Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Sit - Part 2

At Beaver Meadow Audubon Center in North Java, NY, there’s a the trail through the woods that meanders past an old cabin and up a small hill to a shelter. The hill and the structure are collectively known as Tulip Summit. Seven Tulip trees used to crown the tiny hilltop, but only five remain. A crooked bench greets hikers, and it was on that bench, early one January morning thirteen years ago, that I remembered my friend Herb’s words about The Sit: “If you sit somewhere for at least 10 minutes, if you can be quiet and still and wait that long, something will happen."

I was on a dawn snowshoe hike, headed for the section of the preserve known as The Old Woods, a place with old growth trees and a good chance to see raccoons snoozing in lofty hollows or big pileated woodpeckers excavating trunks for their breakfasts. Tulip Summit stands in a younger section of woods, and I normally wouldn’t have lingered there. Chances to see wildlife were slimmer, and the plant life wasn’t as diverse as in other areas. But the snow was deep, and I was tired. So, I decided to give Herb’s idea a try. If something happened, I would enjoy telling him about it, and if not, I would give him some affable ribbing about his theory being a bust. I wiped the snow off the bench and planted myself down, ignoring how cold I felt. I checked my watch and settled in.

The first thing I realized was how unnatural it felt just to sit still, with no other purpose in mind beyond the sitting. I’d sat still to watch wildlife before, for long stretches of time even, but at those times I’d had a purpose, a focus. Now, I had only the hope that something would happen. It felt wrong, as if I was wasting time, but I had nowhere to be, no one waiting for me. If I got up and moved on, I had only my own impatience to blame. In the first five minutes, I glanced at my watch no less than ten times. Despite telling myself not to, I would look without realizing what I was doing.

But after the first five minutes, I started to relax. I heard the dead leaves quaking in the nearby beech tree, tinkling like chimes. I noticed the tufts of windblown snow that had collected in the rough patches on the trees the night before, the blue tint of the morning light. There were mouse tracks running from one of the bench’s legs to a nearby limb sticking out of the snow. It was from one of the tulip trees, and I could see a few clusters of tulip seeds protruding from the snow’s surface. The mouse must have been using them to pad his winter larder.

From the bench, I had a good view of the surrounding woods. The “summit” was only a small bump in the landscape, but the sloping sides and the bare winter branches in every direction allowed me to see a good ways off. And that was why I could see the fox.

I'll tell you the rest (and what this has to do with Violet) tomorrow!
319 days old


  1. Hey Beaver Bill - we had an Awesome time again at Beaver Meadow Enchanted Forest Friday night. The kids enjoyed the new games this year, and you were super, as usual. Beautiful night to be out in God's great creation. We always love the lit up trail of pumpkins! Spectacular weather too! Luke wouldn't let Dave carry him at all and he walked the whole trail! Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for all the work you do for that, I'm sure you can't wait to have Violet experience it too.

  2. Noel - Hey! glad to hear you guys made it out, and that you all had such a good time. Good for Luke - walking the whole trail! If you come next year, be sure to say hi! I like to know who's out there because I can't see anything. Just come up when I'm done talking and let me know you guys are there. Thanks for bringing the kids all the way out there. I have a blast doint it, and it's even more fun when people I know get to see it. Maybe next year, I'll work Violet into the act. She can be my beaver kit, getting ready to leave home. Hope all is well with all of you...