Winter naturally seems to bring us into an introspective state. I have definitely been in that place lately, and so it is no surprise that it influences my writings here. My thoughts have wandered to memories... many memories of fond times getting close to wildlife. Specifically, the times since I was a boy seeking and catching small critters, like frogs and snakes.
It is difficult to express the simple pleasure of seeking out the so called creepy-crawly things. Most of the best naturalists I know or have heard of spent at least some part of their childhood doing just that.
I feel so thankful for the little creatures such as : frogs, toads, snakes, turtles, and invertebrates of all kinds. It is one thing to see a photo of them, or even see them in a cage, but there is a magic in chasing after them in the wild. Getting our hands muddy trying to grab that squirmy, wet bullfrog as it kicks and jumps to get away. Chasing after them through wetlands or slogging along the edge of a pond. Grabbing them requires swiftness, but also great care and gentleness. So many lessons to learn from just the simple act of "catchin' frogs."
Than there are those little creatures that take more practice and patience. For instance, trying to capture a turtle is very challenging. I have had very few opportunities to even try. One time while on a Wilderness Awareness School trip to eastern Washington I was presented with the chance to stalk up on some wild western painted turtles. For any of you out there who have ever tried to sneak up on a turtle, you know just how wary they are. In most places if you get within 10 or 15 meters of a turtle sunning on a log, it will dive and disappear in no time at all.
That's exactly what happened at the crystal clear lake were I stalked them. Taking a lesson from the incredibly patient great blue heron, I sat poise in one place on the turtles' favorite sunning log for a very long time. At least 30 minutes passed before the turtles swam within even a few meters of the log. They spotted any small movements from me and were quick to dive again. Many of them disappeared all together for the time I was on or around the log that day. A few ventured to come near. Eventually I learned to sit very still with my hand very near the water, and after nearly 2 hours of waiting I caught one.
It was one of the smallest and youngest turtles in the lake that I observed. Still, it demanded ever bit of my patience and pushed my skills to the limit to capture it.
What wonder and joy the little things can bring us?!