Yesterday I crumbled a lone cornbread muffin next to the ditch that divides my yard from a wetland preserve. If I had kept it as a leftover, it would have achieved the density of a hockey puck overnight, so I offered it to the various critters who cross through my yard. This evening a visitor came back inquiring if more leftovers were forthcoming:
I wish I’d had my camera handy while he was standing on our patio. As the sun was setting, I considered that the raccoon’s visit could be a good omen for a sunset photo walk, so I went to the wetlands briefly to see what I’d find.
I did encounter someone wild who would have been safer at home, if only he had one:
He is feral, and I could come no closer during our first encounter. His new cauliflower ear tells me he is not the only tom cat patrolling the wetlands. He is cobby with sleek fur that rivals an Abyssinian cat. If only he had born into an indoor kingdom . . .
The wetlands are still waking up to spring. We’ve had three inches of rain in the past week. I wore my oldest pair of tennis shoes to cross through the silt and ditches en route to the preserve.
Phragmites australis, tall grass in Ohio wetland preserve
I tried to return to the wetlands today, but a insect pollen party blocked my path. I didn’t want to invade their gathering any further, so I lingered on the scene for a few moments and went back home.
Beyond my backyard is a wetland preserve. While an El Niño summer rages into fall in the rest of my town, the wetlands show that growth is disintegrating on schedule. I have let my camera lie fallow for months, and I now I am surrendering to the urgency to document this season. Every fall I hope to capture the subtle changes until it all reaches a peak with frost-covered red leaves.
Capturing the wetlands in fall challenges me to value the small details of the natural world. If I overlook the glory of a lone grass flower or a long-brown thistle, what I hope do I have with a blazing sugar maple in October? The easy subjects yield better when you’ve taken time to illuminate the things that most regard with indifference: the ugly, the boring, the ignored. With a camera, you can discover that excitement and indifference say more about the viewer than the scene depicted. A rusted wheel can be as beautiful as the Grand Canyon. A withered patch of wetlands matters no less than an orchid in bloom.