I like how our local cemetery, nestled in the shoulder of a small hill above town, is shaped by both natural and human forces. Among the varied stones and markers of the dead and a scattering of native juniper trees and planted arborvitae, I will usually spot a small herd of mule deer and loose flocks of yellow-rumped warblers, ruby-crowned kinglets and blue-gray gnatcatchers sallying for insects. The ground is covered with flowers, but few are native: naturalized tulips, first planted by the living, bloom amidst a bed of herbaceous weeds. It's as messy and beautiful as the West itself.
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Paul Larmer is the executive director of High Country News, based in Paonia, Colorado.