sketch of turtles by David Borden
(c) 2013 David Borden
Last March, Ruby and I hiked a section of the Barton Creek Greenbelt, #AustinTexas.  Because of the drought, the creek bed shone like white bone rubble, as if the Earth itself had shriveled with famine and lay exposed to the sky.  We walked through thickets of ashe juniper (we locals call it "cedar") and scrub oak.  The path played peek-a-boo with the dry creek.  We spied a shimmer of water through the brush and broke from the trail, ducking under a tangled brier, draped with ivy.  We found a tranquil pool.  Ruby ran around its circumference to a spring, which bubbled from the canyon wall.  We listened to the sound of the water over the stones.  We followed its narrow channel until it spilled into the pool.  Fish swam near the surface and we watched them with our toes jutting precariously over the edge.

I whispered, "Look at that rock over there.  Do you see the turtles?"

"Oh, cool, " she whispered back, "Can we draw them?"

We quietly climbed on a boulder as close to the turtles as we dared.  I slowly unpacked our sketching materials.  We sat together like the families of turtles sunning on the rock a few feet away.  Small birds bounced among overhead branches, calling after each other.  Fish swam beneath us.  We studied these creatures, drew them out, colored them in silence.

"I set my sketchbook aside and simply watched her play."
Two excited dogs trotted around the pool, pulling their owners until they were unleashed.  The dogs splashed in the spring until it was muddied.  The women laughed.  Weren't their dogs so cute?  The birds fled.  The fish receded to deeper water.  The women produced nasty, matted tennis balls and hurled them into the once tranquil pool.  The dogs barked and launched into great splashing ecstasy.  The women laughed loudly with joy. They talked to each other by way of imagining the dogs' dialogue.

The turtles slid into the water and swam to safety.

The dogs played and yapped and chased tennis balls.  The women and their animals had tremendous fun.  When they left.  The birds had gone. The fish had gone.  The turtles had gone.  Without its creatures, the landscape felt sterile, the pool sad and empty. We could hear people and dogs making their commotions along the trail, but no more of them stopped, for there was nothing to see but a drought stricken pool with a child playing at its edge.

She sailed boats made of twigs.  She erected stone towers.  I sat on a rock and sketched the pool from afar. When I finished, I set my sketchbook aside and simply watched her play.  I listened to the breeze through the tall, dry grass.

Slowly the animals came back.

Before the peace could be shattered again, I crunched through the gravel and whispered to her, "Are you ready to move on?"

She had gotten her shoes soaking wet and I knew she wouldn't be able to hike in them, so we leisurely backtracked out of the park.  We held hands and she told me all about the turtles and the fish and the insects she'd seen.

#nature #parenting


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