Monday 30 June 2014

Good Morning

There is a small lake about half an hour's walk from where I live, with an equally small, but very pleasant, park at one end.  The park contains a play area, some picnic tables, some tall cottonwood trees, and a boat ramp; not much to catch the eye at first, but there are almost always visitors.

You might be excused at first for wondering what draws people there.  Certainly the view is pretty, and the water is usually calm enough to welcome canoes and small boats, but there are many places in the valley as beautiful and we are on an island, surrounded by water.  We don't lack for opportunities to paddle.

What is it then?

Great carpets of water lilies lie near the shore of the lake.  Right now they're at their peak, broad flat leaves rising from the water on sturdy stems and orange-yellow flowers blooming brightly at the water line.  

Behind them, coming right up to the shore, are thickets of tall sturdy reeds interspersed with young cottonwood saplings, dipping their toes in the water.

Dragonflies flit just above the surface of the water, their transparent wings turned silver by the sunlight, and in the shade of the lily pads small frogs lie quiet during the day but sing surprisingly loud serenades at sunrise and sunset.

Small silver fish seek shelter in the shadows of the lily carpet while further out larger fish rise to catch the insects on the surface, occasionally jumping to catch the sunlight in a brilliant liquid silver arch before disappearing again beneath the blue surface of the water.

Osprey plummet from the skies - feathered missiles - into the still waters.  Rising again to the skies with silvered bounty clutched in beak or talons, they make their way to rocky perches where they can consume their catch while keeping watch around them.

Great flotillas of ducks and geese sail by, traveling parallel to the shore.  The ducks turn bottoms-up to dine on fish with a side salad of underwater grasses before righting themselves on the surface like corks. The geese are more dignified, dipping only their heads beneath the water, and emerging with bright droplets jeweling their feathers. Tame creatures, ducks and geese alike will come right up onto the sidewalk if they think a visiting human might provide a snack.

In the lily metropolis the smaller creatures - bugs and dragonflies, bright butterflies, frogs, and fish - draw busy brown birds who hop from leaf to leaf, feeding and socializing as they go.  Among them, exotic with their vivid feathers, red winged black birds swoop and wheel.  They perch a moment and are off again, moving so quickly that the eye catches little of their passing but a bright flash of red and yellow from their shoulder patches.

The cottonwoods are busy too, with different occupants at different heights within the tree: a sort of avian high rise.  Near the bottoms of the trees, flickers and woodpeckers mine hungrily for insects on the bark.  In the branches above, swallows rest before darting out over the water to hunt.  Conventions of crows come and go from the top branches, shouting to one another in rusty, abrasive voices before moving on.

It's easy to imagine myself a traveler; a tourist visiting this lakeside community of creatures, experiencing it with that same sense of curiosity and adventure one has when taking a vacation.  The more I watch, the more I'm drawn into the scene, entranced by each small detail, eager to know more about each inhabitant. So absorbed am I that time slips by without my notice.  

Eventually, though, like any traveler, I must be on my way.  The chores of the day are waiting and routine is once again calling my name.  I can return home refreshed, though, with the happy thought that this lakeside lily-world is nearby.  I can come back to it again to gaze and daydream and, in the meantime I am refreshed, my calm restored, and my spirits lifted at the beginning of the day.

Have a joyful Monday.