Field Notes: Spring 2023
Eleven reasons to stop
(With thanks to Jena Schwartz for the writing practice of “11s”.)
1. Twigs with young spring growth dot the trail, asking to be picked up and admired: Red Oak with small leaves and flowers that look like a string of tiny green beads, American Beech with pom-pom flowers, Red Maple with red winged seeds hanging from long pedicels.
2. Fiddleheads unfurl into tender fronds.
3. Blue-headed Vireos sing.
4. Canada Geese swim quietly through the water.
5. A frog splashes into a puddle, creating a swirl of mud.
6. Scat contains porcupine quills.
7. Orange sap oozes down a cut Black Birch.
8. Turtles sun themselves on a fallen branch in the beaver pond.
9. Trout-lilies and Sessile-leaved Bellwort bloom yellow.
10. Red Eft swaggers along the trail.
11. Three paper-thin American Beech leaves who hung on through the winter stand out among young green ones.
12. Perhaps I will write eleven days of eleven wonders without repeating myself.
Crossing a violet-laden field with my young walking companion, I stop to admire an unfamiliar plant with delicate red flowers.
“You think all flowers are beautiful,” she says as she impatiently skips ahead.
I smile at the accuracy of the statement.
A cup-of-tea discovery
(Years ago I read a post by coach and author Jen Louden in which she suggested a thimble list rather than a bucket list. This idea has stayed with me. As someone who celebrates the everyday, I’ve recently added my own spin: a cup-of-tea list.)
As I turn my head toward the trees to look for birds whose voices I’m hearing, I see Black Cherries in full bloom, quiet clusters of small white flowers.
My body exhales with awe.
Until that moment I hadn’t realized this sight was on my cup-of-tea list.
Seeing, hearing, listening
“Who did you see?” the walkers ask and nod toward my binoculars.
“Well, I saw Tree Swallows and, I believe, a Northern Waterthrush.
“But I heard Gray Catbird, Eastern Phoebe, Red-winged Blackbird and Winter Wren. And, according to my app, I also heard Black-and-white Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, White-throated Sparrow, Song Sparrow and Rose-breasted Grosbeak – voices I don’t yet recognize.”
I so wanted to stay longer at the water’s edge listening to their music and looking for them, but Asha gave me a time-to-go nudge.
Shall we go this way?
“Asha, I’d really, really, really, really like to walk to the beaver meadow today. What do you say?” Asha is a dog with opinions and I’m hoping that by stating my desire clearly, she’ll agree to my plan.
At the first intersection, Asha stops.
“Shall we go this way?” I ask and take a few steps along my preferred route.
Asha doesn’t budge.
I wave in the direction of the other trail. “What about this way?”
Asha sits down.
“Well, that’s a clear No,” I say and sit down beside her on the trail.
I watch Asha. She turns her head from side to side and occasionally looks behind her. Her nose twitches. Her ears tense and relax. Every so often she shifts her weight. I wish I knew what she smells and hears and what this tells her.
I close my eyes and feel the early spring sunshine on my face. I sniff, but don’t smell anything out of the ordinary. I listen to dry leaves in the breeze and two Black-capped Chickadees singing fee-bee.
I’m not sure how long we sit there, and I purposefully don’t check.
When Asha’s ready, we get up and walk back the way we came.
And then Asha takes us along different trail.
Before long I’m calling, “Wait for me!”
A walk without Asha
Asha is spending the day with a new dog sitter, a trial run before an upcoming trip.
Knowing there will be no negotiations at intersections, no resistance to my plan (as sometimes happens), I walk to the beaver meadow.
I sit on the fallen pine trunk. Tree Swallows swoop like roller coasters above the water and two brown ducks land in the distance. Red-winged Blackbirds perch on short snags and belt out conk-la-ree! A flock of European Starlings whirrs and whistles. Raindrops create small circles in the water. When I stand to leave, a purple iris draws my eyes.
As happy as I am to be here, to linger as long as I want, there was no wet nose bumping my hand along the way. No jingle of metal tags. No reason to say “Look! Mountain Laurels are blooming!” or “Wait for me!” or “Where did you go?”
I’d rather walk with Asha.
After walking about a mile along the unfamiliar trail Asha has chosen, I decide to check my GPS. I’m not worried. I simply want to confirm that we are more or less where I think we are and see if there’s a way we can turn this walk into a loop rather than turn around.
Google Maps shows a blue dot on the edge of a land mass labeled the United States.
“Looks about right to me.”
You may also like:
Late Winter 2022/2023 – Postcard to the Woods; Not in miles or minutes; Birdsongs and heartsongs; Desktop spring
Winter 2022/2023 – Threshold; Reclaiming Prayer; After eight inches of heavy, wet snow; Winter maple
Fall 2022 – A just-right angle; Not so Common Milkweed; Will they come true?; En route to the forest floor; I can’t just call them all brown; I wonder if their encounter was a poem
Late Summer 2022 – My amended reply; Bird voices; Looking out. Looking in.; Palmate instead of red
Summer 2022 – For the beauty of this walk; Woodpecker rhythm; Elliptic-leaved Shinleaf; The service I want to honor
Spring 2022 – Wings; Pink joy of spring; Wondering: One walk, one afternoon; A new-to-us trail; Companions after a sleepless night