It’s been hot and humid in the Great Lakes State.
We’re canning peaches, plums, and apricots and seeing the first apples harvested.
Birds, bees, and butterflies are at their busiest, storing away food and fat reserves for the coming cold.
It’s the time of yellow flowers.
It’s the time of frogs.
And this year it also happens to be the time of floods.
The pond at Fenner Nature Center looks to be a foot higher than the last time I was there, and on our trip there Friday, the boy and I spied little schools of minnows swimming across the deck.
Frogs have taken to floating lazily at the surface rather than sitting on their customary rocks, which are now submerged.
In a few months the teasel will be brown and far less forgiving to the touch. Leaves that are currently melting will be crispy and skipping along the ground.
Already the international students are moving in at Michigan State University (and disregarding stop signs in the Meijer parking lot while I walk across with my seven-year-old). The rest of the college students will be back by next week. You know how people in the South blitz their grocery stores when the forecast is predicting an inch of snow? I kind of feel like I should be prepping before the U-Hauls start arriving in town.
As always, by this time I’m largely done with summer. But we have a couple very busy months coming up, so I’m trying to relish what’s left of it.
My, my, how the week just gets away. April slipped out while I was busy with other things and now it’s a full week since I had the good fortune to be here.
Compared to many of you, I’m sure, I have lived a very sheltered life close to home. It’s not for want of desire to travel. As a child I was wildly jealous of my best friend and her frequent travels to places beyond our small town. She summered in these mountains at a camp called Cheley. You can see it here if you look hard.
Don’t see it?
She spent her summers riding horses (something else I longed to do, as all girls do at some point) through this landscape.
Now, I love my state. I could never live in Colorado because of the water factor. It’s hard enough living in mid-Michigan when you grew up with sailboats and freighters and seagulls and drawbridges. But I understand why Colorado sucks people in.
I mean, who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by this?
It is fantastically beautiful, inspiring us to stop and reflect on our own cosmic insignificance — were we not made by the same creative and loving hand as each of those mountains. Yet we are known as intimately and cherished as closely. The same God who caused the earth to push up Long’s Peak…
…causes the earth to push up the mountain crocus.
He bids us leave our homes, get out of our cars, get off our duffs, and start to climb.
He calls us to seek higher ground, not for safety’s sake, but so that we can see the world closer to His vantage point.
He calls us to love and care for this incredible planet, and for all of the living things He put here for our enjoyment and education and inspiration.
And to pass that love and sense of responsibility down to our wide-eyed children.
He calls us to notice the shade of the dirt…
…the sound of the river…
…and the chaotic flight of the swallows.
My first trip to the Rocky Mountains was entirely too short. But I will be back, with husband and son in tow. Because beauty like this is meant to be shared.
At Fenner Nature Center on Sunday I observed a chickadee couple hollowing out a stump to nest in. I think chickadees are my favorite small birds. It took me a while of slowly creeping near to get close enough for a good photo. Then a jogger ran by and off the chickadees flew. I stayed in my spot for another few minutes, and they did come back.
The key to photographing skittish wildlife is always patience. Stay there, stay still, and they will eventually come near. It will always feel like it takes longer than it should, and because we’re programmed by everything in life not to wait silently you will want to give up, get up, and get on with it. Don’t. You have to force yourself to be still and be ready — that means you have your camera trained on the spot you believe the animal will appear, you have it focused, your eye is at the viewfinder, and your finger is on the shutter button. You can’t move your head or the camera or your hand after the animal has appeared, because that movement will frighten them. You have to be ready and you have to wait.
I guess one other helpful attribute is the ability to notice. I almost missed seeing this deer and her companion across the little pond where I was hoping to get a better look at the frogs I kept hearing.
One thing’s for sure: you will always miss moments like this if you never look away from that infernal smartphone. Life is out there. Go look for it.