Lessons from Nature: How to Survive

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I visited the Badlands National Park in South Dakota. It was Spring, and I was on a solo-trip to Montana.

Surprisingly, the park had very few visitors that day. I was alone.

I drove, I parked, and I walked, and all  the while I listened to the silence that echoed throughout the Hills.. The wind whistled on occasion. It played a tune to court my thoughts and together they danced.

They waltzed me to the middle of the road and there I lie between the yellow lines, outstretched and alone with the wind and my thoughts.

It was freeing and invigorating because who does that? Who lies in the road not to die but to live?

The pads of my fingertips clung to the pavement like a prairie vole to the grass as its gripped by the talons of a hawk.

I wanted to survive life. To see how its done. To take notes from those who do it well.

There I lay, taking lessons from the buttes and the spires—to change form over time, To rise from violent movement beneath them only to erode and to rise again. They knew how to survive.

By this time, my thoughts turned to a sound. I lifted my upper body and sat still to listen more closely. It was the sound of horse hooves on pavement. 

I stood tall and looked around the bend. They came toward me. Slowly. Four maybe five, one behind the other atop the painted  yellow lines in the road. But they weren’t horses. They were bighorn sheep, young rams and ewes.

They stopped all at once when they saw me. We exchanged glances and it was decided that it would be me who step off the yellow line to allow them to pass comfortably.

Each ewe led her young around me. I watched curiously as did they. I imagined each lowering her head in a nod as she passed, nodding in return.

Another lesson was learned that day.

Even bighorn sheep come down from the safety of their steep cliffs and ledges, exposing themselves to the dangers of the environment, to survive.