglochidiatus: one of my new plant friends in New Mexico.
This beautiful claret cup cactus, Echinocereus triglochidiatus, is one of my new favorite plants here in New Mexico.

That’s all for now.
Ella Samuel
BLM, Santa Fe, NM

Week at the Plant Materials Center

Being in Alaska with the Bureau of Land Management, I get a lot of questions about what I do. In truth, I do a lot of different tasks. As a part of my job, I work with other organizations such as the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Natural Heritage Program, the Anchorage Botanic Garden, and the Plant Materials Center in Palmer. This week, I’m at the Plant Materials Center (PMC for short), weeding the fields of native plants and prepping a greenhouse to withstand an onslaught of summertime insects.

Pioneer Peak in Palmer, Alaska overlooks the work done at the Plant Materials Center

Pioneer Peak in Palmer, Alaska overlooks the work done at the Plant Materials Center

The PMC receives wild collected native seeds, cleans and stores it, and then grows fields of needed species. This ensures that commercial growers receive enough seed to make a full crop, which can then be used for restoration operations. There simply isn’t enough wild seed to supply the demand of restoration efforts around mining operations and after wildfires. By growing the seed that Seeds of Success collects, much more seed is produced that can then jumpstart larger scale production.

A field of native plants grown from wild seed collections by the Bureau of Land Management

A field of native plants grown from wild seed collections by the Bureau of Land Management

I have been removing dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) and foxtail barley (Hordeum jubatum) from in between the rows of natives in one such field. The biggest issue with the weeds is that they can contaminate the native seed. As we collect the native seed, it’s possible to accidently pick up some of the weed seed, leading to a lot of issues with the cleaning and then use of that collection. There’s nothing quite as horrifying as seeding for native species and getting dandelions instead.

I’ve really enjoyed what time I’ve gotten to spend out at the PMC. Not only is the work engaging and worthwhile, the people are welcoming and generous. I feel extremely lucky to have this opportunity of working here. There’s also picturesque mountains in the background, which only adds to the experience.

Anchorage, Alaska Field Office, Bureau of Land Management

Hot and Hilly

After visiting Chicago two weeks ago, I really feel like I can put faces to at least some of the other blog posts. I’ll admit, after so many weeks of traveling and meeting different people at trainings this season, it made me exhausted to even think about trying to socialize with another large group of people for a week. However, it turned out to be a very easy thing to do. Which makes complete sense since all of us attending the workshop have so many things in common: working in the outdoors, being interns, trying to figure out our career paths, and in general being rather laid back individuals. There was always something that could be chatted about no matter who you were standing next to. The week was an enjoyable one. I had never been to Chicago before so I swooped in on several opportunities to visit downtown. While I don’t think I could ever personally live in a city of that magnitude, it was still really neat to get a sense of the atmosphere, culture, and diversity of people inhabiting it. Seeing the actual gardens was also a highlight. I visited a new section everyday and still didn’t see it all by the end of the week. Overall, I left Chicago with new friends, knowledge, and quite possibly a few extra pounds (the lunches were ridiculous right?)

After a rather relaxing week away, we jumped right back into the peak of the season here at the home front. Our focus is on the BLM parcels that are within areas that burned around the district in the past few years. Our project for right now is to survey an area called Okanogan, about 70 miles north of Wenatchee and pretty darn close to the Canada border. The fire burned a total of 219,306 acres, 16,506 of which is BLM land. Some of the parcels are clumped close together, making it easy to travel from one to the other, while others are rather scattered and require extra travel. And then some are completely landlocked by private property making accessibility a bit of a doozy. We’ve only checked out a handful in the past 2 weeks and will need to organize the rest of them based on how easy they are to get to. The actual surveying for weeds part is the easy piece of the puzzle, getting to where we need to be is the difficult part I’ve come to discover. However, as the title of this post suggests, the areas we do manage to get to are sometimes quite steep. Let’s just say I’ve upgraded from the stair master to the hill master. But I absolutely love it and wouldn’t want it any other way. While observing and mapping weeds can get somewhat repetitive, the change in terrain really makes this job a lot of fun.

