Sunny Pi Day Nature Walk

I woke up in darkness, well before dawn, and felt giddy at the sight of clear, white light streaming through the slats in the blinds. I pulled them apart, just to be sure it wasn’t the next door neighbor’s floodlight, or the searchlight on some rogue drone – both more likely than clear skies, stars, and moonlight after two solid weeks of rain – and there it was. The moon.

I still needed more sleep, though, so I risked closing my eyes.

I awoke in a cloud. Not just to the same old unrelenting, soul-sucking gray skies we’ve had for two straight weeks, but literally inside a cloud.  No longer out of reach, I could punch that cloud with a fist if I wanted to, but I know clouds. They dodge and weave like an old prizefighter sapping the eager strength of a young opponent. That cloud would just slurp down my hand and slither up my arm if I punched it. Resignation washed over me in pale shades of cottony mist. I took a few photos of the stillness of gray. Not fifty shades, mind you – just three or four. Light, medium, dark, and “can’t make up its mind what to be.” Giant pine trees stood off in the diffuse and silent distance and it would not have surprised me to see a brachiosaurus peep over the back fence, chewing a hunk of turf. I took a small smattering of vague and fluffy photos.

But then a strange thing happened: The light turned warmer. It wasn’t quite pink or gold, but it had the feel of both. The droplets of mist began to pop, evaporate, and fade, and the blue sky came into focus at last. I was almost afraid to hope it would stick around if I turned my back, got dressed, and grabbed the camera. I waited until after lunch, and the sun waited for me.

There’s a nature preserve that’s within walking distance – I drove, because I didn’t want to get worn out just getting there, and it’s a hike. But it’s only about five minutes away by car. It’s called the 100 Acre Wood. I walked about two miles, but barely explored half of the preserve, I think.

lake-view

I looked up overhead and saw the silhouette of an old military plane – a B-17! I’m guessing it’s Texas Raiders.

plane

cypress-bird-transp-bkgrnd

Turtles!

Turtles are everywhere. The first thing I saw was about half a dozen turtles on a log, off in the distance. I was so astonished by what they were doing that I completely forgot how to use the video feature on my camera, and failed to capture it so that I could share it with you: They were log-rolling like a bunch of tiny lumberjacks!

After watching them for several minutes, it was clear that this was a deliberate, team effort. They would get the log perfectly balanced, then one or two of them would slowly move towards the water. The log would begin to roll. Others, facing the opposite direction, would creep forward. They would move to and fro, now and then falling off, but mostly just rolling and running, back and forth in both directions. Now I know what turtles do for fun.

Most of the turtles I saw appear to be either Red-Eared Sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) or Yellow-Bellied Sliders (Trachemys scripta scripta). Though native to most of Texas, these poor little guys have been shipped everywhere, and they appear to thrive so long as the climate is warm enough to breed. They also mingle and breed with one another, so these could be hybrid turtles with yellow bellies and orange ears. “Throughout its nonindigenous range T. scripta is introduced primarily through pet releases and escapes; a situation which has continued for several decades since the 1930s, reaching a peak during the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle television cartoon craze of the late 1980s-early 1990s.” Ah, there goes Michelangelo

They’re a bit skittish and tend to hit the water if they think you’re approaching them, unlike the large, hissing, common snapping turtle I tried to “rescue” from the road in front of the house, once, after a heavy rain. Beware of snapping turtles – they have vicious claws; strong, sharp beaks attached to flexible necks; and foul tempers. They open their mouths to hiss at you and snap if you try to get near them, even if you’re just turning them over so they don’t get hit by a car. They also move surprisingly fast, and not always away from you. The alligator snapping turtle looks like the stuff of nightmares; fortunately, that wasn’t the thing that ran off between my house and the next-door neighbors’ house after the rain.

turtles-snake

turtle-cypress

I’m not a birder, but I believe the bird shown perched on a stump with turtles, above, is a Double-Crested Cormorant. I saw two similar birds; neither was close enough for me to get a really great photo. The one below may be a Neotropic Cormorant. If you know birds, please let me know in a comment, below!

cormorant

 

I almost forgot to mention this little guy – not sure which of us was more startled, but he leaped out of a mud puddle right in front of me and landed in the underbrush. I wonder if he thought I couldn’t see him? I think it’s a Southern Leopard Frog, but again, I’m no expert on the flora and fauna of Texas.

frog

Pi Day

There’s something sad about knowing there’s an infinitesimal moment of uniqueness that will not come again in my lifetime, or even in my children’s lifetime. But that’s weird, isn’t it? I despise math – Pi is right up there with Avogadro’s Number, as far as I’m concerned – and I’m not even a huge fan of pie. I think it’s just the “blink and you’ll miss it” reminder of what it means to be mortal that gets to me, when it comes to things like “Pi Day of the Century,” an eclipse, a particularly interesting planetary alignment…

Sometimes I regret throwing out the ugly, yellow “I Survived Skylab” t-shirt. I bought a bright red commemorative Pi Day shirt, this year, to make up for it. I even baked a pie:

pi-pi-pieA Pi Pi Pie… I couldn’t bear to waste the cutout after freehanding it so nicely. I think maybe this is indicative of a larger problem…

I follow dead people on Facebook and my Blogroll.

Clearly, I have trouble letting go…

Volunteering

I’ll be at the Houston Food Bank this afternoon.  Working off the calories from that pie.

HollyJahangiri

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at http://amazon.com/author/hollyjahangiri. For more information on her children's books, please visit http://jahangiri.us/books.

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10 thoughts on “Sunny Pi Day Nature Walk”

  1. I too am lucky like you in that there is a bird sanctuary within walking distance for normal people and diving distance for recliner potatoes like me. It is mostly for aquatic and semi aquatic seasonal birds and is located on the bank of the river that runs through our locality just 200 mts away from my home. That too has a lot of other creatures like yours has and I suspect that if we leave some land alone for a while, it would attract a wide variety of wildlife. And with the new camera what more attraction does one want?
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    1. Thank you! I was pretty sure they were cormorants, but not being a birder, I was relying solely on Google and my own search terms. (large black bird yellow beak fresh water – images – found something similar, dove down the rabbit hole)

      I am very curious to know if I actually captured (as I THINK I did) one of each of the two types mentioned.
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  2. I saw the Pi day thing mentioned in a couple of blog titles but hadn’t read them and had no idea what was going on until I was driving to a scrapbooking crop day and heard all about it on the radio! You are lucky to have a beautiful nature reserve within walking distance.

    1. See what happens when you don’t read all the blogs?? You miss things. You miss things that won’t happen again, like, ever!! (Okay, I’m laughing. I’m kind of over that moment of melancholy, having realized there are many such moments to be missed – especially if you’re mired in melancholy over having missed one or two of them. 🙂
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