Excerpts From the Prairie

This summer, a dozen writers — including Savannah Naffziger, our AmeriCorps marketing specialist — packed up their notebooks, pens and sleeping bags and headed out for a week on the Conservancy’s Zumwalt Prairie Preserve.

There, led by Fishtrap, a local non-profit, participants wrote fiction, poetry and memoir by hand and under the stars. Writers were generous enough to share with us some of their work, and we thought you’d enjoy reading these three.

The last writing session was a chain poem (also known as an “exquisite corpse”) where each person wrote a line or two about the Zumwalt, on a piece of paper that was passed around the circle, folded over so that previous contributions were not visible. This is the group’s result:

Zumwalt Prairie: chain poem

My pen praises the prairie, pressing down.
Creator of loneliness when back around
people. Open space for the unimagined, the nothing
and everything of dust, for lilies with butterfly petals.
Grass-wind dance where creature-speak travels far
on warm wings. And to that green prairie where my best
dreams take me, there are coyote, elk and lark who have been
waiting. On hands and knees, smell the spicy, sweet bee balm,
touch the delicacy of the mauve-eyed Mariposa lily. Feel the warm
earth breathe. I am but a small speck on the vastness of the Zumwalt
as it slowly seeps into my soul and inspires my heart. Watch
the Zumwalt’s pink-rose bouquet of dawn transform itself
into a clear or cloudy marble every day, stare, watch it bake
and split open with cracks of thunder and flashes of white and hot pink light.
Elk herd, one hundred fifty strong, cows, calves, five magnificent bulls,
running, heads held high, whistling. The endless rolling plateau, bare
of tree and shade, revealing all to nourish wandering souls.

Lyra, one of three interns who worked with Fishtrap this year, worked the writing workshop. In between helping pitch tents and cook, she also wrote some poetry and prose.

I Would Share This with You
by Lyra Dalton

I want to tell you of the things I’ve done. I want to transcribe on paper lying out under the universe, open like a book above my head, ancient points of light shining into brand new eyes. I want to tell you of lying among the grasses in a warm wind, sleeping bag half unzipped so that it plays across my body. I want you to hear the crickets on their tiny violins and smell the sweet grass-earth smell of the prairie. Something cheeps in the darkness, a sparrow settling into a sleeping position in the nest. Then coyotes, a band of them yipping and calling to the night sky, somewhere off in the distance. I turn my face to the wind and let it brush across my cheeks, play across my eyelashes. A great awareness of sight and sound and touch settles over me. How do I share this with you? The air around me is heavy and fragrant with the smell bunchgrass, lupine, fescue and dirt. Excitement, wonder, curiosity and fear all bubble beneath my skin and I wonder how one can ever fall asleep under a sky like this? How have I ever fallen asleep under this sky? I want to share this with you but my mind can only spit words and not this feeling. If I were to reach out to you, take your hands in mine, maybe then I could pour this feeling like water through my palms, through my cells, the smallest parts that make me whole, and into you. Maybe not. Maybe the only way to share this feeling is to lay out here with you until our heartbeats find the same cosmic rhythm, holding hands against the darkness and finding that our souls align. Maybe you already know this feeling. But I would like to listen to the breathing of the night with you. I would like to share it with you.

The last piece was inspired by an artifact from the first day’s writing prompt: A running shoe with mud stuck in it.

by Jolie B. Kaytes

I run on ground pocked
by paw, hooves, tire, storm,
moving imprints across what seems
the soil still sweating with dew,
what do I pick up from the recent thunder,
what do I pick up through motion?
bright dawn of pink petals,
shimmery wisps of grass,
puddles of sky,
seeds and dreams. 

Protect What You Love

Forests, Rivers, Lakes, Mountains and the Ocean—they're what make Oregon great. 

Ashland Watershed


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