Over the last couple of summers, my wife and I have made a habit of waking up early on Saturday or Sunday mornings to take a stroll on a trail not far from our home. We usually spend an hour and a half or more out there. The trail is paved, and there are a couple of benches along its many miles, but not much else man-made. The woodlands on either side are largely untouched apart from the occasional removal of trees that otherwise might fall onto the trail.
Being as relatively untouched as it is, it is not surprising that every time we go there, we see something we’d never seen before. In town, for example, we see tons of gray squirrels but on the trail it is all about red squirrels and chipmunks. Last week we got so up and personal with one of those two (I’m not sure which) that we saw it sleeping on a branch. I’ve never seen that. The majority of my experience with squirrels in town involves them flinging themselves into traffic at the most inopportune time possible.
On the trail, we always see cardinals, blue jays and even the occasional oriole which I think is really interesting. And no, I’m not just tweaking from missing baseball. We live in a very robins and sparrows kind of neighborhood. I knew this place was special last summer when what I think was a mourning dove landed just a couple of feet in front of us. Because we stopped when it landed, it was not in any hurry to fly off, though it eventually did after we had our moment of silent interaction.
A couple of weeks ago, a wild turkey strutted out of the woods onto the path about 30 feet in front of us, where it turned to us, stretched out its neck, spread its feathers out, began to flap its wings in what seemed like slow motion, and breaking into a trot finally took off, flying over the trees to our left. We had never seen a turkey fly that high. Honestly neither of us knew they could fly that high.
Now we know.
There are trees out there so viney that you feel like you are either in the jungle or the Louisiana bayou. And I think I just became aware last week that there is such a thing as burgundy colored three-leaf clover.
For anyone who spends a lot of time out in the woods none of these things are interesting. I get that. But I always go out there wondering what I am going to see that I’d never seen before. I hear a whole system of communication playing out in the trees over our heads and around us between birds and rodents and what ever else. It’s probably a combination of warnings of nearby predators – possibly warnings about us being there – or one creature tipping off another about the presence of a food source.
Something like that.
But I hear music, especially among the birds. I wonder how much music, down through the ages, time out of mind, has come from what an artist heard in nature.
I think I’ll let the birds’ songs be their songs, but it’s an honor to hear their compositions.