A life spent in the outdoors (or at least as much of your life as you can) gives you an opportunity to notice numerous little things, each of which on their own seems insignificant. Cumulatively however, they paint a picture in full, much as an impressionist uses small points of color to develop a whole image. Taking the time to appreciate the small moments, like those that follow here, is what a love of the outdoors is all about.
Sitting in a ground blind on a late October afternoon, with the intent to just observe the movements of the deer herd that frequents my property, the sun fell low in the sky to the west. It reflected off the water of the lake just 100 yards to my south and illuminated the remaining leaves on the maples along the eastern shore. What had been darkening woods were suddenly filled with a golden glow that seemed to come from everywhere at once. Anything that happened after that would just be icing on the cake, and the mature doe that wandered in from an adjacent meadow was a bonus.
I was in full camo and downwind from her, so she didn’t notice me and walked in quite casually to about 25 yards. Then she looked me square in the face. I hadn’t opted for contact lenses that day, and I’m sure the shine off my glasses caught her attention. It was a stare-down. I guess I must’ve been the one to blink, and she stomped a bit and then took off. I doubt the encounter was longer than 45 seconds, a small moment in time, but oh so memorable.
The dogs always seem to want to go out around 9 p.m. and I often walk out into the yard with them. On these shortest days of the year, it’s already very dark, and the porch light only illuminates to the edge of the woods. Beyond that, all is a mystery to humans, dependent as we are on sight. The dogs are not limited to the visual. Their sense of smell and hearing, so much more acute than mine, alerts them to creatures out beyond the circle of light. They bark and run towards the darkness, stopping at my command, but full-throated they issue a warning to whatever is out there, “This is the territory of our pack and you are trespassing”. In those moments I feel honored to be their leader.
The exquisite geometry of a flight of geese, using aerodynamics to achieve great efficiency, is a wonder of nature. When you are upon the water, your horizons are extended and you notice them approach from a great distance. They lose altitude as they descend from their higher flight plane at a shallow angle, and then suddenly they seem to tumble towards the water en masse. Just as suddenly, they flatten out their trajectory and glide onto the surface of the lake with a minimum of disturbance. Stunt pilots wish they had that much control.
Early in the winter season, before snows start to fall, the phenomenon of freezing fog can create hazardous conditions on the roadways, but for just another brief period it also creates a wonderful sight. After the sun has begun to burn off the fog, it illuminates the tops of the trees and they appear to have been dipped in silver, bright fingers reaching towards the sky. This too only lasts for a few minutes until the sun melts away the thin layer of ice.
In a rare case of clear skies in December, a Geminid meteor shower put on a show during a moonless night. The nice thing about Geminids is that they emanate from a point directly overhead, so you don’t need an expanded view of the sky. While these fall during a time of year that requires a little more outerwear than the August Perseids, they still are worth viewing. Stare into the vastness of space, realize that a “shooting star” is the debris left behind by a comet, and your world becomes less about you. That’s a good thing.
There is a small beech tree along my route back home. I pass it nearly every day all year long. For most of the year it is hidden back in the woods by the rest of the understory of the forest, but after the rest of the trees have dropped their leaves it again is revealed. Young beeches hold their leaves all winter long, a defense against deer that would eat young buds and twigs but are deterred by the unpalatable dry leaves. This makes them stand out clearly among the bare branches of the other trees nearby. This particular tree has three distinct levels of branches and seems almost Bansai-like in appearance. It is always comforting to see, for it reminds me that I am almost home, and acts as a reminder not to miss all the little things in the outdoors.
Moments like these are what paint the full picture of the outdoors experience. Why go to the movies to see things in 3D? The world is 3D naturally, and you don’t have to pay admittance, you just have to pay attention. TV is full of “reality” shows, but that “virtual” reality is no substitute for the real thing, and it’s a reality that remains substantially unchanged from the reality of your ancestors. A regular exposure to that reality is very good for you. Step outside and see. You really don’t need to go looking; the moments will find you when you let them. Merry Christmas, and see you on the water.
White Lake – Anglers that have been braving the conditions continued to do well on perch off Blueberry Ridge, Long Point, and the old post office on minnows, wigglers, and spikes. For the latest info on White Lake call Johnson’s Great Outdoors at 231-893-6688.
Muskegon – No reports, but watch this space for information on Snug Harbor Outfitters, opening in January...stay tuned.
Muskegon River – Steelhead reported as good earlier in the week. Wait for levels to come back down after Christmas.
Grand Haven – Steelhead were being taken before the storm, along with some brown trout. Surf fishermen were successful using spawn bags.
Hamlin Lake – No reports yet, but this will be the first place for getting to some panfish once the ice becomes safe. For up to date Hamlin information call Hamlin Grocery at 231-843-2058.
Pere Marquette River – River will likely be high and discolored by the weekend with rain/snow from the storm system. Watch for improved fishing when it falls to more normal levels.