Some Rainy Day Treasures

It was the kind of rainy morning when the rain seemed to be falling all around but not much on me.  So it was a good time for a foray into the woods.

I walked down the hill into the forest, listening to the birds singing from unseen perches.  Perhaps the birds had decided not to leave their sheltered nooks until after the rain stopped.

I looked around at all the green, wet flora.  Every plant had been touched by rain.  The various low-to-the-ground weeds shone wetly.  And the fennel in Andy’s herb garden looked almost ethereal.  Its pale, thin stalks and even thinner, feathery leaves seemed almost to disappear in the greyness of the day.  Only the tiny, sparkling raindrops dotting the numerous tiny plant tips made the fennel stand out, keeping it from receding into the background, upstaged by its coarser, sturdier neighbors–the lemon verbena and the mint.  The deep lines on the mint leaves were darker than usual, more defined by the wetness.  They reminded me of the furrows on the back of my hand that become an intricate little network when viewed under a magnifying glass.

A few steps down the hill, the saucer magnolia tree looked particularly alive in the rain.  Individual leaves quivered in response to drops of rain gently pelting them.  Now this leaf, now that one, trembled with the impact of drops pattering down through the tree.

Deeper into the forest, I noticed here and there small, net-shaped webs, close to the ground, strung between a twig and a little pile of leaves, or between edges of a hole in a log.  Once I knew something about how these woodland webs are formed and what they are called.  And now I don’t!  But this morning they were nests of sparkling raindrops, and I knew they should be called ‘fairy nets.’

A few moments later, I paused to look at a pine tree’s new growth under watery beads of sustenance.  Only because I had stopped in my walk did I notice the bright yellow on the ground near the tree.  It was a box turtle!  I rarely spot turtles, so I was excited.  The turtle’s head stretched far out from its shell, and inclined upward toward me.  The turtle stood completely motionless, its coral pink, scaly front legs curving outward and down, balanced firmly on many-toed feet.

The turtle and I stared at each other.  I kept more than a yard of distance between us, not wanting to drive the reptile into its shell.  After a few moments, the turtle’s throat sac began to inflate and deflate, again and again.  Was the animal taking deep breaths?  Was it beginning to relax in my presence?  Soon the turtle withdrew its head a little, and the sac was no longer visible.

We looked and looked, the turtle perfectly still, and I slowly moving from side to side, wanting to see as much of the turtle as I could.  How long could  the turtle remain so still, I wondered?  Whatever activity my presence had interrupted could wait, it seemed, perhaps indefinitely.  Finally, I moved on.  But I was curious.  How soon would the turtle resume whatever it had been doing?  I took a few steps away and then came back.  Still no movement.  And I came back again after walking a little farther away.  Still the turtle stood motionless.

What a great protection is stillness, I thought.  I would never have noticed the turtle in my walk, despite the bright yellow markings on its shell.  So many animals know how to be–and stay–motionless, unnoticed by predators, safe despite the fact that they are in plain view.

I know that stillness can be good for me too.  When I meditate, even if my mind is far from still, my body is still.  And it feels good, deeply good, a peaceful contrast from the almost constant movement that characterizes the rest of my day.–April Moore

photo:  U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

photo: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

6 Responses to “Some Rainy Day Treasures”

  1. Todd Says:

    Thanks April. Reminds me of Ogden Nash’s poem:

    The turtle lives twixt plated decks
    Which practically conceal its sex.
    I think it clever of the turtle,
    in such a fix, to be so fertile.

  2. Kia Says:

    Great photo! Did you take that with your new camera?

  3. Diane Says:

    Oh, April I love the story of the encounter with the turtle. I wonder what inflating and deflating the throat sac meant.

  4. Joan Brundage Says:

    As always, beautiful nature writing! I can just see the woods you walked in. Thanks!

  5. April Says:

    No, I’m afraid I forgot my camera that morning! I found the photo on the Web. Next time. . . . .

  6. Judy Muller Says:

    April, that is a particularly lovely piece, and especially for me, as I live in a high desert climate. I could just feel the moisture. And I love what you wrote about stillness.

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