Along a Familiar Path
I just got back into the office after a quick morning hike in Harriman Park on one of the trails I will be taking campers on this summer. Even though I know the Harriman trail system very well I still like to check the trails out before I take campers on them. Today’s hike was along the RD (Ramapo-Dunderberg) Trail, my absolute favorite and one where I know all the twists and turns, the best blueberry picking, snake dens, ‘hidden’ ponds, the ‘coolest’ rocks, the best still-hunting spots and so much more. My hike was along the familiar, the known, kind of like running into old friends around every turn, “Well, hello giant grape vine, hi wintergreen berries, what’s happening glacial boulder?”
Nature can offer consistency, structure, the expected, a known rhythm, familiar sights/ sounds/smells, a reassuring feeling that in this great universe (where we are told that the only constant is change) there are some things on which we can depend.
And YET, at the same time, within the familiar, the safe, the anchoring, the nature place/the piece of Mother Earth that feels like home, there are surprises, the unexpected, the moments that make us go “Wow”, or to exclaim “What was that?”.
I came across my “Wow” today just 15 minutes into my hike. I saw all these small fluttering white wings coming up from what seemed like any other part of the forest floor. Coming and coming and swirling around and all going higher and yet more are still coming from what seems like an invisible opening in the earth. And the SILENCE when all this was happening was immense! Not a sound! And all this quiet wrapped around me as I was engulfed by the rising wings.
I saw this once more further into the hike, the wings fluttering out from a branch on an old, downed tree. And once again there was the QUIET. I looked closer under the wings, assuming there was something/somebody that the wings were attached to. Termites. Winged termites. Reproductive males and females swarming, taking off to establish new colonies. With all this recent talk about the end of the world and seeing the termite swarms, I imagined what great cartoons Gary Larson, of The Far Side fame, could create, maybe using captions like “Termite Rapture.”
I cannot wait until camp begins when we can share some of the joys, both the expected and unexpected, of exploring in the natural world.