Write a literary analysis on the journey described in "A Way Home" by Trevor Herriot.

In the essay “A Way Home,” Trevor Herriot uses the theme of journey to tie together his love for grassland birds, his fight to save their habitats, and the human longing for home. He begins by describing the actual migratory journey of the birds and then moves on to explain his own journey of the discovery of nature. He concludes with the observation that working to save the birds will help humans become more at home in the world.

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“A Way Home” is the preface essay of Trevor Herriot's Grass, Sky, Song: Promise and Peril in the World of Grassland Birds . Herriot uses the theme of a journey to tie his primary concern, grassland birds, to larger ideas of the human desire for home. Let's look at the...

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“A Way Home” is the preface essay of Trevor Herriot's Grass, Sky, Song: Promise and Peril in the World of Grassland Birds. Herriot uses the theme of a journey to tie his primary concern, grassland birds, to larger ideas of the human desire for home. Let's look at the various ways he portrays a journey.

As the essay begins, Herriot allows his imagination to soar as he describes the birds' spring journey north after a long winter. As the birds make their way to their summer home, they feel an eagerness. Snow geese yelp “excitedly of arctic pastures ahead of them” (1). Other birds add “softer notes” and calls of communication as they gaze down, trying to recognize the landscape that tells them their journey is complete. When they are finally home, Herriot explains, they will mate, nest, and raise their young as always before they begin yet another journey, this one to their southern, winter home.

Notice that the birds' journey always ends in home. Yet, Herriot argues, the home habitat of these grassland birds is threatened, and many of the species have diminished (or disappeared completely) over the years. Their songs are fading. Unfortunately, he continues, “the majority of people would not notice or care” (3). They do not appreciate the beauty of these birds nor the deeper meanings of their lives. They do not realize that in many ways, the journeys of the birds reflect the journeys of many people and their desire “to find out how we might belong to a place, to find a way home” (4).

Herriot then speaks of a journey of his own: how he came to value these grassland birds. Ironically, it all started with the hunting journeys he took with his family in his youth. In time, he began to experience regret for the killings, and he turned his attention instead to “hunting” the natural world through hikes and binoculars. He notes that he started large, with whales, “creatures exotic and grand enough to open my eyes” (9). His journeys of that era focused on whale watching, but these trips led him far from his home on the prairie. He could not yet see that his journey toward a love of the natural world would lead him practically to his own backyard.

Then Herriot took a guided hike near his home in Saskatchewan, and he discovered the grassland birds for the first time. He says, “I felt myself being drawn toward a world I wanted to know more about” (11). He had entered into a new phase of his journey, and he pursued it as eagerly as the migrating birds scanned the landscape to find their summer homes. Herriot began seeing birds everywhere and studying their characteristics and habits. In those birds and their grassland habitat, he discovered a home of his own and the inspiration to continue his journey of conservation to make sure that the birds could remain in their homes and not make a permanent journey toward extinction. When we learn to appreciate the gentle mystery of these little creatures in the world, he concludes, “we take a small step toward belonging here ourselves,” here in our own home (13).

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