Friday, May 6, 2011

A Lake of our Own

"Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake."
-Wallace Stevens

I thought that it was about time I shared with you some of what we've been doing with our time lately.  Walking around the lake is pretty much a daily event around here seeing as it is the perfect outlet for our dog's boundless energy and curiosity.  Kind of a neat equation that looks a little like this:

 She needs lots of exercise + so do we + might as well make it as pleasant an experience as possible = daily walk around the lake. 

One of the added benefits to this daily constitution is that we've been privy to how this stretch of Earth changes with the seasons.  It's remarkable how varied the landscape can be depending on what season it happens to be.  We have experienced some of our most magical moments during quiet winter snow showers.  Every day presents a new gift.

But now with Spring finally upon us, for good (?), we've been drawn to the lake anew.  The first part of our walk takes us down and up and down and up and down and up on the part of the lake road that winds through a beautiful forest with a towering canopy and trickling streams.  This is where we first came upon this:

I love how mushrooms just pop up, completely unexpectedly and without warning or declaration.  That's why finding them is such a joy!  Like nature's very own rendition of a Jack-in-the-box.

And then there is the lovely May Apple (which we also learned are also known as Mandrakes.  You can only imagine how excited these Harry Potter fans were to discover this little fact and to relish in the fact that we are literally surrounded by these magical plants!!!).  One of my favorite Spring experiences is to watch the unfolding of the May Apples.  They pop up, much like the mushrooms do, in magnificient groupings of no less than 15-20.  At first, they look like crumpled old men with wrinkled coats of green, emerging from a very long winter's sleep.  But then, as their leaves reach for the dappled sunlight that reaches them through the trees, they look like miniature patio umbrellas.  I've always referred to them as Fairy umbrellas, even before I knew their proper name, because that is exactly what they look like.  When you stumble upon a grouping of them, you feel as if you have stepped into hallowed ground that belongs to the woodland sprites and that you should tread lightly and reverently.  And then, as if they weren't perfect enough, round about the first of May, they bloom.  Beautifully.

 "And will any poet sing of a lusher, richer thing,
Than a ripe May apple, rolled like a pulpy lump of gold
Under thumb and finger tips; and poured molten through the lips?"
James Whitcomb Riley

And then, we come around the bend to find this view:

It is right along this bank, lined with cattails and duck weed, that we have found some wonderful treasures.
Like this frightening snapping turtle:

Or the evidence of a ringed bandit's midnight snack along the shore:

“I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore. . . .
I hear it in the deep heart's core.” 
-William Butler Yeats

 So we soon realized this Spring that were just going to have to spend more time out here.  It was just too much of a treasure to take for granted.  We decided that we wanted to know this lake like the back of our hand.  To explore it and study it and learn all we could from its quiet yet immeasurable beauty.

We decided to take to the paddle boat (thank you to our wonderful neighbors for sharing it with us!!!).  Call it "boat school" or "outdoor education", whatever...  All I know is that it is enchanting and delightful.  The lake is our teacher and we are her pupils.

Here is August consulting our Birds of Missouri book, trying to determine exactly what type of heron we had spotted.  You can see the year's new cattails emerging behind him--great places for the giant bullfrogs to hide.

As we maneuvered around the banks of the lake we decided to investigate a site that we thought might house a Canadian Goose nest.  We had observed the parents lurking around this particular area quite often and we believed there was a very good reason for that.
We were absolutely right and found this evidence:

We were very dismayed to see broken egg shells and even one lone, uncracked egg (where's Templeton when you need him?).  You see, we hadn't seen the parents around here in the most recent days and so we assumed that something had raided their nest.  We quietly contemplated the risks and dangers that come with trying to raise your young in the wild and we meekly mourned the loss to these goose parents.  We then spotted them, the parents, sitting on an opposite bank, staring at us as we surrounded their, since abandoned, nest.  They looked at us stoically and with a deep resignation.  My heart broke for them. 
We decided to move the paddle boat in their direction, wanting to pay them our respects and respectfully acknowledge their efforts.

Imagine our surprise when, as we got closer, they jumped up from their sunny spot to reveal a half dozen goslings hidden between the two of them!!  They quickly moved into the water, knowing that the lake was their domain and their safety net.  Our hearts swelled with relief and admiration.

And so it has been for us, these last few days and weeks.  The first thing August asked me this morning was whether or not we could, again, go out on the water.  And how can I say "no"?  It calls to me as much as it does to them.  The challenge is taking care of the other things we also need to do today.  As usual, I'm torn.

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