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The season for migration brings me back to Durango


As fall approaches, we are starting to see signs of migration throughout the Four Corners.

Flocks of geese are seen flying overhead in their “V” formation. Elk and deer are starting to move down to lower elevations. And in a normal year, bears would start to move into the scrub oak to consume berries and acorns. While I’ve only been in Durango for a short period, I realize this has been anything but a normal year for our bears.

On Aug. 19, Durango Nature Studies will host a workshop at the Durango Nature Center about the migration of monarch butterflies. Starting in September, these unassuming insects will begin their flights toward their wintering sites. Monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains overwinter on the California coast. Meanwhile, monarchs east of the Rockies travel up to 3,000 miles to sites in Central Mexico. For an insect that weighs one-quarter of an ounce and has a wingspan of about 4 inches, that is an epic journey. Many of these intrepid travelers succumb to exhaustion before or upon reaching their destination.

I can relate to that drive to return home. I left Durango in 1986 and have had my own epic journey throughout the United States, living on both coasts and points in between. Yet the desire to return to Durango remained steadfast. That dream became reality when I was selected to succeed Sally Shuffield as the new DNS executive director.

It feels right to be back, but the return has not been a smooth and painless process. Migration taxes all species. It’s exhausting, and there are no guarantees on the outcome. But an innate drive propels us.

A friend of mine shared his thoughts with me, and it conjured images of migration.

“There is both pain and pleasure in fulfilling your given purpose. ... Every person’s life is on a timeline – a space we occupy for a certain amount of time, where we are either contributing or consuming. Every day in every way, your grip on what’s possible leads you on a journey toward accomplishing the reason for your existence. To assume that such a journey will already have a path blazed or not be riddled with traps, confusion and challenges assumes you know the entirety of your purpose as soon as you are born, but that is not the case. You spend your life in perpetual discovery, which enables you to overcome and/or experience what comes your way on your journey. … You are more than capable of what you know you have been given to do because you know in your heart that in your lifetime it must be done. Go do it.”

And so I am, but I’m not alone. I have joined a great team of staff, board of directors, volunteers and program participants. I’m excited to be back.

One final note: Be sure to join Emily Schaefgen’s workshop on the mighty monarch at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 19 at the Durango Nature Center. To register, email Emily at emily@durangonaturestudies.org.

Stephanie Weber is the executive director of Durango Nature Studies. Reach her at stephanie@durangonaturestudies.org.

Stephanie Weber