This is a great big world twirling around within this great big cosmos and there are so many things I just really need to understand. Number one on my list for this moment in time: Vernal Pools. I just adore them, and spring is coming soon (I hope). Our home is surrounded by vernal pools (after reading this you may find it strangely necessary to go for a nice long tramp). I have spent time every spring for the past 16 years monitoring these vernal pools and exploring them. Vernal pools are an amazing and vital part of our ecosystem here in Vermont, they provide a safe haven for many species to breed and develop. A few years ago, we had a very dry spring and the pools began to dry up prematurely. Jadon and I had been playing with nice big juicy tadpoles and examining the homes of various Caddis Fly larvae when disaster struck. We missed 2 or 3 days of work, work being monitoring our assigned pools. When we returned, they had shrunk by at least 75%! We were horrified to find our tadpoles dried up and dead and the last remaining babies struggling to fit in the quickly disappearing last puddles. We hurried home to get rescue equipment and raced back to the scene. We scooped up as many tadpoles as we could into our jars for transport. As we were doing this I noticed a bunch of little twiggy things sticking out of the mud. I got down as close as my rather long legs would allow me without actually sitting in the mud and saw a tiny face peek out of one of them. It was a poor, dying caddisfly larva. This was even more painful somehow than the tadpoles. They are so amazing. These ones had all built their houses out of tiny logs. True Vermonters! I have to admit that I really know very little about the caddisfly, I don’t know what they like to eat, their favorite colors, or what they do for fun. But I have been searching for their larvae since I was 16. I was in the river with my ecology class with chest high waders, a big screen, notebook, pencil, and magnifying glass. I was collecting and recording specimens from various parts of the river in order to determine the levels of pollution. One person stuck the big screen across a section of river while their partner went upstream and kicked over all the rocks or mud to dislodge everybody living there. And it was here that I saw my first caddisfly larvae, and it changed my life. These particular larvae had all used miniscule round stones and homemade cement to build beautiful stone cottages for themselves. I had never seen such a wonder before, at least not one that completely and utterly captivated both my curiosity and imagination simultaneously. Captivated to a point where I forgot all about myself, forgot how much I hated school, forgot how tormented and harassed I was there. From then on, it was me and the larvae. Now as I read this to myself, I have perhaps found some insight into why I just didn’t fit into my peer group! I do not think there were any other girls in my class that lost their hearts to larvae that glorious afternoon. I adore oodles of other critters I learned about in my ecology class and in my own studies. There are not many things cuter than a half inch long baby crayfish or a jar full of tiny minnows. Not many pleasures in life greater than newt catching, or turning over an old log and spotting the adorable bright orange Eft. These are another gorgeous oddity, with 4 life stages the Red Eft is a great guy to study. Not to mention the endearing tiny fingers, they will get your heart strings like rubbing the fur on top of a newborn babies head. I fell for these guys the first time my dad pointed them out to me. As a kid, a pair of swimming goggles and an inner tube transformed Silver Lake into my own personal quiet zone. Get away from all the noise and splashing and confusing social hierarchies, escape into the cattails. Then float and stick your face under the water. That yellow-green water full of awesomeness. Always had my mayonnaise jars and a fish net so get a closer look at things. Bivalves, crustaceans, gastropods, amphibians, fish, larvae of all kinds, red wing blackbirds, raccoon paw prints, cattails, water lilies, water striders, boatmen beetles, damselflies, all accompanied by that distinct lazy summer day drone. The jack pot came one year when my parents got us one of those inflatable boats with a clear bottom that made for a wide screen TV effect. I could float for hours. Some people, like my husband are always looking at the horizon, at the big picture. Watching the sunset, or looking at impressive mountain ranges. You might hike for the exhilaration of reaching the top and having that 360 degree view, where cars on the winding roads far below look like tiny ants. I exult in the tiny things, lichens and moss, tiny red velvet mites, and caddisfly houses. The texture of tree bark, grains of pollen inside of a day lily, laughter lines testifying to a life well lived. All the way back to the beginning of my windy tale, Jadon and I rescued those caddisfly babies, and the remaining frog babies. We lugged them to a quiet part of the river, quiet until we disturbed the Canadian geese who were nesting there, and we released them. As we let them go, we heard the kerplunks of frogs vacating their perches and saw the splash of a turtle jumping off his sunny spot on a log. We got to listen to the song on the red wing blackbirds as they swayed on the tall marsh grasses that I love so much. I feel so privileged to have been able to share the love of small, wet, and wild things with my son that day. I’m not sure if he remembers it as clearly as I do, but I hope the feeling of peace and connection with this great big world sticks with him. I hope he finds his own passion as he explores the open land around him, and creates a quiet space to disappear in when life gets too noisy, uncomfortable, or confusing. A refuge to recharge and reconnect with his big father in the sky. Where do you go when you need to disappear for a while? What is your passion? What trips your trigger?
Tag Archives: outdoors