WEST FORK KICKAPOO - Today, four stick legs stretch out toward the earth as they glide down from the sky in slow motion. Looking heavenward, mouth agape, I watch two sandhill cranes come to rest in the golden soybean field, like well-trained ballerinas landing after a grand jeté.
Today, hiking in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by thickets, downed trees in various levels of decay, and certainly numerous ticks, we spot one lovely yellow lady’s slipper. We search for more, but there is only that one.
Today, as I drive home, there’s a movement to my right. Sitting proudly on a rusty gate, a red-tailed hawk has landed and is about to enjoy his lunch of a field mouse.
Today, there is no breeze, and the sun is spreading warmth on the snoozing Canada geese. A sleepy northern water snake is wrapped around a log in the swampy side of the pond. I tiptoe away, not wanting to disturb their afternoon siesta.
Today is a new opportunity to discover.
Today, while walking around the lake, I see a toad near the water. I lift my camera, zoom in, and discover another toad hitchhiking on its back.
Today, wandering Hay Valley Trail in a long arc downward, I spy what I first think are white bleeding hearts. Stopping to admire them, I notice the heart-shaped flowers are growing like they’re marching up a stepladder side by side. I learn the flower is called squirrel corn.
Today, through my open car window, I observe two fox kits playing a game of ambush-hide-and-seek outside their den. Like cute, clumsy toddlers, they flop over each other, sit up and stare when they notice me, and go back to tumbling.
Today, an eagle carrying a snake races low and parallel to my car, perhaps looking for a place to rest and dine after his hunt. Struggling to watch both the eagle and the road, I lose sight of the bird and his snake, but the memory lingers.
Today brings another list of tiny miracles.
Today, in my backyard, walking along the creek bed in my high rubber boots, I’m startled to see tiny shimmers of fluorescent orange peeking out at me. It’s the first time I’ve had delicate jewelweed growing on my property.
Today, on a drive out in the country, I watch two tundra swans and their fluffy cygnets navigate what may be their first family swim. With a parent in front and one behind gently guiding them along, they weave a string of beauty on the murky water.
Today, I wake up to a strange sound coming from the roof. Lying still, I think I hear the sharp claws of a raccoon heading down the tin roof. I rush down the stairs and swing open the door, just in time to see a cauldron of bats swoop off my rooftop.
Today, knowing it’s about the right time of year to walk along Indian Creek Trail and see the Queen of the Prairie's flaming pink spray-like clusters, I’m not disappointed. Three separate stems reach skyward—one with tight round buds, the others in full splendor.
Today, we curl up in our sleeping bags under the bright light of a full moon, off the West Ridge Trail. Our eyes are heavy from our healthy outdoor exertion when suddenly we’re serenaded by a band of howling coyotes.
Today, there will be reason to rejoice.
Today, a black-and-white train of skunks, tail to nose, crosses the road. Either mom or dad is the engine, and the other the caboose, with five kits safely in the middle. The sweet family scene will stay with me for years.
Today, the dogs start acting wonky and the donkeys begin heehawing, alerting me to a seasonal summer guest. Ms. Snapping Turtle is in the back pasture, digging in the soft sand, depositing her eggs. She carefully uses her hind legs to cover them before meandering back to the water.
Today, Dane calls from the mudroom, telling me to hurry. In the yard is a doe playing with Maurice, my shy cat. The doe lowers her head and Maurice moves forward. The doe straightens up and Maurice runs back to the tree. They continue their play long enough for me to snap a picture.
Today, still groggy from sleep, I hear my newest neighbor calling: Who, who, who cooks for you?When I go out to do chores the barred owl, nearly camouflaged, is watching me from a nearby tree.
Today, I go to bed feeling grateful.
Today as I kick through piles of dried leaves while walking along the spine of the hogback, the sun streams through the trees, casting a delightful play of characters called light and shadow.
Today, while raking leaves, I find a work of art the orioles have abandoned: an intricately woven nest hanging from a twig.
Today, there is chaos outside. Téte is barking and running back and forth along the road. A coyote mirrors her on the other side of the barbed-wire fence. The coyote bows and Téte stops to watch. Soon both are moving in sync again.
Today, behind my house, at the water-carved pool we call the hidey-hole, on my mom’s first birthday since her death, a good-sized stone is standing among the sea of rocks. Picking it up and turning it to see the sparkling crystals, I’m in awe of this significant druzy rock. It wasn’t there yesterday.There is only one day at a time. Today is the only day we have. Today is the day to be thankful for.