Things missed in passing

A few days ago my family went on a walk in the woods. We were searching for nothing in particular…were just there to enjoy the peace and quiet. We meandered about in the usual way, first visiting Norah’s favorite tree (the giant three-armed yellow poplar). she was lifted high into that perch, a spot frequented by many other animals. I have seen turkey up there on occasions and this time, there was scat, which Norah almost sat in. The structure of the fruit in the scat was very well-preserved, well enough at least that we’ll probably be able to identify the species….need to get a scat book! We played at the woods edge along the stream beneath a dense grove of hazel alders and dogwood trees, and chased small cricket frogs hiding in the leaves.

We were surprised to hear a late season chorus of spring peepers. It would come and go. Maybe ten frogs getting in on the action, all from the safety of the densely carpeted woodland floor. It was a surprise to hear them in November. Could this actually be related to mating?…an event that typically takes place in the spring? As is usually the case, Norah spotted one, and I could not see it for its camouflaging colors…she pointed it out and made quick catch. It perched calmly upon her gentle hand until, after about a minute, it launched itself headlong into the complex pallet of patterns and brownish gray colors of the forest.

After a bit of play, we sat…then we laid down on the ground, on a bed crunchy with the leaves of maple, oak, poplar, hickory, and sour wood. We gazed up into three hemlocks, adelgid free, and watched a leaf-footed bug dance in their limbs. It wasn’t long before one of us began snooping beneath the leaves, prying into last year’s blanket, pulling back the leathery oak mat. Exposed was a mostly decomposed layer of leaves from two years prior, and further still the compost of decades of litter. Looking closer, one could see movement. The smallest of creatures, creeping and crawling. The ground beneath us was alive. The largest living parts were millipedes and fungi…one of the smallest gilled mushrooms I’ve ever seen. The millipedes were frequent, maybe 5 every square foot of leaves overturned. They were curled tightly in a coil.

We enjoyed ourselves there, sitting still… listening, looking. So often we let a goal or a destination blind us along the path taken to get there. Well, this time we soaked up the wonders that are normally missed in passing.