Snakes and Gators

There's something about snakes that makes me jump. But I don't think I'm alone in that reaction. This spring I've seen more snakes than normal--including a New Jersey timber rattlesnake that I almost stepped on, and king snake as thick as my calf. And then there's the dolphins I saw while paddling off Tybee Island near Savannah, Georgia, and the alligators I watched in some South Carolina swamps. Ohio's wildlife proved to be the least dramatic and life-threatening: a small-mouth bass quite peeved to be hooked on a fishing line. Photos of these encounters (except the dolphins - they were too quick) can be viewed on the latest album I've uploaded to this site. Check out my Three States Wildlife Tour.


Longest days

I saw a lightning bug as I biked home last night--my first such sighting since returning to the East a few months ago. A furious thunderstorm had just ceased pouring down rain, giving me a few minutes to pedal home and stay dry. These are the longest days of the year now. And that subtle shift of 1 or 2 minutes more light each day is still imperceptible even if the wonder of a wide-open summer hasn't changed since our ancestors invented myths to explain it.



When I traveled through Europe six years ago, I naturally went to Normandy to see the beaches made famous by the D-Day invasion. I rented a stiff and uncomfortable bicycle in Bayeux, the town where I was staying at a wonderful hostel, and set off for the English Channel several miles away. My riding companion was an Australian guy I met at breakfast. And though he was 20 years older than me, he quickly left me in the dust. We covered 30 miles on a blustery late-September day, pedaling past the landing zones where the Americans, Canadians, British, and French soldiers came ashore. Flags of the Allies fluttered outside almost every building, while the beaches seemed eerily serene for monuments to such violent events.
But then I remembered that these beaches were only made battlefields by humans--and that by nature they are rhythmically calm places where water meets land. There had to be flags, and graves, and rusted tanks there to tell me that this platonic scene was once the site of a great battle. Without those reminders, I would have considered the beaches of Normandy to be a stirring place for a picnic.