I have retired. Not in the social security sense— that age-determined status that promises perpetual care, the reward for life’s contributions already made. But in the sense of taking a changed path— to determine each day the direction for myself, to discover that contribution yet within me.
Damsel in the grass
From a car parked beside mine, a man left the gravel lot and walked off into the woods on a narrow trail barely visible through the eagerly reaching, green spring grass. On his back, lashed to a large pack that I suspected of hiding a camera, long-legged photographic paraphernalia swung with each step, as he disappeared into the undergrowth. It is a lovely spot where a broad lake attracts folks of all sorts for fishing and birding and thought. Yet, his determined stride had taken him away from all that. The object of his pursuit, uncertain to me.
I had come there to walk the trail as I had always walked it. A wide, raised bank adjacent to the water ran a straight course north. On one side, sycamore trees bent low over the still surface, their gnarled fingers pointing to newly emerging lily pads, while on the other, turtles flopped, one after another, from the sunlit spot on a log into the safety of the steadily thickening green swill. Times before, I had watched from this edge as swans approached and posed for my camera to create a picture framed by the sycamore’s reflective arching arms. On this day, however, the geese commanded the lake. In the distance, the faded ring of cattails rimming the marsh drew the barest line between two oceans of blue. For a moment, a fancily clad crane fly drew me several feet off course, as she bumbled about on long, striped legs before finally coming to rest clumsily on a thorny cane at my feet. Above me, a pair of blue-gray gnatcatchers flitted in and out of the branches, their wheezy call the only sound along the trail.
Mute Swans on Spring Valley Lake
Phantom Crane Fly
Returning to my car, I was reminded again of the man who had turned from the lot and set off with such purpose into the nearby woods. He had come, conquered and gone, all in the time that I had wandered the water’s edge.
So, I ducked past the brushy boughs hiding its course into the woods and followed the path he had taken, slowly and quietly, to its very end in a farmer’s field. The dirt was freshly plowed, dark and warm under the afternoon sun and it rose to a point on the horizon where earth brown met sky blue.
Some wait for fields of roses. Days filled with dandelions will be good enough for me.
I sat for a day in the woods, on a warm bank where some shrubs had filled the space beneath the bare trees and had already begun to leaf-out, while all else around stayed buried in the layer of dense brown leaves. Working with a small hand saw, I cleared the entire bank of them, creeping from one bush to the next, attacking each branch near its base, until I stopped for the day, utterly exhausted, yet pleased with the freshly cleared space. Between the tall trees, there is a place now for their dropped seeds to set young roots, regrow these woods for years to come, help them to become healthy and strong.
Later that evening, I put my hand to my face to find the top of my nose sore, and upon looking in the mirror, red with an early sunburn, and one gained in the least of likely places—the woods.
Before the tall trees shade this brown bank, before the dimness of the woods becomes the home to thrush song, before the ferns and herbs emerge to drink in the shade of the summer forest, it is a place for wildflowers.
Winning image for the Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp competition!
The 2012 OWLStamp will be available for sale March 1, 2012 through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website and nature organizations across the state. Proceeds of the OWLStamp benefit wildlife conservation, research & education projects within the state of Ohio! I'm thrilled to have provided the winning image for such a wonderful program!
The Adventures of Red Canoe
Come along in Red Canoe as she explores the quiet backwater of Ohio's State Parks and the scenic streams and rivers of the Midwest. Discover the beauty hidden beyond the water's edge, quietly waiting, past access points, often only inches deep!
Grabbing every minute I can find to be outside--walking in it, sleeping in it ... breathing it in. The natural world has so much beauty to uncover.
It is my hope that by capturing my experiences with nature and by sharing the richness it adds to an ordinary life, others may discover the greatest gift waiting just outside their door.
A regularly appearing feature, "Have you seen..." takes a closer, more patient look at things usually not seen in a flattering light.Take a look!
The Sweetness of Spring
Each spring, as winter lessens its grip and days warm with the first fragrant breezes of a new season, we collect sap from our Sugar Maples and produce just enough syrup for ourselves for the coming year. The progress of this year's backyard endeavor is illustrated here.
A Bird's Life
Summer 2008, the tiny jewel of the avian world, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, nested just feet from my front door. Pictures of her nest and the changing lives within are collected in thisjournal.From life the size of a pea....