My mother planted a love of nature in me in early childhood. We would go on daily adventures to the Credit River searching for fossils, arrowheads, frogs and the ever elusive and mysterious yellow-bellied sapsucker. Hurricane Hazel came through this valley the year I was born. Eighty-one people lost their lives to that storm; 300 million tons of water fell from the sky at over 100 miles an hour. It left a mark on the land that we were determined to find, along with a rare sapsucker feather.
My mother would demonstrate how echoes were made, stones were skipped and which vines were edible. We looked in river pools for the trout lying in the shadows by their edge. A neighbor raised pheasants in his back yard and we looked for the males with their ornate wattles and long tails. At the dam, we watched for minnows escaping in silver flashes in the tiny falls. I would spend my days in such settings, often alone but never lonely, pursuing some new mystery like the discovery of an animal skull washed clean by the water, just waiting there for the adventurous collector to add it to feathers, stones and other bones, the boons of daily expeditions.
Who could claim to have really been in nature without encountering a world where secrets hide until silence has recovered? Every place has its atmosphere, made manifest by the spirits of plant, animal, water, stone and other shy and elusive presences.
© Patrick O’Neill 2008. All rights reserved.