Each year when I start out my vacation in the Adirondacks, I am still wearing my “city eyes” and “urban ears.” I see all the deep greens and browns of the forest, but it’s a blur, and the lakes all look pretty much the same. My city eyes are trained not to stare too deeply, to mind my own business. My urban ears are used to tuning out the constant noise of the city.
As the days unfold in the deep woods, my optics change, wilderness eyes coming into focus: within a week I can see past the first rows of trees into the darker parts of the forest where the wildlife lives. I can soon tell the difference between a bump on a log and a painted turtle, a fluttering leaf on a birch that becomes a yellow warbler, a reddish stone that has the eyes of a fox.
My urban ears become attuned to the silence of the forest, at first stunned by the lack of sound, and then hearing sounds that make the silence so beautiful: a ripple on the water, the dragonfly’s wings, a loon calling far out on the lake. My deep forest ears become so used to listening to this silent symphony that I find the noise in town startling.
I learn to read the signs of the sky and water: when a passing cloud is a blessed relief from the sun, when it signifies a huge storm coming. The lake surface tells the stories of bright blue clear days and steel slate stormy skies approaching.
I try to hold onto my wilderness eyes and deep forest ears when I return to Washington, visiting the beautiful places like Blackwater Wildlife Refuge and Nanjemoy Creek in Maryland. But I know that, in time, my city eyes and urban ears will take over once again, making it necessary for me to plan another return to the North Country for my annual adjustments.
Of course, I also come to know that even the beautiful wildnerness has its dark side. This little guy is pretty cute, right?
Well, that is, until you see him make off with dinner!
The fresh air does wonders for appetites!