Small adventures

Yes – the springtimes needed you. Often a star
was waiting for you to notice it. A wave rolled toward you
out of the distant past, or as you walked
under an open window, a violin
yielded itself to your hearing.

 – Rainer Maria Rilke, The Duino Elegies 

I love this snippet from the first Duino Elegy. It surfaces every year, around April or so when I’m inspired with wild spring feelings. It comes to mind at other lovely moments, and fills me with the sense of the animate, the beautiful wonder humans imbue the world with through our astonishing sentience. There’s a whole planet, busy with small processes and functionalities that have no need and nothing to do with humans. Plants breath in and out, a bird’s adapted wings propel it through the air, stars burn, ants crisscross sidewalks. We blunder oblivious or pause to engage. The world’s simply magical enough all on its own accord, but we’re the ones who write poetry on it.

There will always be some small and interesting adventure to be had, no matter where you find yourself. While currently spending the winter in an unappetizing housing complex, I am lucky enough to have West Lafayette’s Celery Bog within sight of my window – a beautiful 195 acres of marsh, forest, prairie and savannah.

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In the summertime the marsh was an astonishing riot of species, many of them new to me. (One favourite being the striking red-headed woodpeckers, which nested in standing dead timber throughout the marsh). The woods closest to the complex consists of some elegant old trees, a shadowy deep-green mass beckoning across the parking lot during the summer. (Putting me firmly in mind of Tolkien’s Fangorn Forest, if somewhat less glamorous in location).

Even in the quiet cold of winter the bog is still lovely. The dormant maples, oaks and beeches I see from my window are just as enticing. A tepid day of rain was followed by cold nighttime temperatures earlier this month, and of course the bog was transformed: every stalk of grass and tree branch, every withered leaf and twig encased in ice. With the sun out in full force it made for a beautiful and cold morning, especially as the wind moved through the frozen trees like a cascading series of chimes.

I ran into old familiars: the white-breasted nuthatch (pictured above, who worked his way curiously down the entire length of a trunk to check me out), black-capped chickadees, downy woodpeckers, and Canadian geese (who I frightened up from the marsh in great cacophonous numbers). A pair of red-bellied woodpeckers called back and forth across the woods, another handsome species I’m not so familiar with.

My toes and cheeks were numb after rambling through the bush and down along the marsh. I felt properly justified in making another pot of coffee and curling up with a book for the rest of the morning – entirely thankful for small adventures.