Outdoors

An outdoorsmen's view of 'acres of diamonds'

Outdoors: Trip into the wild can leave you richer

Geese on the pond as the sun rises during a nature walk. (Aaron Eckley/community contributor)
Geese on the pond as the sun rises during a nature walk. (Aaron Eckley/community contributor)
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It wasn’t until after sunrise that the full effect was in force, and then it was acres of diamonds.

For a few glorious moments I was as rich as any prince or potentate.

A day off work could mean sleeping in for many. But for my kindred souls, a holiday is reason to rise early, to seize the fullness of the day. Besides, a stolen afternoon nap is way better than any late morning in bed, but I digress.

We crossed the gate into the DNR natural area. One step was all we needed to transcend from present to historic. Farewell petrol, hello prairie.

Our plan was, well, it was too ... we really didn’t have a plan except to get up early and experience what we could. My companion was a true mensch for nature — and he drove. For him a little mud and discomfort were de rigueur. Frankly, he might have been disappointed if it was too easy.

Geese gabbled expressively in the wetlands as we walked deeper into the property. Ducks were more cautious. They quaked excitedly, or just exploded from the wetlands lest the bipeds get too close.

I did have a bit of a plan. I wanted photographs at sunrise, that magical moment when the light is so warm and rich that its rays can beautify even the forlorn corpse of a tree.

Spying on geese through the gray light and mists of the marsh, I noticed most of the grasses were frocked. The effect was ethereal. Anticipating what was to come was ecstasy.

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A molten ball rose up through the trees. Nearly the equinox, the sun was almost due east. The stirring birds’ songs sweetened. Where they too inspired by the floodlight? I’ll believe it was true, all the better to enjoy the scene.

As a boy I hated March. The ground was ice and mud, the roads were covered in grit: too bare to ski, too slippy to bicycle. Ice fishing turned into the sport of madmen.

All these decades later, March has become a special treat. The wetlands and prairies are waking. I can relish the warmth of sun on my face and still wear a sweater. The days offer fantastic transitions from the frozen to the balmy and back again.

We didn’t retreat as much as moved in a different direction, now back toward the parking lot and modernity. Streaking black and white wings gave us pause — Goldeneye ducks. The male was resplendent in his courting tuxedo. Stopped, my friend took the opportunity to examine a frosted bush. As the sunrise glow gave way to the bright rays of the day, I turned east and saw a field glistening better than any crown. Bright white precious stones were on every blade and limb. The morning’s jewels flashed briefly, like our lives measured against the arc of nature.

Riding home I took stock of the adventure. I would be returning home empty-handed, and richer than when I started.

Looking up, looking ahead, and keeping my pencil sharp.

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