We camped for work the first time this week since we would be spending half the day driving every time we went out to this particular area. Other than the 2 dozen or so mosquito bites it was quite nice. No matter how hot it gets during the day it always cools down to a very comfortable temperature in the evening. And sleeping under the stars is always a plus. It’s going to take a few weeks to complete this one area so more camping is to come! 🙂 And more deet is to come as well! (though I suppose I should find an alternative…)


June Summary – Chau

I jumped back to work after the workshop ended where I had an amazing time. We had planned on having the Youth Conservation Crew come down to the Cosumnes River Preserve on the 20th. I would be the person in charge of supervising the YCC crew. The crew consisted of Jose, Ausbon, Thor, Diana, and Alicia. During that week, I had trained the crew regarding safety, tool use, and a couple of other things.

We went on a tour of the preserve and talked about precautions such as snakes, ticks, dehydration, and etc. They were exposed to some of the flora and fauna at the preserve. We saw valley oaks, turkey vultures, Oregon ash, coyotes, and several different types of habitats. We talked about different projects that the preserve is involved with (waterfowl survey, raptor survey, methyl mercury with USGS, and database management).

The crew was also trained on tool use and the associated personal protective equipment. We also talked about being cautions about fires and ways to prevent and control fire if we see one on the preserve. They were also introduced to many of the staff members, some of which were kind of enough to spend time with them and gave them additional advice on staying safe in the field.

After their training, the crew went around sites within the preserve that needed maintenance. They first worked on trail maintenance using weed eaters, rakes, and leaf blowers. We also controlled vegetation around structures such as pumps, valves, and water control structures (where pond water escapes). Some members of the crew went to prep for rip rap work where they had to use a sledge hammer to break apart concrete blocks. Towards the end of the week, we took four canoes out to the Cosumnes River and paddled around. Two of them fell in, had to jump in after them to fish their boat out. It was a fun week with the crew. They were great to work with since they were all smart and hard working students.

After the week with the YCC crew ended, I worked on the mountain lion project. We had to drive to various locations with cameras and retrieve memory cards with the pictures taken. On that same day, Perry (one of our amazing volunteers and also my classmate) and I worked on chores around the preserve. We cleaned up the storage site for our boxes trying to get ready for the move to another office. We fixed one of the doors near the storage site and removed graffiti. We also trimmed some vegetation along one of our amazing trails called the Tall Forest for the mountain lion team.

I was able to do some water work, which involved managing the water levels within brood ponds in our wetlands. I ran the pump and also altered the flow rate around our water control structures. As instructed, we again assisted with the moving process in addition to some trail work.

Went out today to Bjelland and we monitored the water level of the pond for the giant garter snake. We also did an assessment of the yellow star thistle population after applying the herbicide treatment. Another thing we are trying to do is map out the remaining population of yellow star thistle after a prescribed burn that occurred on Horseshoe Lake. This species is pretty amazing. Even after the fire, we still notice at least 25% of their population came back.


Rambling Woman

Phew, what a crazy busy two and a half weeks it’s been!  The CLM training at the Chicago Botanic Garden was wonderful.  After a full week of learning from all different types of people that are associated with native seed, I became wholly inspired, and more importantly, empowered.  Empowered by knowledge.  For example, now when someone asks me what I do and the usual follow up question why, I can answer them like I actually know what I’m talking about…Score!


Me and Laura Holloway enjoying the Japanese Botanic Garden in CBG


Best Italian sub in the World, Chicago


Oh yea, plants, Orchid in the tropical green house of CBG


Oh yea, plants, Orchid in the tropical green house of CBG

After coming back into Portland, OR late on Sunday evening, whoops, maybe Chicago just did not want to see me go too soon…. I spent a day and a half in Portland waiting to catch the Bolt Bus up to Seattle, WA for a Grass Identification class.  The class was held at the University of Washington and Discovery Park for 3 days.  I, of course, waited until the last minute to book a hotel.  Therefore, none were available under $200, so it was the hostel life for me.  At this point, I am 11 nights without sleeping with personal space.

