Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Beautiful Encounters on a Walk

The weather has finally reached my favorite temperatures, mid-seventies to mid-eighties, with gentle whispers of wind. Windows are open throughout the house, and the area that I sit in is almost always caught in a pleasant cross breeze. I love early summer. Nearly every other day, I climb over the fence and walk in the field behind the house. The grasses reach my waist and brush against my wrists as I meander here and there. It could almost be a setting for one of those commercials that feature such settings, usually advertising hair products. However, low lying black berry briars, burrs, snakes, and other agents of nature make wearing skirts, shorts, sandals, or flip-flops horribly impractical. On one point I do have to agree with advertisers: a field in the summer is certainly beautiful.

I've started to take my camera with me almost any time I go outside. As a result, I have a lot of pictures, most of which are from Friday and Sunday. I generally go straight to the larger of our two ponds, take some pictures, and sit and think for a while. There is always a chorus of little frogs making big noises, a dance of water bugs and dragonflies, and the fleeing of tadpoles. When I was little, we lived in a house with a clear, shallow creek on either side of the property. I would wade in and catch tadpoles, feeling their slippery skin against my fingers before letting them back into the creek when the water ran out of my hands. Tadpoles give me a sense of calm, one that I can soak into my heart as I sit on the pond's bank, so, late Sunday afternoon, I decided to go to the pond again. Before I even left the yard, I came across someone who had visited the driveway that morning.

He was a particularly fearless three-toed box turtle. He had gone straight up to one of the cats and then my bare toes before changing directions in favor of a worm that was trying to keep from drowning in the light rain. The turtle was also munching on the dried out worms that had died a day or two before. I had always imagined the dried ones would be something like bacon bits but with more protein. It's actually surprising that I never tried eating them when I was little. When I saw him again that afternoon, he was on the other side of the yard

Looking up from visiting with my reptile acquaintance, I saw that my trip to the pond would be delayed. I had set out later than usual, and the cows had beaten me to my destination. Since they were there first, I sat on the fence for a while and took pictures of them with two of the cats nearby, one of which was my sister's cat, Shadow, previously referred to as Insta-purr.

Eventually, I hopped down on the other side and explored a part of the field that I had previously been uninterested in. The difference now is that the thistle there is in bloom. A large, yellow butterfly was perched on one of the blooms, and I was hopeful that I could get close enough to get a picture before it left. Because of the distraction tactics of Shadow and Sparkle, one of the sweetest felines I've ever come across, the butterfly was long gone when I reached the thistle. However, I did get a few good pictures of the two cats.

Taking pictures and playing with the cats, I realized that when I sat down, or even crouched, the grasses came up past my head. A field is a wonderful place to hide in the summer, so long as one keeps an eye out for cow patties.

Although the butterfly had left the thistle, two fat bees were busying themselves there when I arrived. They buzzed and hummed around the purple blooms. Bees really are such pretty insects; sometimes I am baffled by the fear held by many who are not allergic. The thistle was beautiful with or without bees or butterflies.

When I finished with the thistle, I went and sat on a part of the fence that overlooks the road we live on.  On the other side of the asphalt is a wood. There are pale trees that speak of age with their cracked trunks and reaching branches. I would hardly be surprised to learn that the door to Fairy Land was there. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that there was a door in our woods either. All forests and woods have a degree of magic to them. Why else would so many fairy tales from so many different countries take place in forests?

When the cows left the big pond, I scurried to its rocky banks. Most of it is surrounded by a steep incline that levels off at the top. On one side is the pond and on the other is the woods. 

I like to sit there and think or just listen to music. It is a safe place, a place where I can fill the sky and fields with thoughts and musings. I took some more pictures and mentally noted places that would be nice for pictures of people. I don't often get human subjects to work with, so I do my best when they are available.

Satisfied with the pictures I had taken, I left the pond. It was getting relatively late, but there was still enough light that I loathed the idea of returning to the house. Instead, I made my way to the smaller pond, following trails of trodden down grass that the cows had left behind. At one point I had to stop to pull a bur out of my sock. I reached the bank and plopped down. Unlike the larger pond, this one has hardly any slope to it's bank; the ground is almost level. I looked at the edges of the water and saw little black water snails moving about, climbing over each other and searching for food. It was then that I realized that someone was sitting next to me.

He was a little western ribbon snake, black with yellow stripes. Having grown up in the area, I knew he wasn't venomous. I slowly pulled my camera from its case and turned it on, careful not to startle him. He held perfectly still. I took several pictures of him, each time expecting him to dart to the water. When I finished taking pictures, I tried to encourage him to run away. I lightly touched the tip of his tail a few times, but he only curled the tip away a centimeter or two. Carefully, I stroked his middle, smooth scales sliding past my finger. He still made no move to leave. If he wanted to stay, I wouldn't argue. Turning my gaze from the sweet little reptile, I looked out across the pond.

I love reflections and light. The pond was quite simply lovely to see, and there was a slight breeze. An orange image of a battery blinked at me from my camera's screen. I had taken several pictures in the last few days, so it wasn't any surprise. I took a few more pictures and looked back at the snake. Slowly I reached toward him where he could see me then took pictures as he sped away across the water full of clouds, little head held high.

As I waded through the tall grass on my way home, I thought about Father. He takes such care with every little detail: each of the snake's scales, each whisker on my silly kitties, and each breath that I take. He doesn't do all of this out of obligation. He does this because He loves so entirely and so vastly. More beautiful to me than that which He creates is His love.

This morning, I looked up the western ribbon snake and something caught my attention: the eyes of the adult snake pictured. They were small in proportion to its head compared to the one I sat with on Sunday. I checked and there was the text to confirm my new suspicion. "The young are born from late June to September... At birth, young western ribbon snakes are from 230 to 250 mm (9 to 10 inches) in length." That was the right length and relative time of year, and it would explain why he has such large eyes. He's a baby. He didn't run from me immediately because he hasn't learned to be afraid of me. People are wrong when they say that ignorance is bliss. Ignorance is only frustration and uninformed mistakes. Innocence is bliss.

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