After resting my bike against an old red maple, I take a moment to listen and look around. Noting the familiar sounds of the many resident birds, I approach my pond-side sit spot and make myself comfortable atop a large rock. From my south-facing seat, I can see the open water through the filtering branches of several familiar shrubs and trees. Scanning from left to right, I see the massive northern red oak, the flowering pussy willows, the leaning alders still holding a few spent male flowers, the gray birch trees with unopened catkins, the short clump of sweet-gale and finally the fruiting red maple. While some appearances have changed since I was here last, not one of these friends is out of position.
The herbaceous layer is another matter entirely. Sprouting nearly overnight, new stalks of green growth have appeared where a few days prior there was only mud. Hummocks sport green blades of hair, skunk cabbage leaves are unfurling and spotted touch-me-not seedlings have begun to rise. Behind me, Japanese knotweed stalks are bursting from the soil – in a few short weeks this stand will become a green wall, lasting until fall.
Out on the pond, a mallard pair patrols the water's edge and a male wood duck occasionally whistles from a shady hidden location. A red-tailed hawk sails high over the pond. Below, small groups of tree and northern rough-winged swallows zip by, busily snatching insects on the wing. Snapping turtles surface and practice their floating-island poses, while painted turtles stack up on logs to catch some rays. The pair of eastern phoebes works the far shore, snacking as they go, and great blue heron hunts patiently in ankle-deep water, waiting for passing prey to present themselves. Out of view, but not out of earshot, I hear a few migrant warblers singing away.
I hear movement in the leaf litter to my right. Perhaps the resident song sparrows are heading my way, or perhaps an American robin is searching for worms? As I tune in on the sound, I realize the maker is neither – but rather a four-legged one. Leaf rustle gives way to noisy chatter. Red squirrel, ever alert, is no doubt also aware of me.
As I watch a silent common garter snake warming up in the sun, a snore comes from the nearby mud. I think to give my own snore in return, but resist the temptation. Despite their frequent sounds, I've yet to see a pickerel frog hop by. I wonder, when will the American toads begin to trill?
As I sit on my rock, the sun advances. Before long, an hour has gone by. How can it be, I think to myself, I've only just arrived. But perhaps that's precisely it, I have arrived, by quieting my mental chatter and setting aside past and future, if only for an hour each day.
I best be on my way, I say silently, but I'll see you all soon.
Notes: The above story stems from my current Sit Spot Challenge. I heard the first toads trilling on 4/17. The bird pictured is an Eastern Phoebe.