Posts Tagged ‘memory’

And There I Was

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For some reason, I started thinking about snakes this morning,

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because I haven’t seen one in the yard this year.

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It brought back a memory of an encounter I had several years ago with a kingsnake.

Many many years ago, after I started birding, I still hadn’t seen a wild turkey. I’d heard them gobble. There was an area up the hill from my camper, where I’d seen a lot of turkey scratching. Dressed in camouflage, camera in hand, I got situated at the base of a tree that gave me a good view of the area.

There I sat … and sat … and dozed off. The wind started blowing … only it wasn’t the leaves rustling in the wind … it was a LONG kingsnake coming straight  for me. It hadn’t seen me in my camouflage. Somehow, I held my camera, got to my feet and stepped backwards several feet. The snake stopped when it came to where I’d been sitting because the ground was warm.  My hands shook to much to take a picture (The lens was zoomed in too close anyway.) The snake continued on, and I headed for the Blazer. It was in line to cross my lap if I’d been asleep.

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Relive a Memory

The words, “Relive a memory” came to mind. How odd?

My mind started wondering and ended up with when I wrote nature articles for the Saturday edition of several local newspapers. This was in the 90’s. I illustrated every article with an ink drawing.

It didn’t take long to pick out the memory I wanted to relive.

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Bell Pond, a remote cypress swamp.

My son, Keith, went with me. He was 15 years old.

Intermittent rain fell. There were no trails as we followed the water’s edge. Every step was a slurp. One of the first things I saw was a water moccasin. My little red umbrella almost kept my sketchbook and field notebook dry. A bullfrog called. A long dark snake swam effortlessly along the water’s surface. Another snake rolled off a log into the water.

The sky darkened again. This time dark-dark. Thunder was nearing. We picked up our pace as we followed an animal trail, the only trail through here. Suddenly we were in a heavy downpour. I hurried to the water’s edge, not wanting to miss a thing. The area was open with dead trees scattered about and a thick undergrowth of buttonbush. All was grayed by the angled sheeting rain. Occasional lightning  and rolling thunder added to the experience.

We heard bullfrogs. Deer flies found us. Fallen sticks, logs and patches of dense vegetation made walking difficult. Some areas smelled fishy from all the crawdads. The rain finally stopped. I was soaked!

The word dismal must have originated with someone trying to describe a swamp on a rainy day. After 3 1/2 hours of hiking, we were tired and very exhilarated. We couldn’t have had more fun if we had tried.

The swamp was an amazing, intriguing, eerie place for a visit. The weather added even more drama to the wildlife packed wetland community.

I was just glad I didn’t call it home!

An Upside Down World

A heavy rain fell last weekend — a welcome change from all the recent frigid weather? I hoped the rain would continue so I could get pictures of water drops hanging on twigs. It didn’t.

Water drops and ice,  both reflect their surroundings upside down.

These ice pictures were taken in 2008.

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Each “bulge” shows the snow, the brown of the shrub border around our backyard, and the clouds in the blue sky.

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The red on the left is the reflection of our barn.

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These globes show the snow-covered ground with a tree, a pine tree, the shrubby border and on up into the sky.

All this leads to a memory of when I stood in the barrens (a grassy plant community), drawing the inverted grassy landscape in a drop of rain hanging from the tip of a leaf. After I finished, I turned around, started walking, and there, a ways in front of me, was the tail end of a timber rattlesnake sneaking away from me. It disappeared into the little bluestem grass. I agreed to let it have the interior barrens, and I’d explore the one by the road.

My only other rattlesnake memory was considerably more unsettling. I was also hiking at my rural property and was at the edge of a mossy area where a tiny ladies tresses orchid grew. I didn’t see any, so I turned to head back to the truck. I hadn’t gone far when rattlesnake rattled at me! I froze. I looked and looked and couldn’t find it. So I started walking and immediately heard another rattle. I stopped. Still couldn’t find it. So I walked on back to the truck. No more rattling.

A few weeks later, it hit me that my hearing is backwards. I hear from the opposite direction than the sound’s coming from.

I was hearing the rattler from in front of me, when it was actually behind me!

A friend of mine was skeptical of my backwards hearing, until one day when we were on a Christmas bird count. There were 5 of us in my party. They all turned to the right when we heard a crow call. I turned to the left. My friend finally believed I have backwards hearing.

Obviously, the rattlesnake memories still remain vivid after 20 or so years.

My mind went from a drop of water, to drawing, to rattlesnake encounters because of the rain … my mind works in mysterious ways.

Close Encounters

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… which this wasn’t.

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I took these pictures through a not-quite-clean double-pane picture window. The deer was feeding on leaves of what looked like vines.

 The young deer reminded me of a close encounter many years ago. I was hiking at a limestone barrens on Shawnee National Forest land. A light brown shape caught my attention. Why would anyone leave a lunch sack in the barrens. I went to retrieve it … it was a very young fawn. It remained motionless while I did a rapid sketch of it. Then I left.

Then I thought, “I bet the mother was just inside the woods, watching me.

That memory quickly took me to one of another close encounter. I returned to camp on rural property I own. Four or five biggish young birds were hunkered down in the mowed grass  near the pull-in. I did a gesture drawing, all the time asking them aloud, “What are you?”

Then I heard movement to the left and behind me. A hen turkey was sneaking toward the taller grasses where we didn’t mow. She had been feet from me. I didn’t see her because I’d locked in on the young birds. Obviously, she didn’t perceive me as a threat. Needless to say I decided it was time to leave and walked causally to the truck.

I wrote and illustrated nature articles for several local newspapers for almost 10 years. Obviously, this kept me hiking and camping a lot. Wildlife didn’t notice me when I was in deep concentration. One time I sat on the ground, drawing mosses. I heard movement and here came a coyote trotting down the short hill toward me. It saw me when about 12-15 feet away, “turned the corner” and kept on trotting.

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Another memory just came to me, one that left me shaking.

I hadn’t seen my first wild turkey yet and knew they were feeding up the hill from camp at my rural property. I suited up in camouflage, sat at the base of a tree with my 35 mm camera in my lap. No turkey. I dosed off. Wind rustling the trees woke me, only the leaves weren’t blowing. To my left — here came a 4-foot kingsnake. Somehow, I grabbed my camera and quickly made it to a standing position. My movement stopped the snake’s movement 5-6 feet from me. My hands shook too much to take a picture, besides, I wanted more distance between us. I stepped back several steps and watched it. Finally, it started moving in the same north east direction. It stopped when it came to the warmer ground where I’d been sitting.

It would’ve gone — or at least started– across my lap if I’d been asleep.

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All this from watching a young deer in the backyard.