One day, I took a short walk along the Underground Railroad Educational Trail, but that won’t be what I discuss in this post. In this case, the journey didn’t truly start until it was technically at an end. As I exited the trail using the main asphalt road that cut through the woods, I was met with a massive Eastern red cedar tree. Although this tree was not nearly as tall as some of the plants inside the woods, its presence was still commanding, and its size indicated that it had been around for a while. This tree sat at the junction of the woods with the manmade lake, a protector for both areas. This time, the cedar tree (that actually happens to be a member of the juniper family) invited me to join it for a picnic at the lake, and meet more species to hear their stories.
As I settled down in the artificial “beach” area complete with swings, a bonfire pit, and seating, I spotted the same yellow-bellied slider not too far away. This turtle (who I named Tortuga) was sprinting back across the grass into the home it made for itself in the College Lake. Its brown shell had yellow stripes, a work of art I only had brief moments to marvel at. This wary species slips away into the water at any sign of disturbance, a superpower many long to have. Seeing this turtle exit its habitat to simply disappear from plain sight made me wonder how many other animals were present and concealed by their homes. I met a few other lake-dwellers in my short stay, such as two friendly Muscovy ducks (I named my new feathered friends George and Martha). I had previous encounters with them during lake bonfires past, when I labeled them as “turkey ducks” in my mind. The patch of red on their faces was accompanied by black and white feathers that were not characteristically duck-like features. While a lot of animals tend to flee when humans come too close, these Muscovy ducks did not even seem fazed. In fact, they continued approaching me, even following me for a brief period of time. The confidence of these ducks mirrors the reassuring qualities harbored by the place as a whole. I audibly sighed, looking out over the modestly sized lake, which shimmered back as a response. This felt like a sign from the spirits of the land urging me to stay a while, breathe, and take in the view.
Just because nature isn’t directly conversing with us constantly doesn’t mean that it has nothing to say. We often dismiss the sheer serenity derived from pausing the chaos in our lives to take what really matters into perspective, and having the chance to simply be at the lake and be one with my surroundings was refreshing.