I am constantly reminded that the earth is an amazing place. For me, the awe usually has to do with some kind of living creature. This past weekend it was rocks. Paint Mines in El Paso County, Colorado is a treasure of colorful rocks, spires, and hoodoos (a column of weathered rock). The colored bands were caused by oxidized iron compounds. Erosion exposed the layers of geologic history, creating the gullies and hoodoos in the process. And long before white settlers moved west, native peoples used the clays tinged with yellow, red, orange, purple and gray to make pottery. Some evidence points to humans inhabiting the area as long as 9,000 years ago.
Today it is a county park. In addition to the beautiful rocks, it is full of cottontails, jackrabbits, and deer. There were probably coyote slinking through the grasses too. And as the sun set, casting long shadows and intensifying the colors, I couldn’t help but once again, be amazed.
As I walked across campus this week, I came across a squirrel hastily covering a nut or acorn it had just buried. When it saw me it froze. Caught in the act. We had a staring contest for many seconds. I won. The squirrel scampered off.
Like many kids, I learned early on that squirrels don’t hibernate, and in advance of winter they store food. But I had lived my whole life (until now!) and never actually seen a squirrel doing it. It made me wonder how many other stashes that squirrel has. Will it remember where they all are? Most likely. They bury different caches of food all over the place and use both memory and smell to find it when needed. They can even find their food when there’s a foot of snow on the ground!
Many people don’t much like squirrels, but I do. They are intelligent, playful, and funny. They love a good game of chase or taunt the dog. They are masters at figuring out how to get to the bird feeder. They can leap between branches in a single bound. One squirrel in my yard likes to come look in the window right next to my desk. And, in the deepest days of winter, when the days are short and the rest of the world is resting, the squirrels are out scampering about having a jolly good time. Best of all, not all of squirrels’ buried nuts get dug up, which results in more trees!
Remember each day
The power of being present.
Of not speaking
but holding a hand
giving a hug
offering a smile.
life, love, and laughter.
Because today is a gift.
As I walked by Boulder Creek near the library the other day, the usual flock of ducks was happily cackling, swimming, and preening. The shoreline and rocks in the creek were covered in snow. I was bundled in boots, coat, and a hat – barely warm. As I watched them go about their duck business as usual, I was glad I was not one of them.
The more practical side of me, however, reasoned that ducks were adapted to deal with the cold (yes, 15° in October). They wear a down coat, after all. But what about those feet??? Lots of other birds will fluff up their feathers and hunker down to protect their feet. But ducks (and other water birds) swim in frigid water and stand right on the ice. How can they do that? The scientific name is a counter-current heat exchange system. For us non-scientists, this means that the veins and arteries in ducks’ legs are packed close together. So warm blood heading down to the feet heats up the cold blood returning from the feet. That way the bird can maintain a constant body temperature. Not only that, but their feet are specially designed to withstand the cold because they have little nerve tissue or muscle. Their feet are made of mostly bones and tendons. Still, I’m glad I’m not a duck.