Nighttime in the Woods

by Dave Hanks

        Daylight slowly releases its grip 
                And the dark becomes the master.
        The woodland visitor now escapes this alien realm 
                To seek the security of his bed,
        Whether sleeping bag, or a more protected recluse.
                But when the sun goes down
        The creatures of the night venture forth,
                Creeping so quietly and masked in darkness.
        Sleep locks the drama safely away,
                But insomnia can at times provide clues
        Clues that something is about;
                A scratching, a soft bang, or muted growl;  
        Can tempt one to leave that comforting warmth
               To sate newly aroused curiosity.
        A rich moment to be captured   
               As flashlight beam reveals pairs of glistening eyes!
        Fat, furry bodies or sleek ones with enormous tails,
               Respond with silent retreat only to reappear
        As campground attractions prove too irresistible.
               Normal fear is over shadowed by visceral necessity.
        I have lived these special moments.
               Though somewhat painful to leave one's bed,
        So carefully heated with body warmth and position snugly found,
               The effort well worth the reward.
        Moments treasured long after discomfort of rising
               Has been erased when once the deed is done.
        Experience with earth's wild creatures:
               A never ending source of excitement and wonder!

The World is Glorious when Eyes are Opened!

Many look, but how many see! Nature is very much a “now you see it, now you don’t affair.” Emerson says that: “Many eyes go through the meadow, but few see the flowers in it.” You have to train yourself to look, to absorb, and to keep your eyes open. I’m often asked: “How did you get that bird picture? I’ve never seen that one around here.” Obviously, those persons have yet to learn to become aware of what is close at hand. When taking a summer ecology seminar, I acquired an interest in watching birds. But a strange thing happened as a result – my eyes became open to all the lifeforms, animal and plant, that were available to be seen and to be learned about. The world took on a different, fantastic hue.

I always told my High School students when we were on field trips: “If you see three, there are really five; and if you see five, there are really eleven.” Interestingly, they would then look more intently, and sure enough, I would be proven right. It became a joke with them. Once, at a high spot in the mountains, we could look down and get a excellent view of things below us. It was then that we noticed some deer just off a hiking trail. Some hikers came up the trail and walked right past the deer without seeing them. They were very close, but unobservant of what was there to experience – they were just looking at the ground.

My wife is an expert at finding things. I tell her that she needs to go with me when I am walking with my camera, because she is “my eyes.” Once when I was intently “scoping” an area for possible pictures, I saw this amazing lizard (pictured) hidden on some tree bark. He was small and practically invisible. He blended in so well, that I would never have seen him if I hadn’t been looking so diligently for photos. What an interesting observation of an interesting animal. He would periodically puff out his red throat like a balloon. By becoming aware of him, I got up close and the photo makes him look much larger than he really was.

An otherwise brown lizard on a branch making a display of orange appear on his throat.

An Amazing Demonstration