Late on Sunday afternoon, January 6, Kali and I finally got our act together to take a walk. The day was sunny and clear, and temperatures had warmed to the mid-40s. Because the hour was relatively late, we decided to walk nearby rather than drive a long way, but the trails in "my" preserve were too wet and muddy. So, we drove about 10 minutes downstream to walk the paved trails in the municipal park along the creek.
The sun was low, and shadows were long...
...but the light bathed everything in warm hues despite the month.
|A fallen red oak branch, probably a casualty of of Hurricane Sandy two months ago|
At one point, I briefly left the paved trail to check the status of a native grass meadow a few hundred feet off the pavement that I had hadn't seen for several years. (The grassland - almost a pure stand of native little bluestem [Andropogon gerardii] - is spared the invasion of woody plants because kids (i.e., vandals) periodically set fire to the meadow, which is exactly the management regime that favors the continued existence of the grasses and excludes fire-intolerant woody plants.) En route to the meadow, along a muddy, rutted equestrian and mountain bike trail, I came across this stand of wineberry canes (Rubus phoenocolasius) set aglow by the afternoon sun.
Our organization hosts an annual Owl Prowl each January; this year's was on Saturday evening, January 5. It's usually a really popular program with families, but the group rarely hears or sees any owls. (I wonder why...?) This year, we only had 15 registrants, and none of the participants were children. A naturalist led the walk so that I could set up a fire pit, get sticks upon which to spear (and roast) marshmallows, and plug in a coffee urn with hot water for hot chocolate for the "prowlers" to enjoy when they returned from the walk.
I went to the supermarket about 4 p.m. to buy the marshmallows, and when I returned and was walking from the parking lot to the Visitor Center, a Great Horned Owl flew right over my head. Not only is seeing an owl a special treat because of its rarity, it might have signaled a good omen that the prowlers would finally hear or see an owl later that evening.
Well, the prowlers did not end up hearing or seeing an owl during the walk, but they came back ready for warm refreshments. As we stood around the fire, warming ourselves, roasting marshmallows, and drinking hot chocolate, a 20-something male member of the group turned to his girlfriend and said,
"Do you know what goes good with roasted marshmallows?
"No," his girlfriend replied, "What?"
"Knock-knock jokes," the fellow answered. "Knock-knock..."
His girlfriend played along: "Who's there?"
"Would who?" And, with that, the young man dropped to his knee, pulled a small box out of his coat pocket, and asked, "Would you marry me?"
After a while the group began to break up and gradually headed back to the parking. Those of us who remained heard an owl hoot - one time - off in the distance.
|The newly betrothed, John and Angela|
|Part of the group congratulating the newly engaged|