By Lucy Fuller
The water felt cool flowing over my bare feet. I closed my eyes and listened to the stillness of the creek and the ancient woods that hug around it. Life was moving along as usual. Birds chirping, crickets singing, and frogs croaking in unison as my little jack russell terrier ran and jumped through the water with enthusiasm and complete joy.
I sit on a rock in the middle of the water near the old bridge that casts a shadow a few yards away from me. I place my feet in the water as I drink my coffee and soak in all that nature has to offer. I gaze into the water and see reflections of my childhood visits to the creek near my grandparents’ house. I remember exploring, catching crawdads and tadpoles, and not having a single care or fear in the world.
I also daydream of my youngest child, Abigail, playing in these waters one day. Then, I thank God for gifting me a place of peace and solitude. It’s a wonderful way to start my morning, and I always leave feeling refreshed and blessed.
Daily morning walks to the creek have become the norm. Abigail wakes up and has her breakfast and quickly reminds us that it’s time to go. It’s amazing how forceful such a little baby can be. With the sounds of her urgent cries we all scramble to get out the door in a timely and obedient fashion. Though she may be little, she is definitely fierce. It’s quite obvious who the boss is around here.
From the beginning, Abigail has been an outdoorsy baby. We have taken her on endless miles of hikes throughout our neighboring counties. She seems to find as much joy being outside as Jody and I do. That makes me smile inside.
I must admit, I look forward to our early morning strolls. There’s no dodging traffic, only the occasional dodging of a freshly built spider’s web. We keep a watchful eye our entire walk. You never know what you may see or run into.
My grandfather taught me at an early age to always look down when walking through the woods. “You don’t want to miss anything,” he would tell me as he put a rock in his pocket after a quick examination. He was always picking up rocks or other artifacts to examine later.
He loved to collect things he found in nature. He had quite the collection of numerous types of rocks, arrowheads, petrified wood, and bones from various animal species. I used to love looking at all of his little discoveries when I was a small child. Now, I have my own collection of forest treasures.
His instruction to me was not so that I would miss finding something unique, rather, it was a warning for me to be mindful of snakes. He never instilled a fear of snakes in me, but he did teach me to have respect for them, as well as all other wildlife we may encounter. After all, we are the ones encroaching upon their habitat.
We have been at Terrapin Slide for a little over a month and haven’t seen a snake yet. That doesn’t mean one hasn’t seen us. I know that I am now due to see one since I voiced it. Isn’t that the way it usually works? I have been healthily afraid of snakes my entire life. My mother is deathly afraid of them and can’t even look at a picture of one without a full body shudder and a loud pitched squeal of terror. I am scared to the point that if I come across one I will jump and probably take off running brushing myself off in case it grew a pair of snake wings and flew onto my back. You can never be too careful.
I have gotten better the past several years and have only been afraid of a rattlesnake that decided to visit my front yard. He was a little too big for my comfort and safety of my animals. He is now rattling in heaven with his rattlesnake buddies. Other than him, the snakes I have encountered haven’t really bothered me all that much. Jody has even encouraged me to hold them and pet them—the non-venomous ones, of course.
In all seriousness, we have been warned to be on the lookout for copperheads. Our neighbors have told us of sightings not only in the past but also in recent months.
Every time we walk, I find myself looking down as my grandfather instructed all those years ago. Not only am I looking for unique forest offerings to add to my collection, I am also on the lookout for snakes, namely copperheads. So far, all I have found are deer tracks and box turtles. (Thank, God.)
I am well aware of the dangers that come with encountering a venomous snake, especially a copperhead. I also understand that I am taking a risk every time I journey through the creek wearing my sandals, drinking my coffee, and laughing at my playful pup.
I am always on the lookout. I examine the bank and the rocks. I throw sticks and pebbles in the bushes and into the water to see what swims or slithers away. I look down. I even look up, one can never be too careful about those flying snakes.
The beauty outweighs the fear. I never let my fear of venomous snakes ruin my joy of that beautiful creek and its crisp, cool waters. We live in a world that offers us such beauty. All we have to do is allow ourselves to take it in and enjoy it. I know that many of us are all too aware of the dangers of this sometimes cruel world, but never let that stop you from playing in your creek.