As a child growing up in a tiny North Dakota village, there were few ways to escape the confines of that whistle-stop hamlet. One was to walk the railroad track that went north toward Fargo, where I was born, and south toward places that were completely unknown to me. Walking these tracks allowed me to find wildflowers growing among the prairie grasses along the railroad right-of-way and see birds like red-winged blackbirds, as well as then-unidentifiable and still unidentified sparrows lurking in the tall ragweeds growing along the tracks.
Another escape consisted of watching the wavering formations of migrating white geese that every April flew over our house in countless numbers, headed for destinations that were far beyond my ken, both geographically and ecologically. Eventually I learned the birds were snow geese, headed for the tundras of the high Canadian arctic. However, nearly three decades would pass before I was able first to set foot on that tundra and could wander ecstatically about a colony of nesting snow geese that stretched widely along the high-tide line of the vast Hudson Bay lowlands.