It was time for a walk in the woods – past time, actually – and the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge seemed like just the place for it. Summer hung tenaciously on, unaware that it had been displaced by fall, and it was warm and sunny. However, fall made its presence known through that slanting angle of the sunlight that gives everything a different sort of highlight and makes the woods look like the year is drawing to a close.
The woods were dry. The marsh had dried up completely. I passed a little depression in the woods that should have held a tiny pond, but even the grass that had grown in the mud in the center was drying. Nevertheless, walking through the forest felt good, with patches of shade and dappled sunlight in the path ahead.
Then, wandering down a hillside, the shimmer of sun on water became visible through the branches and leaves. At the bottom was a small stream with shallow water stretching across twenty feet or so, with emergent plants reaching up out of the water with small white flowers. And on a smooth fallen log stretching partly across the water, a big turtle was sunning itself. The patch of red on the side of its head showed it to be a red-eared slider, and its larger size meant it was a female. She was basking on the log, vigilant to her surroundings and ready to drop into the water to escape danger. I crept out from behind some vegetation and took a couple of photos, but when I pushed it to the next step and got closer, she disappeared into the shallow water.
Looking around, there was movement in the water in several places. Over near another fallen log, a ripple started and the fin of a carp broke the water. In other places, the ripples appeared to have been from fish activity as well, although I watched carefully for turtles coming up for a breath or frogs jumping in. While there was little fall color, some of the trees were becoming more yellow, and in the slanting sunlight the yellows and greens were beautiful.
These little discoveries are magical. Finding a place like this, tucked away in the woods and unseen, inspires a sense of wonder even when the animals are common. It is hard to find anything more common than a red-eared slider and a carp, but being common should not rob these encounters of the sense of stumbling into something beautiful.