The Grass workshop was Poaceae Botany Bootcamp.  We learned the anatomy of grasses as well as their implications for management as invasives and restoration species.  We also learned that humans planting grasses as cereal grains basically attributed to the advent of human civilization.  Now I know why I love cereal so much (instinctual, maybe?).  One of the many goals of the class was to come out able to field ID 25 genera, um, I got a couple down, but let’s just say, I’m glad there was not a test.  Also, now I am excited to collect many grass seeds for SOS.  There is that empowerment by knowledge again.IMG_0248IMG_0258


Bolt bus took my back to Portland, OR for a long 5 hours trip; in traffic for 21/2 of them.  Apparently, President Obama was flying into Seattle, so they closed down the freeway.  I mean, I get he’s kinda a big deal, but torturing thousands of people that just wanna go home on a Friday evening?, No one is that important.  Anyway, I stayed the weekend in Portland (I could not miss the World Naked Bike ride this past Saturday).  By Sunday, I have not slept in personal space for 15 days!  Sunday afternoon I drove back to Tillamook.  Unfortunately, pack rats moved into my place while I was out and colonized 2 drawers and a cabinet, leaving only carnage behind (what I do to feel like a mountain woman, sigh).  I am lying, falling asleep in my own bed, in my own room, in my own apartment and I open my eyes to look around because in sleepy fog, I forgot where I was.


I come back to find my Frye boots and Teva Sandals rigged apart with rat poopies ornamenting the crime scene.

Today, Wednesday 29, I went to another training in Lowell OR, and learned how to use Plant Associations.  Assessing where groups of plants grow gives us clues about the type of environment (ie climate, soil, and topography) and vis versa of a particular site.  When assigning plant associations one studies a plot of land 1/10th of acre in size and surmises what type of micro ecosystem and environment is present.  These associations help agencies make informed land management decisions dealing with tribal contributions, timber (resource) extraction, as well as foraging ground.  The only reason I could write this paragraph is because today I became empowered by this knowledge.


USFS and BLM employees from all different departments coming together to learn about plants

Thank you CLM and BLM for encouraging training and education in what I find most interesting.  After my 2 1/2 weeks in 4 different cities, I will be delighted to return to the field to apply my newfound knowledge and skills.



Two tracks

At the bottom of a valley along a river were multiple survey points that were next on our priority list. We could see that the area was very green and wet, distinct from the many sites we had previously visited. Determined to reach the Great Valley, we took the only two-track we could find in the direction we wanted to go — down. The descent was an uneasy one, to say the least, with extremely uneven and rocky terrain. I continued to realize new limits of the truck (limits you do not want to go out of your way to try to test). Oh, what a great feeling it was when the truck was finally parallel to the horizon. It was one of those roads that you went down with no intention (or possibility) of climbing back up. “We will find another way out of this valley, for sure,” I reassured Maria. She was hesitant to believe my naive optimism, an unfortunate foreshadowing of what was to come later.

On the brighter side, the valley was everything I would have hoped it to be and more. It was a beautiful wetland, with a slow moving stream and flooded grasslands; an oasis for insects, amphibians, and many interesting and unique flora that we do not usually get to see in the sage.


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The winds picked up and I felt a sudden cool down, you know that, “oh, there’s a storm brewin’ feelin'” ? I looked up to find a large mass of dark clouds headed our way. We wrapped up our current survey and headed back to the truck. Come to find out, all of the two tracks that had appeared promising were on the other side of the stream, a winding stream with banks too steep and too wet to drive over. In addition to the stream, there were deep canyons that ran through the landscape like the way a small crack in your windshield soon spreads and expands in unpredictable ways. Without a two-track in site that was reachable, we knew we would have to “off-road” it for a while. The vegetation was thick and made it difficult to see what was ahead or beneath us. The soil was damp, alkaline sand. It was about an hour and a half of driving a few meters, stopping, getting out of the car, walking to see if it was “do-able,” realizing it is not, walking to find a new route around or through it, repeat. When we at last reached a track that headed up and out of the valley, relief and pride energized us both. I couldn’t help but to burst out with laughter.   “Two-tracks” was a foreign concept to me when I first arrived; little did I know that the mere sight of one would feel like winning a championship game.

It was hard to believe that we pulled that one off without getting stuck. Gaining new skills every day.



