Woke up thinking 'today is walk day'. I have been out several mornings a week lately, walking along a wonderful stretch of creek less than a quarter mile from my new front door. When I left the 'wilds' of Carroll County four months ago, to take up residence a stone's throw from the northeastern border of Washington DC, I could not imagine that in this short space separating my front door from this idyllic creek, it might almost be like moving back to that less hectic, more laid back style of living that I so cherished about being out in what is still called 'country' around these parts.
There is a very nice paved walk/bike trail that stretches about ten miles along the creek, meandering through some beautiful old trees with their high forest cap sheltering stretches of the trail from sun and heat as well as muffling sound which makes it all seem incredibly removed from the suburban streets, just out of sight in this part of Montgomery County. The trail crosses the creek at various points with wood decked foot bridges, any number of which have already been duly noted, referenced and earmarked for possible inclusion in the great ongoing 'bridge project' of this next year.
I was enjoying the dappled shade and quiet solitude, had gone about a half mile along the trail and was approaching one of these bridges when I noticed, off to my left as I walked up the slight incline to the wood decking and came out of a densely leafed area of undergrowth and bushes, a doe moving slowly along the creek bank, in the water, stopping to browse on the low overhanging branches of the trees that line the creek. Now seeing a whitetail in any part of Montgomery County is really no great occasion, they seem to pop up on every corner, but not expecting to run into anything other than another walker or biker, I was quite overjoyed at the sight. And, of course, being an artist and one interested in the natural world and wildlife in particular, I stopped to watch as she gracefully high stepped through the bubbling water just yards away from the bridge I was standing on. Then, movement beyond the doe caught my eye and a pair of still dotted twin fawns came into view upstream and about twenty feet behind mom.
I was completely transfixed as the twins came up to and passed by mom, continued downstream toward the bridge I was standing on, my feet merely eight feet above the flow of the creek, all the time looking up toward me and watching me as they came ever closer to the bridge. Our eyes were fixed upon each other as the two young deer came within about ten feet of the bridge. Suddenly, the quiet was broken, the moment was interrupted by the thud of hard rubber mountain bike tires as a biker coming from the direction I had just walked from, hit the first few planks of wood on the bridge deck. The fawns froze, looked in the direction of the 'noise', turned and in a flash, with water splashing the rocks that dot along the run of the creek, leap frogged past mom and back upstream. Mom stood her ground, apparently quite accustomed to the 'noise' of the bike as she would be, living in such surroundings, and then went back to casually browsing the branches.
All of this taking place in quite under a minute's time, I really had little time to think about anything other than what I was observing, so it did not start to occur to me until the biker had gone well out of sight up the trail ... what a great moment! And, ironically, oppositional to everything I have been preaching to young artists for years about always making sure you have a small sketch pad with you no matter where you are and what you are doing (you never know when something is going to spark an idea or stir an emotion that might be a viable work idea), I had no sketch book, no camera, no recordable devices of any sort (I was after all, just out for my morning walk!) other than my mind's eye.
So here was a scene, one that I could imagine would make a great drawing, occurring right before my eyes and nothing to make notes with. Even now, as I write this more than two hours since this all took place, I can clearly see the sunlight on the backs of the twins, their white 'baby spots' almost twinkling like sparks, as they moved from the deep shadow of the dense trees out into the bright light! And that is precisely what I have, a wonderful memory of a moment shared in nature that, in the end, is what it was, what it will have been and something that I know I shall see when I close my eyes and remember, for weeks to come. OK, I will not have a 'hard copy' image or images to refer to as possible reference for a work of art, and when the clarity of this event begins to fade, as it will in time, I will not have that 'hard copy' to go back to and smile over. But, I do have the feelings that are, even now, flooding through me about a chance encounter in the, maybe not so, wilds of a place just steps away from my front door.
And who knows ... maybe on another walk yet to come, I will see the three again and maybe this time I will have a small note pad in pocket or my camera slung over my shoulder, just in case.
Moral of the story ... well, I guess it would be 'always be prepared'!