Today was a beautiful fall day after the chill and damp of the past week, so this afternoon I went for a wander and ended up on the shore of one of our lakes. I was fascinated by this spot, where old logs in the water had turned into tiny islands – on the right hand side of the photo above you can see one, where a fallen log in the shallow water at the lake’s edge supports a whole community of moss, grasses, bracken fern, pitcher plants, leatherleaf, and maple seedlings.

I picked my way down to the water’s edge and I must have sat there for at least half an hour. It’s amazing what you can see when you just sit still and watch. Several frogs plopped into the water as I approached, but I managed to spot a couple more who’d stayed put and identified them as green frogs. A drab-looking dragonfly buzzed past a couple times – which surprised me, since we’ve already had a couple hard freezes, but then dragonflies are pretty good thermoregulators for insects – and it looked like it may have been laying eggs on the surface of the wet logs, but I don’t know enough about dragonflies to be sure. A pair of painted turtles appeared under the surface of the clear water, and I realized after watching them for a minute that they were courting, the smaller one (the male) wiggling his claws in the face of the bigger one (the female). I’d never seen wild turtles doing that before, only our captive ones back in Georgia. A kingfisher rattled around. A chipmunk ran down the length of one of the logs, tail held straight up. Fish jumped. Nuthatches yanked.

Back to the grad school grind tomorrow morning… but this was a nice break.

14 replies on “Sitting”

Your title reminds me of a lovely British children’s book, “The Chronicles of the White Horse”, about a young boy who falls down a mole’s hole, and becomes apprenticed to the mole, who is a detective. (It’s set near the White Horse of Uffington in England, hence the book title.) The mole teaches him to “sit stone” – sitting so quietly that you become invisible, like a stone, hiding in plain sight, to find things out.

I often “sit stone” when in the woods and, you’re right, living things that you might not expect often come out.

“The completely known is a numbing void to all active minds. Even a laboratory rat seeks the adventure of the maze”. -E. O. Wilson

I try to find time every weekend to just sit and see and be. It’s amazing how many fantastic little jewels crawl past you while sitting in a patch of forest or field of flowers and grass. I could live a hundred lifetimes and never know all that is beneath my feet (or butt, of course, it’s hard to see under there) but sometimes it’s enough just to notice.

Your statement about living a hundred lifetimes without knowing everything beneath your feet reminds me of the opening to one of my favorite novels, Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver, which talks about how presumptive it is to ever imagine yourself “alone” in the woods. In the woods you are always, always surrounded by life.

Rebecca, This is a really interesting image just as an image. When I first saw it, the angles of the logs in the water combined with the reflective surface to distort the appearance of the logs. If you tried cropping the image to just the logs, it would work almost like an M. C. Escher print–hard to tell what is up and what is down!

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