REMEMBER THOSE AFTERNOONS WHEN YOU WERE A KID and didn’t come in the house until dark, and you were sunburned and maybe a little sweaty from your adventures? You didn’t surrender until your mom hollered you in for the third time.
I had a day like that today. What a day. I would give anything to have my mother or father here, alive, and calling me in from the woods. “Mary Beth! Come home. It’s time for supper!”
Buck, Maggie and I walked to the gate this morning to pick up the newspaper. The climbing rose bush there has several buds with vibrant color just beginning to peek out. The yellow Carolina jessamine on the other side of the gate looks friendly, its bright flowers nodding in the breeze.
At mid-day, we ate a lunch of leftover grilled chicken on the screened porch. We talked about the newly planted little pine trees, local politics, the stock market, and the arrival of goldfinches at the bird feeder.
After lunch, we removed Maggie’s collar, brushed of a bushel of hair, filled a tub, and gave her a bath. She seemed to enjoy her spa afternoon immensely, and is snoring by my side as I write. Her left paw twitches in time to her tail. Dog dreams.
Later in the day, when Buck was working out on the weight bench, I felt the irresistible lure of the woods. Grabbing my camera, I stepped out onto the porch barefoot, found my discarded socks and jogging shoes, and headed out. It was a warm afternoon. I left Maggie with Buck, not wanting to take a chance on her surprising a rattlesnake.
I was treasure hunting, hoping to find some newly emerging bloom, moss or lichen. I turned off the main dirt road onto a recently plowed fire line, and was nearly blinded by the setting sun. I poked ahead of my steps with a stick more from superstition than practical benefit. The plowed soil was a superhighway for critters: deer and raccoon tracks the most obvious; others not so easily identified. This was new territory for me. I was thoroughly absorbed. Looking to my right, I noticed the bushes had become trees, and the woods were deep and braided with well-traveled animal trails. Shadows began to loom, and I heard odd knocking sounds from where the darkness began.
“Don’t go into the woods at night. The woods will give you a terrible fright.”
I unconsciously began to hum that old childhood tune. Then stopped. A clearing opened several more steps ahead. I wanted to go there. It looked interesting. I stood at attention, one foot up, my nose almost twitching and sniffing the breeze. Suddenly, whirling, I ran back the way I had come, my heart beating fast enough that I could feel a pounding sensation. I ran, looking back over my shoulder, forgetting about snakes or mud or holes in the ground. Finally, with a sigh of relief, I was back at the intersection of the fire line and the main, familiar trail.
There was still plenty of light, after all, to go back to see the lovely orange spores in the moss patch, which I did. Then, I walked back to the main road yet a different way, a slightly longer way, near the edge of a boggy area. Peering into the thick brush, I could hardly believe my eyes. There was a single pink blooming pitcher plant. “Yes!” My treasure hunt was over for this day. I crouched low to capture the photo, then wandered homeward, ready for a hot shower and lotion for sunburned shoulders.
Pitcher Plant (Sarraceniaceae, s. leucophylla) at Longleaf Preserve