Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Mercer Arboretum's Oxbow
When I look at this picture, I see the silently serene beauty of the Spring Creek area where I grew up. "Silently serene", though, were not the words that were floating around in my head as I was taking this picture. The woods I was walking through were not silent or serene at all, but alive and busy with chattering squirrels and birds, the occasional song of an owl, and the cry of a distant hawk echoing through the forest trees. I was not serene, but exhilarated by the first cool fall breeze of the year, and the smell of pine needles blanketing the forest floor.
I heard somewhere that researchers believe that a walk in the woods [or nature in general] releases a chemical in the body that has healing properties and can calm anxiety much in the same way sunlight causes the body to produce vitamin D. At that moment, though, I could not have cared less about such research, because I had my camera in hand, and couldn't wait to take pictures of anything I found interesting.
As I approached the Oxbow, the sounds of the forest start to change. A chorus of croaking frogs gradually got louder. Thousands of frogs. There was no mistaking the Oxbow's location, even though you can't see it until you reach the edge of where it slopes down into the bog.
The slope is steep, so to be sure of my footing, I removed my flip flops and descended barefoot. As a kid, I used to run through these woods barefoot all the time, so it seems natural to do this. When I reached the bank, I heard tiny splashes in the water directly in front of me, but never saw the frogs leap in. All the other frogs croaked louder as if to sound a warning. The mud is black, and I know from experience that it will stain my feet for days. The water is murky with a green algae bloom covering it's surface. I don't dare stick my feet in it for fear of what lurks beneath, like water moccasins or any other foul creature my imagination could dream up. Again, as I swatted away the mosquitoes, the serene beauty of this place did not occur to me.
Then I turned to my left and looked up. The afternoon sunlight was streaming in through the trees, casting shadows across the algae, and a green glow to the whole scene. The reflections of the trees in the water were crossing the shadows on the algae. Excitedly, I started clicking away with my camera until the sun dipped down below the tree line and the shadows were gone, the green glow had faded to natural earth tones, and what seemed like minutes had faded into hours.
Reluctantly, I started back to my car, stopping for any excuse to take a picture, but there was not enough light, and I didn't bring my tripod. The first thing I did when I got home was turn on my computer so I could see my photos. I sat at my desk tired in a very peaceful and relaxed way after my four hour walk through the Arboretum. While I was glancing through my photos and came across this one, it occurred to me that it took my camera to show me the real beauty and serenity of this place where I grew up and have always taken for granted.