May 30, 2020

A Place of Extraordinary Beauty

A view across the fields

Janine Pineo Photo | A view across the fields

• By John F. Chisholm •

This is a place of extraordinary beauty.

True, it’s easier appreciating that when the deerflies aren’t out.  Having the weather cool and comfortable helps tremendously as well.  The sun rising through the mists covering the ponds makes a big difference, too.  I walk the dogs in the early morning marveling at everything around me.

Fall is here in all its fleeting glory.  Red and yellow maple leaves float on the water, precarious boats set on a cross-pond journey.  A flock of Canada geese washes a great many away, waterskiing to stops through their midst.  Their flight pinions whistle as they apply the airbrakes.  The geese fuss for a few moments, honking, shaking, splashing, sinking even more leaves in the process of settling their wings.  Then they turn their attention to the serious business of breakfast.

Deer tracks stand out, stark green lines meandering across our fields.  The deer knock the frost off the grass with their passage.  In addition, their weight pressure melts the ice underfoot.  This while the rest of the hay stubble remains coated with hoar.  The resulting contrast high-lights their trails.  From the look of the tracks, a pack of coyotes followed them across the field.

I walk over, leaning closer to look.  Scat confirms my deduction.

The dogs run circles around me.  Noses glued to the ground, they deduce more from the lingering smells than I can see, rubber-necking in wonder.

The geese take off in a sudden explosion of alarm.  A trail of water drops marks their flight pattern from beneath.  A few land on me.  I wipe my neck, craning my head, watching them go, thankful that it was only water they dropped.

“What set them off?” I wonder aloud.  They’re so used to our morning walks, dogs and all, that I’m confident it wasn’t me causing the disruption.

I shade my eyes and carefully scan around me.  Away to the east, above even the sun, a bald eagle circles, apparently disinterested in the world beneath.  I shake my head in amazement.  Those geese have sharp eyes.  I never would have noticed the eagle were in not for their abrupt departure.

A great blue heron hunting late season frogs decides the to do is more than it can stand as well.  It departs the shallows of Piper Brook.  It’s wing beats are less rapid than those of the geese but have impressive power.  I think that I would have noticed it, although later in my walk, had it remained frozen in place.

Meanwhile, a flock of crows dives for the woods, headed for cover as well.  Their flight bobs and weaves around the trees.  They caw loudly to each other along the way.   I smile.  A single bald eagle caused much more of a stir than myself and four dogs.

But in fact, that’s the way I want it.  It’s a rare privilege walking this land as a spectator surrounded by life and death struggles.

Indeed, I’m not exaggerating.   What merely fascinated me was survival to all the other parties.  But their wariness and struggles only emphasizes my initial observation:

This is a place of extraordinary beauty.