One of the many beauties of going on nature walks is that you just never know what you’ll encounter. And it is through the art of observation and of being eternally cognizant that one develops a finer sense of what to look for. But even then, you can never be 100% sure of what you’ll see or of what nature has in store for you on any particular day. For you see, it’s quite random, as life in the woods and fields and forgotten places goes on unobserved for the most part, and it is only the casual passer-by who becomes privy to the most special moments.
Returning from my walk one afternoon last week, I came across a snake in the middle of the dirt road that appeared to be quite dead. I poked at it gently with my walking stick, and suddenly, its tail started twitching. Despite its depleted state, the spark of life still flickered within its crushed body, so I picked it up and moved it into the vegetation where it would have the best chance to recover, if that were at all possible. That, or nature would mercifully make quick work of it in the form of a larger and hungry predator.
A bit farther down the road, I next came across a small pile of brush that someone had deposited to one side. Upon closer inspection, I saw that they were crab apple tree trimmings that still bore dozens of the small green and red fruit. One bite was all it took, and I began stuffing my pockets with as many as I could carry. I could have carried the branches back with me, but considering that food sources are slowly depleting, I decided to leave them for the deer and other creatures that love such treats. I wasn’t sure at that point exactly what I would do with my crab apple windfall other than put them in a bowl to admire and maybe take a taste from now and then, or toss them out over the porch railing for the squirrels. I resumed my walk wondering if I had enough of them to get at least a small jar’s worth of jelly out of.
As I turned off the gravel road into my driveway, I heard the familiar low raspy caw of a raven as it soared just a few dozen feet above me. The crows have been staying away lately, but I’ve seen quite a few ravens, so I’m wondering if they haven’t taken over these woods. I learned recently that an ancient and now archaic term used to label a flock of ravens is “an unkindness.” Other terms used to describe the grouping include a flight, if the ravens are indeed in the air, or a congress, if they are perched somewhere. Whatever the correct term is, I recently saw several ravens flying above the tree line on the north side of Wadleigh Pond, so I suspect their numbers are increasing hereabouts. A single raven perched quite low in a tree just beyond my porch not long ago, and flew off when I looked outside. Larger and stockier than a crow, the raven is quite the sight with its rich glossy dark plumage, its thick powerful beak, and its regal and assertive pose upon a branch.
Taking all these seemingly insignificant events into consideration, there is no doubting nature’s ability to distract and to employ the cumulative effect of all these experiences to instantly shift my focus from the complex to the simple. I might even go so far as to say that reaping a small bounty of fruit on the side of the road, removing an injured creature from further harm’s way, or hearing a raven pass all offer some sort of mystical assurance that here in the woods at least, all is well and ever shall be.