Friday, June 6, 2014

Down Rabbit Holes

In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.~Lewis Carroll, The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland

It sometimes takes a bit of poking around to find visual inspiration in this part of the state. Aside from the heavily forested areas, patches of so-called wilderness do occur quite dramatically between developed areas or in other spots where one wouldn't think to find such beauty and serenity. I found another such place the other day during my ramblings and stopped to do some exploring on foot, as driving by in a vehicle usually doesn't do justice to such tucked-away spots.

This place sits nestled in a low gully at the eastern end of the Deering Ridge Road where it connects to Route 109 in Shapleigh, just past the Springvale town line. The road dips dramatically from the sharp left turn off 109, and water appears in the form of a fast-moving stream on one side of a small bridge overpass and courses toward a more open expanse of calmer water on the other. Driving by there of an evening, when temperatures up in that neck of the woods are decidedly cooler, I've often seen fly fishermen standing thigh-deep in the water on the calmer side, while other fishermen try their luck on the upper end where the water flows swiftly from an outlet in a granite wall farther up.

The western section of the sluice, which I gauged to measure roughly 25 feet wide, is channelled in on both sides by solid low walls of granite blocks, and the tree canopy is virtually closed over it, making for a very shaded area. A narrow rocky path leads down from the road's shoulder to the water's edge, and from there, one can stand and observe the river travel away into the distance beneath the small bridge. Vegetation grows thickly on either side and along another longer path that winds its way along the upper side of the stream. It was in that direction that a young couple and their baby headed that sunny day, he loaded down with fishing gear and she carrying the child and what appeared to be a picnic cooler.

Across the road on the calmer side of the stream, the river opens into a more pastoral idyllic landscape, surrounded on all sides by thick stands of trees and lower growth whose reflections lend a distinct note of lushness to the scene. The sun was high and cast short shadows, and the water's surface broke into a million gems at its touch. Birds sang from high up in the trees, but aside from the traffic on the main road, it was a quiet and peaceful experience.

A friend asked me recently how I find such places at these, and I told her that those few I've caught out of the corner of my eye as I drive past have caused me to rethink my driving habits. Now, unless I'm bound for a particular destination and pressed for time, I make myself slow down now so as not to miss these treasures. I take the occasional "road not taken" to see where it will lead, and if I don't have a sense of where I'll end up, I simply turn around and go back with the intention of researching the area more thoroughly before paying it another visit. Or, if it's a particularly nice day, I simply decide on a particular route and negotiate it slowly so as not to miss something striking or deserving of more attention.

There is so much to see out there in the most unexpected places, and there is so much happening in the tiny spaces, in the worlds within worlds, that we miss in our eagerness to get to wherever it is we are going. Nature's processes are so intricate and fascinating, and only those who make a study of them realize just how specialized and complex they all are.

Just the other day, I happened to glance out through one of my living room windows that overlooks the long side porch that I share with my neighbor and that is just mere feet away from the busy street. There sat a chipmunk, leaning back on its hind legs, taking in its surrounding. Within a few seconds it was gone, startled most likely by some sound or activity close by. I was surprised to see it in this environment, and when I went outside later, I noticed the characteristic hole in the dirt under the back porch steps. I realized immediately that I'd found the chipmunk's home or at least the doorway to it.

Nature's greatest gifts to us are the doorways, or the rabbit holes, if you will, through which she shows us wondrous things and that simply await our curiosity. And all it takes to discover them is losing ourselves in the moment and not giving a single thought to how we will ever get back...


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