I’m lying in bed on a crisp summer morning, slowly awakening to the dawn chorus. In this bed on the closed in porch, I feel like I’m sleeping in the trees with the birds as my companions. They are flitting about; foraging, bathing, preening and catching insects midair. The frenetic nuthatches are climbing up and down the tree trunks, the black-capped chickadees are foraging in the leaves, the song sparrows are singing. The kingfisher darts by, arcing from tree to tree following the shoreline. I only ever see him at dawn and dusk. And, like the nuthatches, he’s hardly ever still. Such a flurry of activity to start the day.
After lying in bed watching the birds for a bit, I’m ready to start my day.
I brew a pot of coffee and sit at the table next to the bed. There are trees along both sides of the room, but ahead of me, there is nothing but blue sky and the lake. Everything is still in the early morning, the water is calm, almost like glass. I sit and enjoy the peace, the quiet and having nothing to do but watch this lake come alive. A great blue heron methodically stalks near the grassy shoreline, moving in slow motion sneaking up on an unsuspecting frog or fish.Off in the distance, a pileated woodpecker is drumming. The sound is so deep and resonant, it seems manmade. I can only imagine how far away he must be, yet he sounds so close. A bald eagle alights on the old snag at the island. This tree has been dead for a long time. Each year it leans a little bit further away from the land and toward the water that is undermining its roots.
The songbirds on the island chatter and harass the eagle. He doesn’t stay long. The crows escort him as he leaves, darting at him. Caw, caw, caw. A line of sandhill cranes flies high overhead, calling as they go in their distinct warbling voice. They quickly disappear into the distant deep blue sky.
In the land of cheese and beer, it’s not wise to sit the day away. A mid-day bike ride over rolling hills on gravel roads, past wetlands and lakes, next to farms and fields, provides just the right balance to the day.
Of course, there are deer – peeking out of the woods, leaping through fields and running across the road. There are stuporous snapping turtles digging nests and laying eggs in the sandy shoulders of the roads. They will travel long distances over land to find just the right sunny, sandy spot. How those hatchlings ever make it back to the water is a wonder of nature.
Muskrats are busily gathering grasses and cattails in every grassy pond and lake. They cut through the water effortlessly, propelled by the graceful snaking of their tails. Sandhill cranes occupy almost every field, some are families with young colts and others are in social groups. They are shy or suspicious, so all of my pictures are of them walking away from me.
I can slow down to take in the experience, but if I look like I’m going to stop the bike, the alarm is sounded. The muskrat dives, the deer flushes, the cranes move away.
Feeling better about myself after my ride, I settle into the afternoon, floating on the lake with a book and a drink. I tether myself to the dock so the breeze doesn’t carry me away. A dragonfly thinks I have the right idea and settles in to spend the afternoon perched on my leg. The sun is hot and the water is refreshing. It’s the perfect combination.
Occasionally the loons swim by. They snorkel, looking underwater for prey. Then they dive smoothly with just a quiet ripple of water as they disappear beneath the surface.
Where they will come up is anybody’s guess. If it’s a good fishing spot, they’ll reappear nearby. If they’re working the shoreline, hunting, they can reappear an impressive distance away. They are fast swimmers and can hold their breath for up to a minute and a half! They are also curious. On these small lakes where they are used to fishermen who never bother them, they are not leery of people. If I sit still and quiet, they will come quite close. Seemingly watching me as I am watching them.
About 4:00 each afternoon, a painted turtle crawls out of the water on one amazingly graceful push onto the top of the dock tire to bask in the sun. As the week wears on, he gets more and more comfortable with me being around. He spins around, making sure all sides get equal exposure. In any direction, he prefers this pose, with his back legs fully outstretched. One afternoon he stayed for 3 hours.
As the evening comes, tired from a day in the sun, we savor fresh fish for dinner and talk about how blessed we are to have this familiar place in which to recharge our souls.
I fall asleep to the calls of the loons and a distant rumble of thunder. Tomorrow, I will do it all again. This is the perfect week on the lake.