Field Notes: Summer 2021
Asha gives me her well-are-you-going-to-throw-a-stick look that I’ve come to expect when we reach this brook. I recognize a few sticks at the water’s edge from the last time we were here.
I gauge the water depth as best I can and throw. I don’t want to make this too easy for her, but she doesn’t swim, so I don’t want to throw too far out either.
Asha splashes into the brook and stops when the water becomes too deep for her liking. She sees the stick floating about a foot away and turns around.
I throw a second one and she splashes back into the water. This one has landed an inch or two beyond her comfort zone. Asha takes a couple of steps back and approaches from a different angle. And repeats. And repeats again. She stretches and stretches, gets the stick, runs out of the brook and up the trail, shaking off the water and her stress.
She knows her limits and when to stretch.
No stepping stones
At the trail intersection I want to turn left and Asha wants to continue straight. We continue straight.
This trail is wet, wet, wet after two heavy storms. I navigate around large puddles and rivulets.
Then we come to the stream.
The few rocks I might use as stepping stones are too small or too far apart to make it across with dry shoes, socks and feet. Potential crossings upstream don’t look any better. Still, I’m resisting this wet crossing.
I look over at Asha, waiting on the other side.
Here goes, I think, then follow her lead and walk through the water.
My “Oh, damn” disappears in the refreshing water and my delight with the wet-shoe-squishing noises.
A red-feathered lesson in priorities
I raise my binoculars to watch a bird high up in the tree. The red plumage tells me this is either a Northern Cardinal or Scarlet Tanager, so I look for the distinctive crest of the Northern Cardinal but I never get the right angle. I watch and wonder while Asha grows impatient.
Further along the trail I spot new-to-me yellow flowers and mentally note details about the leaves and petals so that I can look them up at home.
Later still I watch another bird, possibly a sparrow or a warbler. My thought-list is already too long, so I watch and listen, enjoying the song.
At home I consult my field guide and realize I was so focused on whether or not this red bird had a crest that I didn’t pay attention to other distinguishing characteristics. Or I’d long since forgotten them because of everything else I was trying to remember.
As much as I want to be able to identify birds, to greet my feathered neighbors by name, what matters more to me is being with them.
You may also like:
Fall 2021 – Second annual Gentian Day; Sitting with Tea and Tang; Eyes-closed listening; Not alone: Companions in the woods; Learning a new language: Then and now
Late Fall 2021 – I almost said; Letter to myself after reading Hafiz; First snow
Winter 2021/2022 – Breadcrumbs; But then, so when, and then; Winter visitors; My inner three-year-old meets ice; Tender hope, holy beauty
Spring 2022 – Wings; Pink joy of spring; Wondering: One walk, one afternoon; A new-to-us trail; Companions after a sleepless night
Summer 2022 – For the beauty of this walk; Woodpecker rhythm; Elliptic-leaved Shinleaf; The service I want to honor
Late Summer 2022 – My amended reply; Bird voices; Looking out. Looking in.; Palmate instead of red