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.
I looked up overhead and saw the silhouette of an old military plane – a B-17! I’m guessing it’s Texas Raiders.
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.
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!
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.
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:
I follow dead people on Facebook and my Blogroll.
Clearly, I have trouble letting go…
I’ll be at the Houston Food Bank this afternoon. Working off the calories from that pie.
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