Sun-kissed Silver Sagebrush

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Silver Sagebrush at sunriseSilver Sagebrush at sunrise – Nikon D300, handheld, f6.3, 1/200, ISO 400, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 170mm, natural light

There are two shrubs whose aromatic leaves soothe me during times of stress and/or uncertainty, one of them I used to cultivate in my garden (when I had a garden) and one of them I find in the wild. Rosemary is the one I used to grow and sagebrush is the one I find in the wild.

I have a friend that I know would probably love to smell the sagebrush right now as she has gone through some rough times the past few days and who lives in the east now but loves and has some roots in the west. She’ll know who she is when she reads this. I hope the photo reminds you of the pungent yet healing aroma.

I want to smell the sagebrush too because of the stress and sense of loss I have been feeling since I first learned that Antelope Island State Park was on fire. Nearly half of the island has been burned. I keep thinking about the birds and animals who call the island home. I keep thinking of the sagebrush on the island being gone and how the sagebrush obligates will be affected, of the birds and animals who depend on the sagebrush for food, for shelter and for nesting sites. I keep thinking of the loss. I wonder if there will be enough food to carry the animals through the winter.

Sure, fire is natural. Sure, fire can cleanse and rejuvenate. I agree.

But knowing that will not stop me from grieving the loss caused by this fire. Not going to happen.

Sometime very soon I will need to smell the sagebrush, hold it in my hands and breathe.


Back lit Sagebrush photo taken last week in Clark County, Idaho as the sun rose over the sagebrush steppe.


  1. Humming bird lover July 28, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    Hi! I remember you picking me some when I visited you in 2012! Would Russian Sage smell the same? My neighbor has a pot, but it is not strong at all? Love ya mom

  2. Jane Chesebrough July 24, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    Thank you for bringing that memory back; the smell of the sage brush in the sun or after a rainfall.And do hope for a good rainfall for Antelope Island, I was so worried for the wildlife in the McMurray fire which I am happy to say is out of the area and under control.I agree, one must grieve the loss before jumping to what comes in the aftermath.

  3. Elephant's Child July 24, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    My heart aches.

  4. Patty Chadwick July 24, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    I keep thinking about the birds and critters that live on ANTELOPE, esoecially the yoing ones, hoping they all got away safely and uninjured…wishing I could believe that. I rescued our horses from a burning barn, TWICE !!!, and
    Will never forget the sound, sight or smell…

  5. Patty Chadwick July 24, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    Just tuned into your blog….BEAUTIFUL! I could almost smell the sun-warmed sage myself! I think I might know the person you shared this beautiful image with and you can bet dollars to donuts she says, “Thanks!!!”… Sage is good medicine in so many ways….
    PS I think this is sometimes called “female sage”. She sleeps with a small bundle of the great white sage next to her pillow….ESP???

    • Mia McPherson July 24, 2016 at 12:31 pm

      Yes, I do think you do know her! 😉 Sage is great medicine.

  6. Glen Fox July 24, 2016 at 11:21 am

    After reading the fact sheet that April referred us to, I think I was far to optimistic. Apparently sage brush does not usually survive and its recovery depends on re-seeding from surrounding locations. So, the face of Antelope Island may be seriously altered for a long time. I was looking forward to visiting relatively soon.

    • Mia McPherson July 24, 2016 at 11:50 am

      The sagebrush will take a very long time to come back and that in turn will affect all of the sagebrush obligates on the island.

      Unless a dedicated effort is made to replenish the native grasses which are more beneficial for the native wildlife than cheatgrass, an invasive, it will be able to easily take hold where native grasses were burned and cheatgrass burns so easily that we can almost predict there will be more devastating fires in the area.

      This isn’t our growing season, the forage that has burned won’t be replaced in time for winter when the large mammals like bison, deer, sheep and pronghorn will need what is gone. They may have to sell off more bison than normal after the roundup to ensure the best chance of survival for those left on the island. They may even need to have the roundup early than normal this year. This is an island and it isn’t like a fire in the Henry Mountains or Yellowstone where the bison can move to an area with plentiful forage.

      So much is spinning around in my head right now even though I really am trying not to think of all the losses and habitat destruction.

