When the dogs and I visit the woods at Sudden Pond, we go at their pace, a
trot -and-stop rhythm of Angus's easy strides against Tucket's slower walk,
punctuated by breaks for sniffing, marking, and other dog things. I'm
responsible for their safety, for making sure I spot the snake sunning itself
before we run up on it, for noting fresh horse droppings and telling them to
“leave it” rather than snack.

My joy is in experiencing this lovely place with them. I break a sweat as I
jog after Angus and know the physical pleasure of trotting over the pine
needle floor of the forest. Those moments, those sensations, are in my
memories--- memories of being with my dogs.

Sometimes though I go alone, to see, hear, feel what the woods are like as
they envelop me after I leave the road. This morning was one of those times, I had finished a major project, and the day was hot but not humid. A clean
breeze blew over my skin as we played in the backyard, and so I left the
house with just the camera and a deep layer of insect repellant.

Down the steep slope from the paved road, the path moved through a
thickening forest of tall hardwoods, slender sassafras trees, and delicate
ferns and other ground cover. The morning light was a living thing,
moving and changing as I walked.

As I was trying to scan up and down at the same time I heard a scolding
sound and spotted a red squirrel on a tree branch overlooking the path.
Instead of running away, he repositioned himself several times but stayed
on the tree, and I realized I was not visiting him. He was observing me.
I took pictures of him and the surrounding plants and flowers. He kept
watching. I was reluctant to leave, somehow feeling he was waiting for
me to say or do something and I was too naïve to know what to do.

The pond was beautiful, much quieter than in spring when the water was
higher and ran beneath the wooden footbridge from the pond into the
brook bed below. Today the water level was much lower, water lilies
dominated the almost stagnant water, and only occasionally did a breeze
stir the glass surface into gentle waves and ripples.

I scanned for ducks or a heron and felt disappointment. A little later I
realized movement among the water lilies was a family of Canada geese
They undoubtedly knew I was there, but I was a benign intruder, so they
continued to glide along the center of the pond.

A lot of time was spent standing at low points, where what had been
waterline was brackish water and mud, looking for frogs and feeling and
hearing the bugs finding me. I heard a number of plops and saw ripples
fanning out, but I never saw more than the fleeting shadow of a jumping
frog. The frog population at Sudden Pond seems to be healthy and vigilant.
As I stood still, hoping a frog that had dived into the water would reappear,
I listened to birds singing high up in the tree canopy, heard one of the
geese call from the water, and felt the air move over my skin. I closed my
eyes and looked at the changing pattern of light moving over my lids.
I knew when the clouds had passed without opening my eyes. The time
waiting for the frogs I never saw wasn't wasted. I missed a moment for
which I had come, but I found something else.

With time and distance, I gained the perspective of seeing the pond and its
surroundings from all sides, the rare moment you can enjoy something
and, moments later, see it from another vantage point.

I took photos knowing that the exact moment captured by the camera was
one fraction of a second in the lifetime of a place that had been carved by
a glacier during the last ice age. A place that will exist, hopefully with
squirrels and birds and dancing dragonflies, long after I have left for the
last time.

This is life. The events we choose, the moments we anticipate and
experience, the more frequent moments and sights we miss. The
perspective of being able to look back and see from where you have come,
to appreciate where you are, to decide where you will go.

The visit had minor costs, a small blister from a cross-country shoe that
was tight, some mosquito bites, a few scratches on my legs from moving
through brush to get a better view. None of that will show in the photos or
remain in memory.

The experience of living can be captured in one morning spent at one
place, a succession of moments that will never come again. Life is what
we choose, what happens to us, what we make of what happens to us.
Life is looking back in time so you can decide how to move forward,
followed by finding the will to walk where you need to go.