Copyright 2016 by Lori-Ann Willey
This morning was just one of those days when the rewards of our lifestyle were paid in full. The current world events only further encourage the topic of appreciation. Every time there is a tragic event, grand scale or not, we all have that sense of appreciation …relief, if you will, that whatever happened, did not happen to you or a loved one. That is natural. Unfortunately, we need tragedy to appreciate good fortune. Sad as that may seem, it is true.
When I awoke this morning, I realized the day had already started without me. Disappointed that I had slept past sunrise, I let out a long, slow sigh. I had missed the dawning of a new day that I so enjoy …the blackness that ever so slowly reveals such brightness and beauty around our small camouflaged camp nestled at the edge of this beautiful, cold-water lake. Paul was sleeping so soundly, that I watched, and then, waited for that shallow rise and fall of his chest. Only then, would I allow myself to slither stealth-like from the bed and out of the bedroom with ease.
After making my bladdah-gladdah, I walked toward the front side of the camp, flipped the wall switch to the up position, and then, turned on my laptop before I walked to the sliding glass door. That is my daily routine day in and day out. After I looked around for critters in waiting, I grabbed a couple of peanuts and slipped them into shirt. I needed two hands to operate the camera. The clouds over the mountain were unique this morning and they grabbed my attention. Before I snapped my second picture, a chippy trotted my way. Instinctively, I reached inside my top and pulled out two peanuts for the critter. While he took his time wetting them before he shoved each into his cheeks, I took the time to rub behind his tiny little ears with my fingertips.
While coffee “perked”, I was surprised that Paul was up and ready to face the day, too. I wondered if he realized what time it was. Neither is used to him up that early, but I always like when he is more vertical than horizontal for sure. Together, we enjoyed our first cup of coffee today. Usually, I take my time sipping the first cup, and then, wait to have my second coffee with Paul. After asking how he slept, and then, how he was feeling, I asked him about the latest France news. He told me the new death toll and then added, “more expected”. My heart sank even more. “UGH!” I spouted. “So sad”.
With much debate inside my head, I decided to dip into town this morning. Paul ordered me a new style full-faced snorkel mask, because the one I have started leaking last summer. A leaking mask is not so fun when water seeps quickly around the nostrils! Although he rarely goes swimming, himself, I encouraged him to spend the extra money and buy a mask, too … “just in case”. I will always encourage him to be more active if he can. I’m always ready with that “boot”.
The trip into town was not as dreaded as it usually is. Knowing Paul wasn’t going to travel with me today, I left with a small box in hand. “I’m going to stop to pick blossoms on the way back through”, is what I told him, but his mind was on other more important things, so I do not believe he heard me, though I know he saw the box. I knew that if I was gone longer than he expected, then he’d figure it out or message me via phone to make sure all was OK.
I stopped a few times on the way to town and studied the tiny patches of fireweed as I saw them. I not only wanted the fireweed blossoms, but navigation had to be easy and safe, too. My travel speed upon return was a faster one, because I already knew where I could stop and gather blossoms and where I couldn’t. I stopped at one spot, but upon approach by foot, I realized the blossoms stood on the other side of a poison ivy patch. Before that ivy patch was a large area of ripe wild strawberries, too! Upon closer inspection, I saw moose tracks that traveled through all three areas. As much as I wanted to pick a pint of ripened wild berries, that ivy oil would spread onto the plants as the moose trampled through. It was not worth the risk.
A MOOOSIE VISITOR
Further down the road, I came to the only jewelweed patch that was easily accessible. I only needed about a cup of blossoms, but I would pick as many as I could easily reach. While picking, I heard a moose approach to my left. The first thing I did was assess the air current. I grinned when it was from a direction that would not alert the moose of my human scent. Even still, the ground upon which I stood was soft from the recent rains so I took full advantage of that softness. Quickly, yet subtle-like, I worked my foot to loosen the soil in hopes to mask my scent a bit more in case the air currents shifted.
That decision was debatable, because, on the one hand, I wanted to mask my scent, but on the other hand, I know that wild animals, are attracted to freshly scuffed soil. I didn’t want to discourage the beast’s approach, but I did not want it stepping on my feet either. If the beast could not smell my human scent, maybe the smell of freshly dug soil would filter through the bull or cow’s nostrils and it would approach the area with a bit of caution. No matter what, there is always an element of surprise and unpredictability. Plainly put, one just never knows. My safest bet was to return to the truck and watch from there, but I wasn’t finished picking the blossoms yet. Therefore, like I have a habit of doing, I justified my decision to stay put.
It wasn’t long before the beautiful cow moose came into view about 30 feet from where I stood. I knew I was on a downslope and there was a mound between us, but as it was, I was head deep and nearly hidden. Luckily for me, the mound between the beast and I was covered by three to four-foot plants of a different type. The cow stopped at the edge of the woods with just her chest, neck, and head in view of me. Obviously, she had spotted me and didn’t think I was much of a threat to her. Still, I continued my blossom picking as I craned my head to see if she had a little calf to protect. If she did, it was either too small to see or it was hidden behind her bulkiness.
The cow stood motionless. I watched her ears. They stood tall. I tried to see the back of her neck. The hair laid beautifully flat. Her head remained in a normal curious posture. After about a minute, we deemed each other as no immediate threat. My box full. I had more than enough for jelly-making. To collect more would mean I would have to take a few steps in her direction and that was something I was not willing to do. Calf or no calf, I was not going to ruin her trust.