      I do need to grieve, then I will go on.

  7. Grace Dunklee Cohen July 24, 2016 at 10:47 am

    I think those of us who have spent special time shooting at Antelope Island can really share your trepidation, angst and sorrow, Mia. But Larry has a good point … Nature’s way is a path of balance. I have my fingers crossed that all wildlife can survive this tragedy although I realistically expect there will be losses, especially through the winter months when they struggle for food. We are grieving with you, Mia. However, like Larry, I encourage you to visit, observe, learn and share as you experience the island’s pain and healing – which will help all of us who so love the island as you do. And it will help us to ultimately rejoice in the magic of Mother Nature’s amazing healing power.

    • Mia McPherson July 24, 2016 at 12:33 pm

      Grace, I will be back out there. Thank you.

  8. Laura Culley July 24, 2016 at 10:42 am

    Sage soothes me, too (and rosemary), but I have neither a garden, nor a sage-filled wild place here in NY. The fire, oh the loss. And yes, there is the rejuvenation, but in the meantime, the unmitigated sorrow and loss. Oh to be able to reach the wild sage I saved.

    • Mia McPherson July 24, 2016 at 12:34 pm

      I wish I could send you the sage Laura.

  9. April Olson July 24, 2016 at 10:34 am

    I have been reading information on how habitat recovers after fires. I found this fact sheet from The University of Nevada interesting.
    I hope the fire is out soon. Half the island is a big loss.

    • Mia McPherson July 24, 2016 at 12:35 pm

      April, thank you for sharing that link. I really hope the fire is out soon too.

  10. Glen Fox July 24, 2016 at 10:10 am

    Go to the park, take your camera. Cry, grieve, etc., but turn this into an opportunity to document the recovery and to share that on your wonderful website. It won’t be easy sister, but you could turn it into a positive experience and blessing. Wildfire is a natural phenomenon, and the nutrient release will benefit the vegetation. There is no doubt that it will take time ..what you have been enjoying up to now probably represents many years, and probably decades, of growth. The successional changes in the vegetation will be accompanied by changing species distribution and numbers in the wildlife. Peace and healing ..

    • M. Bruce July 24, 2016 at 10:58 am

      So very true! The most encouraging message is that nature is forever tenacious. We all need to remind ourselves that it’s not scenery that we love – it’s life.

    • Mia McPherson July 24, 2016 at 12:36 pm

      Glen, when I can I will be back on the island. I’m pretty sure the first time I will feel like I have been gut-punched. I’ll survive.

  11. Liz Cormack July 24, 2016 at 8:59 am

    I’m saddened by the thought of all that beautiful scenery destroyed. Would most wildlife be able to flee before the fire? Let’s hope so.

    • Mia McPherson July 24, 2016 at 12:38 pm

      Liz, most of the wildlife would have been able to escape the fire. I have been concerned about any late nesting birds (some that have more than one brood) and the porcupines that usually go up the slopes to the trees that grow in some of the gullies. Porcupines don’t move all that fast.

      Long term, I am worried about them all.

  12. Carol July 24, 2016 at 8:59 am

    Sad….sad. It’s so devastating…I have never been to the island, but it sounds like a wonderful place. The fires we have been having in central CA have all been within 50 miles of my home and the photos that come from these disasters are so vivid in my mind. I hope the fire is over soon…..and you can breathe the sage.

    • Mia McPherson July 24, 2016 at 12:40 pm

      Carol, it is devastating in many ways. The island is a wonderful, wild intoxicating place. It will have these scars for years to come.

      I hope your fires are out soon too.

  13. Larry Muench July 24, 2016 at 6:57 am

    Very well put and I echo your sentiments. So saddened by the fire on the island and the effects it will have on both flora and fauna. Not sure when I will be able to bear going out there but now going for a long walk in the foothills above home to smell the sage and get some needed exercise. That should help.

    • Mia McPherson July 24, 2016 at 7:12 am

      Larry, I have to get out tomorrow some place where there is sage. I know what you mean about not being able to bear going out there (to the island) now. I think even driving north on I-15 and seeing the island from a distance is going to have an effect on me. I know I am going to feel like crying.

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