Terribly wet conditions and overabundant mud prohibited me yesterday from losing myself in a carefree walk at the lake. For too long have I been unable simply to roam without plans or worries, to let my feet carry me in directionless wanderings. I had hoped to begin healing that wound with an exploratory walk in the early morning hours, but I found myself limited in what I could do simply because the earth remained underwater, and where solid ground could be seen, it offered slippery footing to mire even the most diligent traveler.
Nevertheless, my heart felt great joy at being outside again. Lush greenery has sprouted everywhere in thanks to the rain god. The lake overflows in all directions with perpetual drink. Despite oppressive humidity and the limited scope of where I could go without falling victim to the flooded area, pleasure filled my bosom as my eyes feasted on what I’ve longed for—even if only from a distance.
Lacking the ability to enjoy the lake fully, I decided to visit The Celebration Tree Grove. It is a recent addition to the lake. Dedicated in April 2006, I found it offered a relaxing haven away from the usual hustle and bustle, one tucked quietly against a backdrop of lush woodlands surrounding one of the creeks. Saplings planted around it still appear young when compared to their elder brethren, but they will eventually take their place as elder statesmen in this ligneous gathering.
Hewn of earthen stones, metals, and woods, it complements the breath of intention that can still be felt when one sits in the quiet of this place. I found myself captive to its aura for quite some time.
Written yesterday before I decided to go offline for the evening. Yet even now as I post this, the sky has grown dark and forbidding as clouds heavy with rain float by overhead, and already they bring us more of the same…more rain…a tremulous dance performed to the unending beat of heavenly outpourings, one punctuated only by thunderous cymbals clapping to their own rhythm. . .
It has been more than two months since I’ve been able to enjoy a walk at the lake. As I told Jenny,
I’d really like to start taking walks again! Ugh. At first, I loved the constant rain. I loved the cloudy skies and cool weather. I hated the high humidity levels but was willing to put up with them for the gorgeous storms and torrential downpours. Now I’m over it. Too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing, and this is the perfect example of that premise. Enough already! I want to take walks again. I want to know what a blue sky looks like, and I don’t just mean via tiny holes in an endless cloud that stretches from horizon to horizon. Occasional rain? Sure, that works. Even infrequent flooding and, of course, severe storms. But give me a break.
This coming from me represents nothing short of a biblical event. I love rain! I most assuredly love storms! Nothing enchants me more than dark clouds and gusty winds and strong rain. Thunder is music to my ears and lightning art to my eyes.
But not anymore. At least not right now. Tempests have become ubiquitous. When one appears, no longer do I feel the enthralling fascination I once felt. No, it’s become more noting that it’s still raining, still storming, rather than losing myself in the pleasure of trembling before nature’s power.
What began as a welcome respite from drought in March became a missing friend in April, but then it returned in May and hasn’t left us since. I’m ready for this to end…at least for now. Let us recover a bit such that the ground can be walked upon without sinking in mud up to my ankles. Let the sun shine a bit and the heat settle down on us so that we might look forward to the next refreshing, cooling shower. Let our ears thirst for the sound of approaching thunder, and let our eyes quiver at the unexpected sight of lightning dancing betwixt earth and heaven. Let all of this become a joy again, rather than a tedious mess.
It occurred to me today that the one or two readers of this blog might feel the same way. Because it has rained for two months, torrential rain that seemed as unending as intent on inflicting harm and damage, I realized that much of what I’ve posted here has been wrought of our ad nauseam floods. Two words: BOR. ING.
Well, perhaps not for me, as I’m living it. Even now, rumbling and roiling, billowing and boiling, a dangerous thunderstorm swims through the air overhead. There is more rain, of course.
Yet both Jenny and I have increasingly spoken of the longing we share once again to enjoy walks at the lake, to bathe our bodies in nature’s bounty, to wallow away the time with wanderings free of schedules.
These things are simply not to be, however, for the constant deluge keeps the area one massive mud pit, an example of Texas quicksand wherein shoes are deposited without being returned, where nature takes a holiday to escape storm after storm after storm, where plants swim to keep alive, and where the only clear path is made of concrete, something which removes all but the most mundane discovery and joy from the experience.
So it has been for some time now, and so is the cause of my inability to provide new experiences and photographs from the world around me.
Instead of lamenting it and crying about it, however, today I’m going to revisit the last walk I was able to take, the last walk left lonely for the absence of walks to follow. It was April 29, the day before the rains came, the day before the world changed into a wet tropical mess. Visit with me that splendid morning now so long ago. . .
A lone male mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos) sleeping atop a fallen tree
as a few American coots (Fulica americana) swim in the background
in front of the water theater
The community amphitheater
One of the many communal birdhouses around the lake with
male and female purple martins (Progne subis) and
a lone male house sparrow (Passer domesticus)
The tiniest of flowers, blue fieldmadder (Sherardia arvensis), still covered with
heavy morning dew
Wielded like a sword, a lone blade of grass points toward
A field of Engelmann daisies (Engelmannia pinnatifida)
and as yet unidentified white flowers
A field of wildflowers
Standing amidst a grove of trees near home
Finally, some photos of my favorite bird, the red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus). They are common in this area, especially around the lake. I chanced upon this male perched atop an electrical wire. Although the photos were taken from some distance, I still find myself entranced by this creature, even by these images, as no other bird captivates me so. . .
