Sunday, November 22, 2009
The air was still and cool...
The air was still and cool this morning, the sky gray. The deep green cedars and leafless oaks were perfectly reflected on the glassy surface of the lake. As I came around a curve in the shore, a beaver greeted my appearance with a tail slap that produced a 5-foot plume of water. The sound echoed off the ridge above the opposite shore. I stopped to watch the expanding ripples. The chill subdued the little waves, so they moved outward gently, without breaking the mirror. A couple of does bounded away from the water as I approached, and flashes of white through the trees told me I had also startled some of their companions.
I followed the trail away from the lake, into dense woods. The moss along the path was vivid green, as bright as grass. Otherwise, the world was brown and gray. The only sounds were the burble of the creek a few yards away and the occasional rasp of a wren. A large buck with a spectacular rack of antlers stepped onto the trail ahead of me. He faced me down for a moment, but when I kept coming he thought better of it and departed in a few effortless leaps.
I came to a thick bramble that had shaped itself around the root clump of a long-ago fallen tree. A female downy woodpecker was skittering up and down the trunk of living tree nearby. Pausing to watch her, I became aware of the many little lives inhabiting the darkness of the bramble. Most were just unidentifiable shadows, but a few came out to show themselves: a squirrel, a pair of titmice, a solitary female cardinal. I wondered what might be burrowed in the earth beneath the natural shelter, sleeping the winter away while the birds were busy overhead.
As I backtracked up the trail on my way to the road, the quiet gave way to a persistent rustle that grew louder. Something was coming my way through the deep carpet of leaves. I thought it must be more deer. But no, it was a flock of wild turkeys—a huge flock, several dozen birds, marching in single file through the trees. They kept their column in perfect order, absolutely silent except for the sound their scrawny feet made. The birds passed by without noticing me, focused on a destination only they knew.
Photo of cave art at Lascaux. (Click on the link for a virtual tour of the cave.)