I think lately I’ve been reading too much dire and discouraging material about our probable future. Environmental, economic, you name it. I keep wondering how to make this project into something that might actually be helpful in some way, no matter how small. The more often is heard a discouraging word, the harder it seems to do that job.
April 23rd was a beautiful day, unseasonably warm in the 80’s. I put cameras and water in my knapsack, got on my bike, and went over to the Little River.
For whatever reason, I decided to take the path that leads to the homeless encampment I photographed in an earlier post; where the path forks, I turned away from the encampment. (I could see it through the brush, but couldn’t tell if anyone was home.) I noticed that some small trees had fallen across both forks of the path and wondered if someone had done that on purpose to discourage visitors.
I got down to the riverside, crossing many stems of thorny stuff lying on the ground, beaten down by weather. They’re not dead, sprouts are visible, and presumably that area will be impassable in summer. I stood on the riverbank under a tree; there was a goose on the river not far away. While I was trying to compose a picture, I saw in the river the reflection of a large bird that flew up and landed in a tree on the other bank. It was a heron. I didn’t try to take its picture; I was screened by branches and I knew it would fly away if I moved to where I could get a better shot. Now there were two large birds in the immediate vicinity. I stayed where I was, not moving. Not very long after, a swan came gliding down the river.
(As always, you can click on the image to see a larger version you can zoom in on. F11 to view full screen.)
A very large bird indeed. (Later I looked it up in The Sibley Guide to Birds. It was a mute swan. They are 60″ in length and have a 75″ wingspan.) I was amazed but not surprised; I felt grounded by seeing it, that is, my feet felt well connected to the earth. When it got to where I was, it turned toward me and swam closer to the bank, checked me out, then went on downstream.
I took this as a singular affirmation.
I continued upriver, along the bank.
My next stop was at Perch Pond. As I was sitting there at the same spot where I photographed in the late fall (see this post from November 27), two geese flew over, heading upstream, honking loudly. I could hear the creaking of their wing joints as they flew.
I continued on to Hill Estates. My original goal when I set out was to see what had become of the pool in the lawn there, next to Little Pond. When I first photographed it, and the plastic foxes guarding it (see this post), I thought it looked like a vernal pool, but the actual season was autumn. Now, in spring, it’s still there. There were a pair of ducks on the pool; Nature always fills in the gaps, seizes the opportunities that arise.
One of the plastic foxes seemed to be gazing off wistfully into the woods, as if he wanted to go there.
I worked my way through some brush to the place where the Little River originates, coming out of Little Pond. I sat there for a while, took a couple of pictures. One goose was there. I heard another honking loudly overhead, flying up the river; it landed on the pond. Then another did, equally vociferous. They were honking to each other. The goose who had been there first swam off a little ways; the pair took up the spot where the first had been. I watched them groom their feathers for a while.
Then in the distance, on the far side of Little Pond, I noticed something in the reeds on the shore. (Perhaps you can make out a small white streak there in the photo, to the left of the geese.) As soon as I noticed it, I thought it had to be the female swan sitting on her nest.
A look at the map showed she was under the Lake Street onramp to Route 2. I got back on my bike and circled the pond. Going along the onramp I found a convenient gap in the fence, yet another affirmation on a day of them. I locked my bike there and went through.
As I made my way with difficulty through the vines, saplings, and rose thorns, I kept thinking of what I’ve learned from Vaughn: go where the picture is. I was also thinking the swans knew what they were doing when they chose that place to nest. Eventually I did get to a vantage point above Mrs. Swan and took her picture, moving around and causing all sorts of rustling and cracking of sticks. She knew I was there, but she wasn’t budging. I didn’t want to disturb her, but I wanted the picture and in the end it seemed I got it without doing harm. I doubt that swans are afraid of people; geese aren’t, and swans are much bigger creatures.
I clambered down to the edge of the pond; she watched me without seeming alarmed. There I nearly stepped on a dead animal’s skin, a raccoon as far as I could tell. Or was it a skunk whose black hair had faded to brown? It was completely flat, melted into the mud, but I could see its nose amid the fur, crawling with maggots (another opportunity taken).
I continued along the shore, which was a slightly easier route, and so back to my bike and home.
Earlier in the day my friend David gave me this advice about what to write, which he said came from the Bhagavad-Gita: “Do the thing that is honest and it will find the light.” By the end of the afternoon it seemed clear to me that what I was being told by the surrounding intelligence was, Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s working. Don’t stop now.