Tuesday, September 21, 2010
I fell on my butt in the mud and all I have to show for it is this stupid picture of four birds
When I have a camera in my hand, nothing will keep me from getting the shot, but it doesn't always turn out.
What happened was that we were walking around Stricker's Pond, that wonderful watering hole for migrating waterfowl on Madison's far west side, and I saw the Great Egret perched on a tree limb on the far side. I had photographed it the other day and wanted to try again, but I only had my point-and-shoot, and the bird was just a little white speck in the distance, almost as if I had imagined it.
As we walked around the pond I saw it was still there and idly fantasized sneaking up on it through the dense woods between the path and the pond. At the closest point to the bird, the path came within about 30 yards of the bird. If only there were a way through, but I didn't know of any other path.
Then suddenly something that looked like a path turned into the woods toward the pond. T and M were up ahead, and without a word I veered off -- I figured I'd just walk up to the edge of the pond, get as close as I could with my inadequate camera and then hurry back. But the path soon disappeared.
Determined, I pushed on, picking my way as quietly as I could through the underbrush. I got near the water's edge, and I could see the heron. There was a lot of foliage between it and me, but maybe if I crept a little closer I could get it. Then all too noisily in the stillness, a twig snapped underfoot, the heron took flight and was gone -- a succession of blurry white specks against the sky in the series of shots I clicked off. Nothing. Nada.
Then I saw the four herons on the tree limbs in front of me. There was no way to frame them without foliage being in the way, and they were still too far away. But what the heck -- I had come this far. It was like a consolation prize. I clicked off some frames and hoped one would be reasonably sharp.
Then I hurried to catch up with my party. The trouble was, the path was now more nonexistent than ever. I looked around and picked what seemed to be the best way through the underbrush. A fallen tree limb blocked the way, I raised my left leg to climb over it, rested my weight on it for an instant -- and it broke under me. I fell on my butt in thick, black marshy mud, and my momentum carried me onto my back so I lay there with my feet pointed straight up. I lay there silently. wiggling my toes at the sky and assessing the damage (there was none, just a sore wrist that got better in a day -- mud is forgiving that way). At the moment that I was making like a silent, upended turtle, T and M were retracing their steps back along the main path just a few feet away, wondering how I had vanished into thin air.
I picked myself up and looked at the dense underbrush. I had no idea how I had made my way in here. For a moment I felt really disoriented, experiencing just a small shiver of what someone really lost in the woods must feel. Then common sense returned and I pushed through the thicket toward the path a few feet away. As I reached the path my phone rang, and the three of us were soon reunited.
Not much of an adventure, and I feel kind of silly. And all I have to show for it is this stupid picture of four birds in a tree that would be practically invisible if I didn't highlight them. That's the way it goes some days.