Do you think she's done playing and has finally let spring come to stay? Good old Mother Nature certainly has thrown a few curveballs our way this year, hasn't she? I wasn't here to enjoy the balmy March weather but felt a pang of indecision as I drove through a blinding snowstorm on my way home from Florida in early April.
"What the heck?" I thought. "I left 80-degree weather and sunny days for this? Snow in April?" Little did I know this was just a prelude to the late April deluge of snow. So, long story short, can we trust her? Mother's Day is here, and the red-winged blackbirds are warbling in the swamps, so I say "Yes!" She better not let me down - spring is one of my favorite seasons!
Spring fills me with pure joy. The emergence of new life after a long dormancy gives hope to the future. Yes, you can start fresh and go forward again. The sun warms the earth and our souls. The cycle starts all over again with a familiarity we've come to expect and cherish. I know that the flowers will bloom, the trees will bud and those tasty leeks will be in the woods where I found them last year. I also know that the Chadakoin River will be calling my name and that I need to spend some time with her.
These turtles make the best of submerged tires in the Chadakoin River by using them to catch some rays on a sunny day.
Photo by Susan M. Songster-Weaver
We are fortunate to have a river like the Chadakoin so close and amiable. From Chautauqua Lake to McCrea Point, she is truly a lazy river. Meandering here and there, she allows travelers to escape the hustle and bustle long enough to rejuvenate their spirits. She is many different things to many different beings. To me, she is an adventure - an escape into the wild - especially when I only have a few precious hours before I have to do something else. When I found myself with some free time last week, I took advantage of it with a short paddle on the river.
I launched at McCrea Point and headed upstream towards the lake. I didn't get very far when I spotted a fishing bobber floating near shore. I knew then that it was going to be a good day, and it was. I found an unbelievable number of bobbers that day - 17 in all! Only one of them appeared to have spent the winter in the water, so I assumed lots of people had taken advantage of the early warm weather to go fishing. To many anglers, the river is a wonderful place to drop a line and hope for a catch.
As I traveled along the streambed, I realized something else. Unfortunately, the Chadakoin can also be a convenient dumping ground for some. It saddened me to see debris marring the beauty of the river. Water bottles, aluminum cans, Styrofoam cups and old tires are clearly visible this time of year before the reeds and grasses along the shore grow up and hide them. About the only good thing I could see in this mess was a batch of turtles sunning themselves on some large, partially submerged truck tires. Luckily, they allowed me to come close enough for a picture before they slid into the water.
Before long, I had to head back to the launch. As I neared the rowing team's dock, a large Canada goose started honking at me. Sensing he was trying to scare me away because he was protecting something, I glanced towards shore. To my delight, I saw two more geese and a clutch of six fluffy, yellow goslings feeding in the short grass. I respected their space and paddled on, because the river is home to them.
On my way home, I thought about the marvels of Mother Nature. She is often taken for granted and ignored, but she is ever willing to share her secrets and wonders with us if we make the effort and thank her by being good stewards of the earth. I just hope she's willing to give the snowstorms a rest! Thanks be to all mothers.
Susan M. Songster-Weaver is retired teacher, nature lover and longtime CWC volunteer and supporter. The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. For more information, visit www.chautauquawatershed.org or call 664-2166.