Amphibians and AIM and everything in between

I remember reading through the CLM blog after submitting an application, feeling very curious and eager to imagine what my life could look like in just a few months. And I also remember trying to de-code all of the acronyms people were using and figure out what it was that they were doing, as I had never worked for a government agency and was fresh out of undergrad.


running transects through a greasewood dominant plot

AIM (Assessment, Inventory and Monitoring) is a method that the BLM is now using to monitor natural resources, make better management decisions, and contribute to long-term monitoring of the land and the vegetation that occupies it.

In a nutshell: At each site, three 25-meter transects run in different directions from a central point. At multiple points along those transects, many measurements are taken such as soil stability and canopy gaps. Species richness is calculated for the site, and a 1-meter deep pit is dug to determine the composition of the horizons, the soil’s texture and color. Knowing the common species of plants in your area makes it go a lot faster, but even then, each site takes the crew about 2.5 hours, sometimes 3 (depending on how easy it is to navigate to the site). I enjoy going out with them to AIM and am starting to recognize most common species; my appreciation and admiration for both the botanists and the plants they study has grown immensely.


my co-interns valiantly opening and closing all gates as we pass through

As the office is pressed for time to get all sites surveyed, we get the chance to help out as much as we can, even if it is just to help record data. For the most part, however, the two other wildlife interns and I are focussing on our amphibian project. We have over 200 locations that we need to navigate to and assess the quality/suitability of the habitat. Finding the locations is the most time consuming part, but also the most adventurous and fun.This need for navigation has led to daily practice with GIS/GPS software, a great skill to take with you wherever you go. Also, we are now all experts in barbed-wire fence climbing, two-track finding and gate-opening, other useful skills to have in life, certainly. IMG_1694

Often the sites we survey are stock ponds, but when we are lucky, we get to trek through stream beds and river banks searching for any life form of amphibians: egg masses, tadpoles, metamorphs, and adults. Before this internship, I did not have a lot of experience with amphibians (other than hunting for them and keeping them as pets as a kid), but have since enjoyed the opportunity to thoroughly research the biology and life history of these organisms. It’s always an exciting day when we find frogs.

Nearly all of the frogs that we have found thus far are Boreal Chorus Frogs (Pseudacris maculata). Just two days ago, my co-intern Lara found the first (what we think) Boreal Toad! It was a juvenile which made it more difficult to identify, but the red spots appear to be indicative of the western boreal (Anaxyrus boreas). Miles from any permanent source of water or forested area, we found this toad to be quite the enigma as they are generally absent from dry, shrub-steppe habitat.

In addition to the amphibians, there is undoubtedly something new to see and discover each day. Knowing this has continued to fuel a sense of wonder and curiosity, as well as eagerness to wake up and go into work each morning.

We’ve also had opportunities to participate with other spontaneous and miscellaneous projects. One of the Biologists that works permanently at the Pinedale field office, Teresa, invited us to help set up bluebird houses with the local 10th grade class. I loved the chance to interact with the community and to share some cool facts about bluebirds with the students. They all seemed eager and excited to be there, which was great to see and a blast to be a part of.


SOS!…….Help, with the SOS Collections

Hoping that everyone is having a wonderful summer so far!

Being stationed at the BLM in Salmon, ID as the first CLM interns in the office means that everyone is just as lost in the protocol for SOS as we are. While the workshop at the gardens helped to ease some of the confusion, going out for our first time to collect with no one but ourselves seemed like a daunting task.

Luckily the week before the workshop we went on a tour of our field office with the Idaho State Botanist, Ann DeBolt and we mentioned to her that part of our internship was to do SOS collections. She thought it was great that we were able to help out with the program. We told her that we were a little weary of starting the collections, and she had the brilliant idea to send us help.

Dick and Sandy are retirees that have been working with the SOS program in Boise, for 6 years and counting. Both have had a lifelong affair with nature. Dick worked for his whole career in the Forest Service, and Sandy’s career has been as a Botanist. Needless to say, they really know their plants. Thankfully they were able to drive up to Salmon, and stay for a few days to help us do collections.


With their knowledge we were able to do four collections in just 2 days, and on top of that they scouted out several other sites with in our field office that would make prime collection sites. They filled the day with tips on pressing plants, soil testing, and specimen collections, they entertained us with delightful stories about their time in Idaho and their time working in the government. And their trusty side kick Casey the golden retriever gave us some much needed dog snuggles.