Before turning around, I asked, “Do you have a baby with you?” Then, without pause, I asked another question, “Am I picking your snacks, or are you just passing through?” She did not seem alarmed at my human voice, body shape, or slow movement. I wondered if the fresh scent of dirt at my feet confused her. She did not answer my questions, but she did twitch her ears in acknowledgment as I spoke. At that distance, I watched intently for any subtle change in her body language, and I listened very closely for any faint frog-like chirp sounds of warning to her baby if one was indeed near her. I was confident that it was safe to walk away. Every few seconds or more, I turned my head to the right just enough to see that she stayed put. After a few steps, I turned my head when I heard her hefty body snap a few limbs in movement. She had turned around just as I had. I was quite disappointed that I did not have either my phone or little camera in my pockets at the time. The pants I wore to town have loose shallow pockets and it was safer to keep my “toys” inside the truck and not lost somewhere in the thick plant growth.
Further down the road, I saw a basketball sized snapper walking the road in the opposite direction. I stopped beside him and spoke. Surprisingly, the turtle did not withdraw its body parts into its shell. Instead, when I greeted him, he turned his head in my direction and stared at me. Unfortunately, that is the only interaction he’d grant me today. When he started to scurry away, I took the hint and coasted a few feet before I gently used the accelerator. Respect and appreciation go both ways.
THE SWIM RETRIEVAL
Once at camp, Paul inspected the snorkel masks and deemed them not damaged. He agreed that steak bombs sounded like a good lunch, so it was not long before I had the veggies chopped and cooking in a cast iron skillet. When lunch was ready to scoop into buns, Paul noticed something white floating in the water on the other side of the dam. Even with binoculars, he could not tell what the object was. Lunch, hot and ready didn’t matter. I knew that whatever it was, it was up to me to play fetch. At first, Paul thought it was trash, and then, thought maybe it looked like a fish, but when I looked, it looked like a dead duck floating on its back with one foot partially sticking out of the water. The lake was wavy, so it was not an easy view even with binoculars.
I grabbed my camera and tried to zoom in on the object, but still, no identification. With camera in hand, I walked to the end of the dock, but even from there, the wind and waves continued to conceal the object. There was no hesitation. I told Paul I was going “in”. As I grabbed my snorkel fins, Paul yelled down, “Grab the net while you are there.” My thoughts were, “Huh? I’ll drown trying to swim with that thing!”, but still, I grabbed it in passing just the same, and then, called out, “You’ll have to take my camera really quick because whatever it is, it is moving pretty fast.” He met me at the top of the stairs and with a quick hand off of the camera, I was fast-footing it to our beachy area. Entering the water there meant a longer swim, but it was by far a safer way to enter the water. The net has a name. We call it the “The Nancy Net”. (The Nancy Net is a tangle-free rubber net that measures about 18”x20” on a six-foot metal pole. We call it a Nancy Net because we bought it from the owners of Two Rivers Canoe and Tackle. The owners are husband and wife. People call him, “The Bear”. Nancy is his wife and both are friends of ours. Nancy is the one who introduced us to the rubber net. Therefore, “The Nancy Net” was born).
I was in the water with fins on my feet in no time. With the “Nancy Net” in one hand and my underwater camera tucked into the top part of my suit, my swim was clumsy. Only then was I thankful for help the winds and waves gave. Paul hollered that he would wait at the end of the dock and take the net after I scooped the debris from the water. For that, I was especially thankful, because I had no idea how I was going to swim against those waves.
After about 20 feet in the water, my back started to spasm something awful. I told myself that I was on a mission …and I was already in the water so I was not going to turn back. Luckily, I was able to initiate relief by reaching with my free hand and putting pressure upon the spasm while I drifted to a nearby submerged rock. There, I rested upon my belly and let my body go limp as I continued to put pressure upon the decreasing muscle spasm. Soon, I was swimming again. The object was further away, but “catch-up-to-able” at least. By then, we both had concluded that it was probably a dead fish, but neither could tell just what kind. As I approached, I will be honest and tell you that I thought about the snapping turtle we saw next to the boat this morning. It was probably the same one that Paul saw a few feet further out last evening, but we can’t be sure. The snapper this morning was hunting baby ducks! That was quite impressive to watch. He failed, but it didn’t mean that this “fish” wasn’t a baby duck either.
Believe it or not, I still could not identify the floating object until I used the net and brought it closer for a photo. I told Paul, “It’s a dead fall fish, I think”, but as I handed the net handle to Paul, he said it was a sucker. His view was obviously better than mine. Either way, it was dead and either way, I had it in a net. I told Paul, “I’ll put it in my compost”, but he already knew my intent. He is funny like that. He knows my love for making compost, and when we have “company” visiting, he will make sure to announce that anything biodegradable goes into the compost pail. I have to laugh at that because it took a LONG time to get him into the habit of composting such things. Now, it is fun to hear him preach the same lecture to others.
Dripping wet, I brought the fish to my latest compost pile, dug a hole to the bottom and deposited the fish before covering it back up. However, in the process, I noticed a big chunk was bitten off near the base of the tail fin. No doubt, our Mr. Turtle had already taken a bite. Upon returning to camp, Paul had made my sandwiches. I thanked him for his help and in return, he thanked me for cooking lunch.
When I sat down to eat, it was just after 12pm. My day was already complete. Today is just one of those days when you take in all the ugliness in the world, and find a way to appreciate your life even more. I am always so truly amazed that just when I think I cannot feel any more appreciation, more sneaks in and leaves me in awe. As with love, appreciation has no limits. It is up to us to realize it. See it. Feel it, and then, find our own way to share it. That is why this lengthy blog entry. I wanted to share my appreciation of everything I was able to see, do, and feel today.
With all the yuckies in the world today, find a way to appreciate life any way you can, and then, find a way to appreciate it even more.