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Sunset’s mood

Ranger Steve

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Lead gray coals high in the sky were surrounded by blue air near flaming white clouds. A sunset mood was created during the day’s last hour. Sitting by a campfire, we witnessed the sky’s final glows. White clouds flickered like flaming flashes from the campfire before us. Unlike fire’s heat, cold ice vapor slowly moved to reshape sky blazes. From below the horizon, the sun gave elemental life to create color and textures above. 

Rippled cloud surfaces replicated windblown sand dune ridges with a gentle windward slope that dropped steeply on its lee. The “cloud-sand” changed as light rays lengthened in the dimming evening. Burning above the steel gray cloud coals, changing light of dusk deepened the shades of light. As night blanketed the Earth, drifting clouds replicated campfire flashes as they changed from white to blue, yellow, orange, and red. 

From the warm campfire vantage point a few feet away, we witnessed a larger aroura pulsating physical life into sky’s water vapor high above. An ethereal experience settled the day with an evening calmness that created peaceful darkness enveloping heart and soul. Wilderness solitude allows time among elements that slips by us unnoticed during the bustle of daily life.

Clouds and sky deliver life’s contentment for our spirit. Rejuvenation and anticipation for the next day’s adventure on hiking trails, paddling waves, and intervening portages build. Morning light brings fresh green visions through translucent leaves trembling in day’s growing breeze after night quietly serenades us to sleep.

The songs of spring peepers and chorus frogs calling through the night lulled us into a dream world and is replaced in the warmth of a new day when gray tree frogs and American toads bellowed unique trills. The gray tree frog’s is loud, short and abrupt. The toad has an extended trill extending on and on. It is fun to imitate and continue the trill as long as the toads, but our lungs do not have the capacity for such long trills. The toad draws air in nostrils, seals them and passes air back and forth across the larynx allowing production of long trills.

The wail in night darkness across calm water by a common loon chills fearful nerves or creates a peace not found away from wild lakes. Each person experiences the tremolo differently. A morning mist hanging above the lake like rising steam outlines a loon’s silhouette before it dives to pursue fish. It is a mystery where it will surface and how long it will stay submerged. Loons can hold their breath longer than us and plunge deeper. Sometimes fish are swallowed underwater but occasionally they are brought to the surface. I wonder if the size of the fish determines the swallowing location. 

In wilderness, pressing questions like these have primary importance instead of minutiae that arise continuously in the workplace and home. 

Near shore white-throated sparrows call “Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody” at day’s awaking. If we cross to Canada’s forest, the song will be interpreted as Oh Sweet, Canada, Canada, Canada.” In areas south of Canada, the eastern towhee chimes in from shrubbery with “drink your tea” before it drops to ground scratching among dead leaves for breakfast. Where the towhee reaches its northern limit, the hermit thrush establishes its southern breeding range and fills the air with hidden notes of a forest flutist.

For many, a mallard’s quack, Canada goose’s honk, or blue jay’s short-lived early morning “hick hick up” call will be heard near camp. If we are lucky, the rattle from a belted kingfisher’s perch will break morning silence. They patrol favored streams or lakes to find a fish fitting in size for their nature niche. 

Ephemeral spring flowers attract pollinators and astound us with memorable beauty during outdoor adventures. Sunset’s mood, frog calls, bird songs, and flowers merge to create enduring moments. We enter wilderness burden filled and go home serene and refreshed. Spiritual renewal is essential, craved, and can be found in wilderness when excursions attune with surroundings. 

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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