[I have but a few photos left from this walk and intend to post them at a later date; perhaps under different circumstances I would claim I’m saving them for a rainy day. . .]
Behind the Bathhouse Cultural Center on White Rock Lake’s eastern shore lies what some might at first consider the remnants of a failed development project. From the water’s surface rise pipes and concrete pillars of varying sizes.
Despite preliminary impressions, the menagerie of jutting and reaching arms represent an intentional construction. It is the lake’s water theater.
But this is not a performance hall intended for humans. On the contrary, the entire area has been developed to cater specifically to waterfowl, from the theater’s many singular columns to the floating platform resting behind them. Whether preening or resting or trying to woo a potential mate, wildlife in the area have come to utilize the structure just as it was intended.
During my early morning walk today, the water theater provided a nice abstract interest for some photographs. Avian visitors were scarce at that hour, although some were milling about or trying to grab a few more minutes of sleep before starting the day.
From the back veranda of the cultural center and looking down at the lake, you can see the totality of the theater. The individual pipes and pillars form a broad semi-oval facing the shore, while behind them the wooden float bobs lazily. Also noticeable in that photo is downtown Dallas huddling quietly in the background, like a child trying to hide behind hills too small to provide shelter. You can see it just left of center.
[some photos unintentionally contain a few American coots (Fulica americana) and mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos), as well as perhaps other species I didn’t see or didn’t recognize; I wasn’t focused on the wildlife when taking these images, so pardon me for not paying closer attention to those trying to get their faces in a picture or two]
Once or twice I spoke of the heavy rains and flooding that occurred in the area around the beginning of the year. As normally happens under such circumstances, the deluge uncovered—or at least moved into sight—a bit of flotsam and jetsam, detritus from human activities. And that’s in addition to nature’s own debris, from twigs and branches to leaves and rocks, and even the occasional whole tree (or, if the storm’s bad enough, many whole trees).
I usually find some of this garbage offensive when it’s trash washed into the lake or surrounding area from those too lazy to put such things where they belong. Yet there have been times when I’ve discovered some rather odd remnants of society.
For example, I once found a bowling ball hidden beneath the pier in Sunset Bay. It sat heavily against the shore with half its form bathed under the water’s surface. Even I know a bowling ball didn’t wash into the lake from a distant landfill or a recently bulldozed bowling alley. I still ponder from time to time where it came from and how long it had been there. Precisely what story could that bowling ball tell if it had the ability to convey its own history? Would it speak of mundane things, perhaps a juvenile toying with his or her father’s hobby, only to lose it in the reservoir? Or would it tell a tale of a car accident from long ago when both vehicle and ball found their way into the lake via an unusual chain of events—or even something as simple as too much alcohol and too much speed? I wonder…
Then there are the catastrophic tempests for which Texas is known, storms so violent and powerful that they have no problem splitting trunks and toppling trees around which I’d be unable to wrap my arms, and these add their own flavor to whatever mess might be found. One such storm occurred only last year and left the lake devastated. Many areas were impassable for some time due to the large trees and branches scattered about like so many matchsticks. Evidence of nature’s own fury can still be found in some places, in fact, such as the fallen tree stranded near shore that I saw during one of our winter storms this season. Traces dating back to even earlier gales are evident in places like the middle of the lake.
So it’s not at all out of the ordinary to stumble upon this and that, signs and proof of what nature can shuffle about on scales larger than anything humans are capable of. And that brings me back to where I started.
While I sauntered aimlessly at the lake earlier this year after heavy downpours and torrential floods, my eyes set upon a great many items of interest that evidenced what had happened. I saw paper and cups and branches and leaves, not to mention a great many other tidbits abandoned haphazardly here and there after the rains finished playing with them. One such article was this:
The only reason I even saw it was because it had been washed clean enough by the showers to reflect sunshine. Deposited at the edge of the water among dead leaves and stones and dirt and small twigs, it would have gone completely unnoticed had it not glinted excitedly as I passed.
Let me admit now that my age allows me to remember when all drink cans had such pull-tabs on them. Let me also admit they were so ubiquitous that we did what everyone else did in the ’70s: make long chains of them, and necklaces, and bracelets, and whatever else could be formed by connecting them together. Mind you, that’s because there really was little else to do in the ’70s besides look for entertainment in whatever was at hand. But I digress…
I stood momentarily and looked at the little metal historical marker and wondered at its age. Like the bowling ball before it, and the fallen trees before that, and a great many ordinaries I have found to be extraordinary, I began thinking what story it might tell, what perspective on progress it might give. So I knelt in the mud and photographed it, and then I sat there and looked at it and its surroundings… and I thought.
Now looking at the picture, I realize its a relic from a different time. How long had it been hidden? How many storms had come and gone without unearthing it? How many more would come and go before it was once again buried, lost until a new generation rediscovers it?