Friday, November 12, 2010

Rare and Common Delights

November 3, 2010
South Glens Falls, NY

It was late in the morning on a midweek day, and there wasn’t much time for a walk.
The Betar Path runs along the Hudson River, not far from the village’s main street, and it had been a while since I was there. The path is maybe a mile from end to end, so if I didn’t linger too long, there would be time enough for that. It’s not wilderness by any means, but one can always see something interesting there.

You may remember from a past blog 
that this is where I first saw a white squirrel.
He’s a part of the local folklore, well known to those who live nearby.
There seems to be more than one of these leucistic squirrels along this trail, but despite their startling lack of camoflage, you can go a long time between sightings. It’s been six months since have been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of "Luke."
There’s lot of undergrowth here, and plenty of places to hide.

On this November morning, I sulked, thinking that things looked pretty dull, compared to the colorful flowers and interesting insects that abound here in the summer.
After walking for a while, it became clear that things were not dull, just different.
And there was color there, too, just in different places.

With a lot of the foliage gone, one could see the bluebird, as well as hear him.

The grey squirrels were a lot more visible, and they were busy foraging for acorns.

Despite all this, I walked along the trail, scuffling my feet in the leaves, ungratefully thinking, 
“Sure would make my day to see the white squirrel !”

And there he was !

Shinnying up one tree, taking a leap into another.  

Pausing to rummage around in the bittersweet clusters.

The squirrel was only about 20 feet away from the trail. I stopped dead in the middle of the path, and got the camera ready.

Ah, this made my walk worth-while! I thought smugly. Something rare indeed, MUCH more interesting than faded trees and dead leaves.

Then I heard voices approaching, and saw a woman coming down the trail with her young son and a little dog.
In vain I tried to quickly get more photos of the squirrel, frustrated by the many layers of vines that fooled the camera’s focus.

Too late, they were upon me !

Thankfully, the squirrel seemed too preoccupied to notice.

The woman stopped about twenty feet from me, and reined in the dog. The little boy, however, came toddling right over to where I stood.
“Whatcha lookin’ at?” he said in a child’s piercing voice.
“Shhh…” I motioned up to the tree, and spoke in a stage-whisper. “There’s a white squirrel up there, let’s watch him. Do you see him?”
“ Umm…. Yeah, I do !”
Without thinking, right there on the pavement, I sank down into a squat, to get a better angle on the squirrel.
The little boy squatted down next to me, as natural as could be. He looked over at me with a conspiratorial smile.

This scene must have looked pretty funny to his mother, who said, “O-wen, come on back. Leave the lady alone.”
Instead, for a few minutes more, O-wen and I sat hunkered down together, silently watching the squirrel as it moved gracefully through the trees.
(In that respect, this little boy showed amazing patience for a person his age.)
We lost sight of the squirrel as it moved off into the thick undergrowth.
Time to stand up.

“How are you today?” said Owen, sticking out his little hand. 
I shook it, and he abruptly said, “What’s your name?”
“Sue. What’s yours?”
He playfully struck a pose, put his hand on his head and said: “I’m a SPIDER !”
And he laughed at his own little joke.
I glanced over at his mom, who was as puzzled as I was by this exchange. Her look said, “What do you expect from a 6-year-old?”
Out loud, she said, “Come on, Owen, it’s time to head back.”

Suddenly he wanted to show me what HE found today.
“Look!” he said, searching pockets desperately, and pulling out: two acorn caps.
One in each hand.
He dangled these treasures before me as if they were made of gold, and I made sure to marvel at them.
Then they went back in the pocket, and he trotted away to join his mom, as they turned back the way they came. 

It wasn’t until today that I realized, 
that, to him,
seeing a white squirrel and finding an acorn cap were exactly the same thing.
The one was not more valuable to him than the other.

May I, too, never lose my sense of delight in something as simple as an acorn cap.

The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.” 
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature 1836


  1. Great finds, super photos, sweet story! You have planted a seed in that little boy's imagination, exposing him to the wonderful that lives all around. And reminding yourself of that, too. And me.

  2. What a touching post. I bet you made Owen's day! Seems like him mom wasn't as interested in nature as he was.

    I LOVE the photo of the white squirrel with his nose and eyes peeking through the vines!

  3. Jackie,it seems that SUE was the one who received a lesson that day !

    and Ellen, frankly I don't know how any of those squirrel photos came out, it was a place just full of thick viney growth. Yes and you can see his brown eyes too.