Last weekend, I finally got up the courage to go out with my camera, local homicides be damned. It was a beautiful day - about 70 and sunny. The bulbs in my yard were blooming, and the trees were starting to bud. It had rained the night before, and the air was fresh and clean.
My SLR, two rolls of film, spare batteries, and I set off for the wooded area near our subdivision. It's mostly a thin strip of trees between backyards and a busy road. Since I tend to traipse no matter where I live, I'd already been back there several times. Last summer, I found an entire army of wild blackberries.
This time I went farther than I had before, and was richly rewarded. I found beautiful, deserted areas of woods with leaf litter so deep that I sunk in with each step. Although it had rained, the leaves and needles were so thick that when I sat on the ground, I stayed dry. I found lots of the small wonders that I usually photograph, like pinecones, flowers, and birds. The bugs were scarce, since it was so early in the season.
I broke the boundaries of the "known" and hiked off into the unknown. I got some shots of chickadees who were too mad at me to fly away - they must have had a nest nearby. I found old evidence of carnage -- piles of fur and a skull gnawed beyond recognition. I walked on and suddenly an owl lifted itself through the canopy, circled, and flew off. I think it was a Barred Owl. The only other time I've seen a wild owl was when my dad nearly hit one with the rental car while we were driving at 3am in Washington State. I saw a creek fall into an underground sinkhole and flow out 10 yards further down. I saw anthills as big as a burn barrel. I knew there were snakes around here, but I'd never seen one until today. It shook its rattleless tail at me for a few seconds before slithering into a hole in the ground. A sampling of what I saw, courtesy of Google Images:
I did get a few nice photos, but most of the beauty of the trip was in the experiences. Being outside, getting lost in nature within a mile of your house, losing 3 hours in an instant, watching birds' courtship. Seeing the things I'd never seen before.
There's beauty everywhere. It's right under our noses, but we rarely see it.