First Snow

21 11 2008



The first snowfall of the season arrived the other day with mixed emotions.  The “adult” in me was not happy in the least since my plow truck was still in the shop and I spent a good portion of my morning shoveling the foot deep snow out of my driveway.  The bright orange snow fence is an eyesore in our yard, but a necessity to keep the drifts out of our driveway.  The furnace is constantly on as the price of propane goes higher. The snow is covering our solar panels so that we can’t generate our own electricity.

Luckily for me the kid inside is always anxious to emerge and even as I was shoveling the driveway I managed to get some play time in.  Not that I had much of a choice since our two dogs love the snow and insisted that I show them more attention than that darned shovel.

Deep inside I really do enjoy winter in Western New York.  I always look forward to the snowshoe adventures we go on.  I can’t wait to strap on the cross country skis and head out through the beautiful countryside.  I enjoy watching the birds as they frequent our feeders more often.  These things I look forward to on these cold winter days.


As I awoke that first morning of snow and looked outside, the naturalist in me was awed by the beauty that nature offers even in the harshest time of the year.  The trees were blanketed in a dusting of the frozen crystals that had fallen the night before.  The pond was covered with a thin layer of glistening ice, creating a beautiful design.  A bright red cardinal sat in a distant tree, stunningly contrasting with the drab woods behind it.  The scene was that of splendor.  A majestic beauty that only nature can create to entice our senses.  For a moment I had forgotten about the “adult” chores that lay before me this day.


I guess we all need to look at the best in all seasons.  Even those seasons that we don’t cherish have a great deal to offer.  We need to learn to enjoy them.


A Different Breed

13 11 2008

Naturalists seem to wander a path that is a bit swayed from the norm.  Of course that depends upon what is considered the norm.  Who is it that decides what “normal” truly is.  Maybe the Naturalist is normal and the rest of the world is a bit off beat.  The true nature lover is closely connected to the natural world which is often far from the daily lives of most and thus considered offbeat.

If you ask my wife Bev however, she will insist that I am far from normal.  How she tolerates my obsession with nature is astonishing at times.  I never seem to stop surprising her with the things I bring home from my adventures in the natural world.  When I used to do wildlife rehabilitation, if I came home with a cardboard box, I was given the “Now what critter are you bringing home?” look even if there wasn’t an injured animal inside.  The surprises now come in many sizes and are not always contained inside a box.

As the two of us came home from some errands in my car and she was unloading goodies from the back seat her comment made me remember what I had left on the floor from a few days ago.  “Is that an owl pellet on your floor?”  Maybe she forgot the time I had an owl pellet in my cup holder for more than a week.  She truly sounded surprised.  Or maybe it was just the sound of discouragement in her voice.

One of my abnormal habits is to collect things for identification at a later time.  Unfortunately, I don’t always remember that I collected them until a later discovery.  I remember the time when I was leading a hike in Zoar Valley in south eastern New York.  We came upon an old growth tree and were studying it in amazement when I was asked to identify a pile of scat at the base of the tree.  Since I was not familiar with this particular brand of scat we tried to deduce who left it behind by its location, size, shape and contents.  Now most “normal” people wouldn’t have even thought about studying an animals scat, much less touching it, but a good naturalist has no fear of the common animal scat.  After prodding it with a stick, taking pictures (yes, I have a photo folder of scat on my computer), I came up empty on the identification.

So against my better judgement, I picked up a portion of the scat, rolled it in a leaf and did what any good naturalist would do.  I stuck it in my pocket.  Of course as what usually happens when I do these things, I completely forgot about the package in my pocket until much later.  I don’t recall exactly where we were when I rediscovered the surprise in my pocket, but I do remember it was a public place and Bev was with me.

The look on my Bev’s face was priceless when she asked why I had rolled up leaves in my pocket and I explained what was contained within.  She didn’t seemed to be surprised as much as discusted.  Needless to say those pants were in the laundry when we got home and I try to avoid scat incidences since then.

Since I was a kid, my pockets have been filled with seeds, plants, bones, scat, sticks, stones, and many other natural items for future discovery or collection.  Although I spend a great deal of time exploring nature in its natural form, my curiosity and quest for knowledge will always force me to collect things in the wild for further identification and Bev will continue to shake her head in disbelief.