by Frances Edstrom
I like this time of year, especially if it happens that the heavy snows melt away before the undergrowth in the woods is up, or the leaves appear on the trees. It gives one a feeling of being able to see into the mysteries of the forest, the hidden homes of the animals.
Of course it is only a feeling, since actually seeing the wild animals takes more than a passing glance. I don't have the patience for birdwatching or hunting, so I happily accept the illusion that the bare woods give me in April.
In the woods in the flood plain along the Mississippi, I can see the things that flood waters from years gone by have stolen from one place and deposited another. Barrels, of course, are a big item. But I've seen sheds, outhouses, boats, docks "” once one with a gas pump on it "” all sorts of wonderful things that within a week will be hidden away again in the fields of poison ivy that keep humans at bay.
One spring like this one, we walked a creek bed near a golf course and found golf ball heaven. Our son, then quite young, gathered them in a bag and brought them home. Most of them were no good, but it was the idea of having found them that appealed to him. If we'd had chickens on a farm, he would have been the egg gatherer.
Just as collecting things, it takes patience to be a collector of experiences, such as seeing a turkey strut to impress the ladies in the spring, or a doe leading her babies to drink in a creek in the summer. Anyone can happen upon a scene by accident, and anyone can collect junk (just ask my kids), but a true collector has to be a student and an expert.
I am grateful to those who devote themselves to collecting. It is from them that so much of the pleasure in life comes without much effort on our parts, to the rest of us. Museums, libraries, documentaries, and stories are brought to us bycollectors.
The rest of us simply have to be open to their gifts.