Wednesday, March 19, 2008

First Official Tracking Day

Soft. That was all I could think of this morning. The day was warm and softly wet, rain was gentle, and the trees were blooming everywhere. Red bud. Cherry. Some Magnolias coming out. The tree flowers and the gray sky combined with the warm, wet day to make it feel timeless. Today, I was to pick up my son, William, and his friend, Nick, and go tracking and mapping in Belvedere. The houses there are starting to go up quickly now that they are not hampered by the county, so it is a great to drive and see them, now actually with roofs. My house is still just getting its foundation. I can't wait. Erika Howsare of C-Ville weekly gave me a call to talk about the green development of Belvedere. I told her, like I will tell everyone, that the concept of green efficient homes combined with access to nature and wellness is a good thing, it is news, and it is medicine, too.

But today, I am looking forward to tracking. The red mud is perfect for tracks (and really messing up my car, but what the hey, what is a tracker to do? We get muddy.) So we are off on this rainy, muddy day onto the land, following the trail that will be the nature trail of Belvedere. After I pick up the boys, I begin to quiz them about the hazards of going out into nature. This is the first thing you must do. I quiz Nick in particular, and I hear my son helping him with little sounds. What do you need to look out for in nature? Poison Ivy! Yes, and what does it look like? In the green season, how many leaves does it have? I quickly discern that Nick needs a lesson in hazards (and later, he is quick to teach me that calling him "son" is a hazard. Hilarious!). We go over bees, snakes, ticks, hypothermia, and a hazard that is very common on old farmland, old barbed wire.

I notice my son knows a lot and that pleases me, since I have been teaching him since he was 2. But Nick is a quick study, especially on scat. On our last outing, I taught Nick that poop was actually an important wildlife sign referred to as "scat." He is an amazing scat finder. We find sign related to racoons, fox, coyote, and turkey. It is amazing to hear his descriptions: "Like a curly french fry!", and he loves it when I take them apart, helping me find a stick. Don't touch it, I say.

We find tracks of raccoon, deer, dog, human, turkey. Our favorite place in the wetland, with several frog species, it is great to walk along and see the frogs leaping ahead. Small and different colors, we can see tree frogs, and maybe a green or leopard frog. The kids want to catch them. Frogs seem to be in every puddle, and Nick definitely wants to go into every puddle after them. Eventually, he falls in and so we head back to change clothes and play. On our way back, we walk into a herd of deer. What a magical moment, the deer running just a head of us. My son stops and looks dreamily at me. Wow Mom, did you see that! He talks awhile about one special deer. I know that being with the deer is important for him.

Keep going Belvedere. Make that nature trail.

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