With their help we are now much more confident with our SOS skills, and I fully believe that this summer would not go as smoothly if it wasn’t for their initial guidance and help. Thanks again guys!

Happy collecting everyone!


Sierra Sampson

BLM- Salmon, ID

Lessons in Optimism

Hello from New England! I am one of the Seeds of Success interns, based out of Garden in the Woods in Massachusetts, and doing seed collection on the New England coast. I’m having a fantastic time with my team and learning so much! For those of you just tuning in, here’s a little background of what we are doing: The seeds we collect will be sent to storage facilities and propagators to grow them, and eventually the plants from these seeds will be used as part of coastal restoration projects (many in areas damaged by Hurricane Sandy). By collecting seeds from large populations near the sites that will use these plants, we aim to give these projects plants that are both genetically diverse, but also representative of local genotypes and are adapted to local environmental conditions. However as it is still too early in the season, we haven’t done any seed collecting yet. Most of our time this past month has been spent learning and studying plants, and scouting out sites for future collections. We have also met with a few project managers at restoration project sites, where plants grown from our seed collections will be used. This has been an extremely valuable part of my learning experience in the internship in order to see the bigger picture of the impact our seed collection will make, and where we fit in to the whole process.

Our view while eating breakfast on our way to Stonington, CT last week. We've had a meal with a view like this almost every day in the field so far!

Our view while eating breakfast on our way to Stonington, CT last week. We’ve had a meal with a view like this almost every day in the field so far!

I especially got a lot out of our visit to a site in Stonington, CT last week. After camping over in Rhode Island last Thursday, we packed up our campsite Friday morning, grabbed some bagels, and headed to the site (not without getting slightly lost along the way of course) to meet a woman named Beth. We pulled onto a side street in an adorable little town, and were quickly met by a rocky coast heading into the water on the right. On the left, surrounded by a few houses, was the site – a sort of empty, muddy pit. The outer edges contained the typical plant life you would expect to see near the coast, however any sign of life dropped off immediately at the center of the pit.

Right side of the site - notice the distinct lack of vegetation in the center.

Right side of the site – notice the distinct lack of vegetation in the center.

The left side of the site - notice how the vegetation suddenly drops off...

The left side of the site – notice how the vegetation suddenly drops off…

Beth greeted us with a huge smile, and excitedly shared about the work she and her coworkers had been doing here. As she explained the history and ecology of the site, a daunting list of hurdles became evident:
– Problem 1: Before it was a residential community, the area was composed of many factories, including a pottery factory right on the site, which had burned down in the 1950s.
– Problem 2: After the fire, site filled in with invasive Phragmites.
– Problem 3: During strong tides, the waves came over the wall of the pit and filled it with ocean water. Having no way to retreat back to the ocean, the water evaporates, concentrating the salt into the soil.
– Problem 4: Due to the increase in development and housing, fresh water drained in from neighboring streets began to also seep in to the site.
– Problem 5: October 2012, Hurricane Sandy greatly impacted the area. However, with the hurricane came more funding to restore coastal habitat. The DEP began taking care of the Phragmites with mowing and herbiciding cycle.
– Problem 6: While the removal of the Phragmites was rather successful, the mowing and digging led to very compacted soil.
– Problem 7: After most of the Phragmites was removed, they received a grant to plant native plants at the site. They chose plants that were ideal for that kind of harsh coastal habitat, yet for some reason, these plants immediately and very drastically died. Soil tests revealed one of the main impacts of Problem 1 from the factories – the soil had very high lead content.

Healthy patches of Solidago sempervirens (seaside goldenrod) along the edge of the site. This is a common coastal plant that is normally very hearty.

Healthy patches of Solidago sempervirens (seaside goldenrod) along the edge of the site.


A very unhappy Solidago sempervirens, less than a foot away from the healthy patch in the picture above. This is a common coastal plant that normally can withstand very aggressive conditions.

