Stalking the WildEvery year over Labor Day Weekend we go camping with a group of families from our synagogue. And every year I take a nature walk with my daughter and her camera. This year my wife came with us. My son, who always had better things to do, has, like many other of the children who used to come with us, aged out of camping. Once they hit college, they've got better things to do. In his case, it was work. That's good. He needs to work. The three of us did have a nice walk though, and my daughter got a few good photos.
I took another walk by myself. It was on another trail. This one butts up to a swamp at one point, or is it a bog? Or a wetland? I'm not sure. But there are frogs, turtles, dragonflies and other critters. It's full of lily pads for the critters to frolic around on, and under, and around, and it's not very big. The trail actually goes around the whole thing and is maybe a half mile long. There is only one point where you don't have to walk very far to get close enough to the swamp to get your feet wet. My daughter and I always stop at this edge and try to catch a look or two at the swamp inhabitants, but usually all we catch are the remains of the splash as they dart away from us. But we do tend to talk as we walk, and we are also usually swatting at mosquitoes. You would think the dragonflies would take care of that problem, but they don't. Sheer laziness, I tell you.
We had a cool Labor Day weekend in Michigan this year, so I was able to stand at swamp's edge and just watch without being bothered by little bloodsuckers. The first thing that happens whenever we walk up to the swamp is that we hear splashes of creatures swimming away. And then we try to catch glimpses of them as they swim about.
They splashed away as always, but as I stood without moving, they slowly returned to their normal activities. There were turtles swimming around, carefully and in a zig-zag pattern, making their way back to the shore. Some of them were even climbing back out of the water to sun themselves on logs. One tried a few times and kept falling off a stick that was too thin to balance on. I was being watched though. I shifted into a Gary Paulsen mode, trying to become part of the landscape so that the animals would ignore me enough so that I could watch them. A muskrat swam pretty close to me but took off when it realized that I was a big dangerous person. Frogs went back to their habit of just sitting there waiting for food to fly by. And I stood still, only moving my eyes for about a half hour.
It was fascinating being able to watch things that had been hidden from me before. I imagine that our ancestors who had to hunt for their food needed this type of patience every day in order to be able to eat. Animals who serve as prey are always on the lookout for predators or anything that shouldn't be there and might be dangerous, like the guy standing there in jeans, sweatshirt, and baseball cap. One never knows.
My main concern was somebody coming down the path and ruining my "nature time". It didn't happen, but finally I had to move. As soon as I did, all of the turtles and frogs that has worked their way close to shore dove underwater and scattered.
It was over. I went back to the campsite to read and chat with the other people we camp with every year. I'll do it again next year. Maybe my daughter will be patient enough to stand there with me.