An Odd Day in the Forest

waterfallIt was a bit of an odd day in the forest this week. It has been a dry spring and early summer so far and the streams are running low like it is August already.

Yesterday a series of thunderstorms rolled through the area bringing much needed rain, albeit in isolated fits. This morning dawned bright with a clear rain washed sky. I hoped for lots of water.

All the pot holes in the seasonal road leading into the woods are filled with a muddy brown soup. I had to get off the cycle a couple times to clear away fallen trees that barred the way. Fortunately they were of a size that I could move by myself.

Everything is wet as I hoist my pack and walk in among the trees. The leaves are wet – they flick showers of water at me from their fingertips whenever I jostle against a tree. The ground beneath my feet is soft and wet. The air around me is heavy with water.

One odd thing is that even though the temperature is in the 60s(F), I can see my breath as if it is winter. The sunlight slants down through the trees in misty hazy beams like spotlights in a smoky theater. My camera lens constantly gets fogged up.

Another odd thing is that the stream is silent. I scramble over bare rock searching for signs of life. The thirsty forest is hording all the water. It has none to spare for the rousing of the indolent stream.

As I descend lower and lower a trickle begins and grows. Some fugitive water begins to slip through the grasp of the tree roots and sneak in among the stones. The stream perks up a little bit. It stretches its limbs and begins to murmur under its breath in a grumpy sort of way. It will never become the rushing joyous torrent it was a couple of months ago, but now it can at least give me a bit of surly company.

Sunny water

By lunchtime the bright sun had wrung most of the water out of the air. I sat at the edge of a waterfall with my legs dangling over the edge. Shadows flickered across the rocks below and looking up I saw buzzards gliding through the sky above the trees. They circled lazily a few times and then flew off up stream. I went back to munching some cookies and writing in my journal.

Minutes later I was startled by a loud swooshing sound right above my head. I jerked quickly up thinking I would see a low flying jet; there was only a buzzard.

Leaf in water

I often see buzzards soaring overhead (or sometimes below if I am high up overlooking a deep valley) as I walk. They are always silent. I have never heard even the slightest flutter from them. It is like they mirages or maybe phantoms from another dimension.

This bird must have been diving down the ravine skimming along the tree tops and decided to slow down really quickly – maybe it spotted something. What I heard was the rush of the air through its feathers as it put on the brakes. Pretty weird.



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7 Responses to “An Odd Day in the Forest”

  1. lookingforbeauty Says:

    “They flick showers of water at me from their fingertips” is such a beautiful word image.
    And these two phrases make the forest seem like multi-personality being that lives and breathes – “The thirsty forest is hording all the water.”;……..”It (the stream) stretches its limbs and begins to murmur under its breath.”
    Nice writing. I can just see the stream flexing its legs and shaking them a bit, getting ready for a bit of intense activity.
    I can hear the miserly trees whispering amongst themselves, closing ranks, plotting to keep all the water, sharing none, until they become glutted and lazy with drink, their attention slipping and the French Resistance water sliding through places they no longer are paying attention to so that the water finally does get to the creek bed destination.
    The pictures? All three are great.
    The leaf is exquisite; the water fall, dramatic; the middle one, moving water and sunlight over a flatter stone – those traces of moving light make very graphic spaghetti squiggles that are more like a drawing than a photograph. Very charming.
    I haven’t been writing. There has been much family visiting and I’m working towards a few deadlines. I haven’t had inspiration to write and little time.
    Thanks for sharing your forest visits. Have you ever thought of publishing – I mean more than blog-publishing?

  2. fencer Says:

    Great photos as always…


  3. Bernie Kasper Says:

    Wonderful images and words Mark, I once fell asleep in the woods only to awake with a buzzard a mere twenty feet in a tree staring down at me, I wasn’t sure how to take that !! ;)

  4. forestrat Says:

    Thank you all for the kind words.

    The photos with this post are a little odd too.

    When I shot the waterfall, the sunlight was falling at a little bit of an angle from behind the rocks and I framed it so that the top of the fall and the very bottom would be illuminated but dark in the middle. During processing I decided the bottom section didn’t turn out well. I almost sent it to the reject pile and then decided to see what it would look like if I cropped the bottom away and left the water hanging.

    I like the squiggles of sunlight on the water although I’m not sure it is everybody’s cup of tea. I have a few other images along this line, but I think this is the first one I have posted.

    The leaf caught my eye as it lay on the rocks in a quiet back water pool. I liked the textures and the gentle folds of the new green growth. The framing is kind of weird though. I have no idea why I moved it up and to the left leaving all that space in the lower right. I tried a heap of different crops and never found one I liked so I left it.


  5. forestrat Says:


    I sometimes daydream about writing a book or maybe a book/photo combination type thing. I’ve even made a couple three :) tentative starts, but nothing serious has come of it yet – someday maybe.


  6. forestrat Says:


    You gotta watch those buzzards out there in the mid-west!

    A guy I went to college with was from Piqua, OH and he always reminded us when the buzzards returned to Hinckley every year on March 15.



    Those squiggles are very painterly, very upbeat. They contain the exuberance of a child’s joyous drawing. It’s a great picture.
    You made a comment recently on my blog about “happy accidents” in the making of art. Here, you’ve got one. The only thing – could you reproduce it if you wanted to?
    Actually, in photography as with art, one stage of the art process is the act of decision making wherein one says “I like this. This is good. I’m going to keep it and publish it, even if it’s not in the canon of traditionally acceptable imagery.”
    Had you not approved this squiggly photo and shared it with us as a finished and publishable piece, then…. would it have been relegated to the round file? Or never seen by any other but yourself?
    Deciding that a work is finished and ready for view by La Grand Publique is a declaration like a signature stamp. Finito!

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