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Last week I helped with another field trip out at the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve. This experience was entirely different from last week’s rainy day program. We had hot sun all day, and we saw many birds, including kestrels, swallows, and red winged blackbirds. Ann lead our group of ten children and told them all about the preserve and the plants and animals that live there. I was impressed with how well-behaved the Fourth Graders were. As we took the mile-long walk on the boardwalk that winds through one small part of the 4.000 acres, the children stopped to examine duckweed, threesquare bulrushes, and other plants that thrive in the wet, nutrient-rich soil of the marshland. At the large migration exhibit, we read about the different shorebirds that migrate long distances to come here every year. Ann played recordings of the migrating birds’ calls. I wondered what it would be like to be a migratory bird, flying every year back and forth, unerringly finding your way back to your summer and winter homes. What would it be like to feel a call so strong that it cannot be ignored, that in the end must simply be obeyed?
As we walked along, one small boy told me that he would like to come and see the preserve one more time, because in another month his family was moving to New Zealand. Although flushed and tired from the sun, he chattered with me, telling me all about the upcoming move and the facts he had learned about New Zealand. He would miss his home here, but he had heard that New Zealand was green and beautiful. He hoped he would make new friends there. He was old enough to know that there was no point complaining about what he would leave behind or his fears about the unknown life ahead of him. The day would come, and he and his family would take wing and go on the longest migration yet. My heart went out to him. I hope his flight will be a safe one, and that when he reaches his destination, he will find a home, good friends, and happiness. I hope that his parents will take good care of him and help him settle. I wonder if someday he will feel the call to fly back here. Will he find himself circling above the Great Salt Lake, looking for a place he used to know? I wish him well in all his travels.