By Rebecca Wildbear

My tent was ripped to shreds by the wind on the first night. I slept in my car, but the wind pried unabashedly at my heart for days. It grew colder. One morning I awoke to a white landscape, later melted by the midday sun.

The sagebrush pulled me close, less than thirty yards from my car. Its sweet scent nourished me as tears began to fall. A grief I had pushed down for so long was unleashed. Falling in love with a place slated to be destroyed invited terror inside me. Visions arose of the landscape replaced by bulldozers, chemicals, lights. With my hand wrapped around a sagebrush branch, I trembled and wept.

“What can I do?” I asked the land.

“This,” I heard.

Wiping snot from my nose, I breathed between sobs.

A meadowlark came close. He sang in my ear. Surprised and deeply touched, I cried more. His melody was exquisite. I listened and waited. He sang it again and again. The beauty of his sound mingled with my grief, making it bearable.

“Thank you,” I said.

“Keep singing,” his words arose inside me.

Watching the sun fade through the clouds, his song grew faint. I got up to search for him and found him singing with another meadowlark in a call and response. Perched atop a tall sagebrush, his yellow breast shone brightly. A ray of sunlight, shooting through the clouds, landed on him as his wings flapped in a splendid show. Soon, the two flew off together.

My tears continued in the following days and weeks of living on this mountainside. Meadowlarks and other birds returned each day. Their songs sustained me. The sagebrush desert carpeting the mountain was covered with tiny Mormon crickets. A friend’s two-year old boy watched them with glee, following them as they jumped.

“This place is healing,” his mom said over breakfast.

My heart was mending by breaking and then stitching itself back together as strangers became friends. Those who show up to protect this mountain are becoming a community, a row house of cars—sharing meals, stories, dreams.

Photo by Max Wilbert