I take much more from my National Wildlife Refuge than I ever give in volunteer work. With my animal senses of sight, smell, touch, hear, and taste, I take a wealth of wonder.There is the crunch of leaves underfoot, the delicate fuzz of the woolly bear curled against the elements waiting to develop into another form. The pile of dirt kicked up by gophers is an engineering marvel my fingers and toes could never duplicate.
Many animals are in hibernation in a near-sleep state coping with the shorter daylight hours: mammals in hollow spaces, amphibians in mud, reptiles in air pockets below the frost level. I know this because of an uniquely human development — that of storing data and observations on printed pages. I smell decaying plants. I hear the swish of thousands of feathers as waterfowl rise to escape the hunter’s shot. I hear their call as they point southward toward their wintering grounds along air routes established eons past by their demands for food they can no longer find in the frozen north. I see blurry forms caused by the fog which is water caught between being wet and being invisible. The forms within are covered with a gray opaque softness seen under no other circumstance.
All this I take while I walk in my national wildlife refuge. I notice the passage of raccoons, pheasants, weasels, deer, and coyotes from the footprints left in the soft sand along the trail. I take all this because of the sensory abilities of my eyes, nose, fingers, ears, and mouth. Nature is there but I must take the treasures because nature is benign. Nature simply is. What is there is what I take and treasure for the health of my body and the comfort of my soul.