Bret W. Lester

A Trickle in August

It's August, and the small stream where I walk is still flowing, although just a trickle. It's usually bone dry by now—an echo of the record-breaking rains the winter before.

The little stream is one of many tributaries in the watershed encompassed by the green belt. In others, the trickle has stopped, and the fish that made their way there in the wetter months are now stranded and vulnerable.

These are the kinds of things I notice and think about when walking with my son in the stroller along the nature trail, along the watershed.

I stop and look at the beaver pond from the footbridge. I check to see if the toy car my son threw in the spring is still there. I look for signs of smallmouth bass like the one I saw in June. I take note of the mosquito fish, the crayfish. Were there any turtles?

If you're lucky, in the evening, you'll see a beaver, sitting on a snag, munching. Always munching on something.

Other wildlife you might encounter includes deer, frogs, rattlesnakes, king snakes, garter snakes, blue belly lizards, alligator lizards, geese, ducks, turkey vultures, coyotes, and bobcats. I understand there's the very rare mountain lion as well, but I've never seen one.

All of this is right behind my house in the suburbs. I'm fortunate enough to live in a city with green belts. Instead of turning creeks into paved drainage ditches like they do in many cities across the country, here, at least, the watersheds are preserved, and the wildlife is more or less left alone to do what it does. Trails are installed so people can go out there and soak it in.

I don't know what the point of this post is other than I am grateful to live somewhere where I can step out my front door and be among wildlife within a few minutes.

It raises the question: Why do people want to be out in nature? I guess it has a grounding effect on our psyche—it's a way to be reminded about the fundamentals of existence. When I'm in my air-conditioned home in the August midday heat, I can imagine what it's like to be one of those animals out there on the green belt. Am I a beaver snoozing in his cool den, or am I a bass dodging herons, stranded in a dwindling pool?


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