Just when it seemed like Beth and her team were making progress, they were catapulted back to square 1. Essentially, they needed to find several plants that would grow well in soil with high salt content, freshwater as well as tidal influx, salt spray off the ocean, high lead content, and compacted soil – not to mention the very particular aesthetic of the neighbors that needed to be satisfied. Budgets and grants also had to be considered… If anyone reading this knows where we can find magical super-plants that meet all of these requirements, please let us know. You may become a millionaire. Or at least be crowned King/Queen of Conservation. In the meantime, Beth has been planting plugs of the grass Spartina patens, and has had some moderate success. Yet to top it all off, the local crows have decided to start a game with Beth and began pulling up the plugs and dropping them a few feet away to dry out in the sun.

Some of the planted plugs of Spartina patens doing well, closer to the coast line.

Some of the planted plugs of Spartina patens doing well, closer to the coast line.

I need to pause here to appreciate Beth’s optimism. As if this site wasn’t already a seemingly complete disaster with no straight answer to bring it back to a healthy ecosystem, the crows pulling out the plugs was just the icing on the cake. I know if it were me, that would have tipped me over the edge. However Beth saw this as just another piece of the puzzle to be solved.

Pile of plugs we collected. After we left, Beth took these all back to her house to water them and soak them in a nutrient solution. She planned to plant them in deeper the next day to hopefully prevent the crows from pulling them up again.

Pile of Spartina patens plugs we collected. After we left, Beth took these all back to her house to water them and soak them in a nutrient solution. She planned to plant them in deeper the next day to hopefully prevent the crows from pulling them up again.

Near the end of our time with Beth, we helped her pick up the Spartina plugs scattered by the crows. As we gently gathered the plugs one by one, I looked around at the site and felt what I’m sure is a piece of what keeps Beth going at this site. When you are in the mundane of work like that, it is sometimes hard to remember why you are there in the first place. Yet with the perspective that your work is a small thread connected to other small threads, working and weaving together to create a tapestry of something bigger than ourselves, your purpose becomes clear. Conservation is one of those fields that requires extreme, almost illogical optimism, and a willingness to fight for something that you may not see the end result of in your lifetime. I am grateful to have seen this perspective in action, and hope to apply it to the rest of my field season.

Signing off with peace, love, and lots of plants,

Krista Heilmann

Seeds of Success Intern

New England Wild Flower Society, Framingham, MA

The Desert Lessons

A few days I ago I was making the long morning drive to Needles, and I passed a coyote walking down the side of the road. It was shortly after 6am and slightly under 100F, a quiet morning of sun and highway. He barely flinched as I drove past him pushing 60, like he knew I was there to just pass by.

It’s hot here in the Mojave. We love to talk about it. You know when you’re baking and you open the oven? The feeling of the heat rushing over your face and arms? It’s a little like that. It’s astonishing, and only harsh in the forgivable kind of way.
Some days we drive two, three hours to our field site. Those days, emerging from air-conditioning and drive-induced daydreams, the hot desert wind goes right through me. Like it sees all the other places my mind goes, and it wants to ground me. It works, mostly. It’s humbling, and I’m thankful.
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The creosote blooms, and fruits, and blooms again. Soon the monsoon season will be upon us, meeting the desert with an abounding sizzle.

Occasionally I like to read the horoscopes over on the Toast. They’re always peaceful and inspiring, and they help me zoom out and see the bigger picture. Here is a chunk of mine from June: Think how lucky we are: life is vast, on a scale we cannot imagine, but it isn’t infinite. These summer days might stretch out as far as you can see, but you don’t have to do everything there is to do in this world. You don’t have to be everything to everyone; you don’t even have to be everything to yourself.
I think I’m in the middle of learning a lot of lessons, but I’m still in that milky stage where I feel as if I’m falling short. But then: you don’t have to be everything to everyone. You don’t even have to be everything to the desert.
You can only live your own life, strange and specific and sweet.
So, I zoom out. I see the the vast expanse of creosote, the unrelenting yet forgivable heat, and the extraordinary life that grows here. I see a lot of heart. I think about all the thousands of years of these cycles, of the creosote blooming and fruiting and blooming and sizzle. And I think about that coyote, who saw all along that I’m just passing through.
Kate Sinnott
Sensitive & Invasive Plant Monitoring Intern
Needles Field Office
Bureau of Land Management