In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer quite the other way, I have to go to bed by day.
I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree,
Or hear the grown-up people’s feet
Still going past me in the street.
And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?
Robert Louis Stevenson 1850 to 1894
“Read it again!” Of course, I do. We stop reading poetry to sift and swirl our fingers in a solitary patch of sand near our bench. We talk about glaciers and erosion and how small we feel next to the ravine in one of our favorite places, ACRES’ Wing Haven nature preserve in Steuben County.
Helen Swenson, who donated this topographically stunning property to ACRES, placed her art studio at the edge of this ravine. The art studio still stands there — it’s a restored cabin — and is occasionally open for events. Wing Haven not only inspired her art but also moved her to protect it forever. This area continues to inspire, including reading poems with a child.
Although we really don’t often read poetry in nature preserves, our stated purpose on this outing was to do just that. We started reading Shel Silverstein’s irresistible books outdoors to coax a reluctant, wiggly preschooler into sitting still for just a little bit. She has since blossomed into a strong reader and avid fan of poetry (although she’s still not much for sitting still).
After exploring the sand patch, we decide we need to visit the lake. Picking our way down the trail we laugh at chipmunks who chatter, scold and run away from us. After we settle in on the dock with our feet dangling in the water, my daughter wants to know about the lily pads. Why don’t they float away? We decide we need to look them up later.
It turns out we have two types of these flowers in Indiana: a yellow pond lily and a white water lily. Yellow pond lilies have heart-shaped “pads” while white water lilies have rounder ones.
The “root” part of the water lily is a potato-like structure down in the mud called a rhizome. The rhizome sends a hollow tube to the surface of the lake to form a lily pad. The lily pad does the work most leaves do — photosynthesis and respiration, going to and coming from the rhizome through a series of those hollow tubes.
Lily pads host dozens of lake inhabitants. Fish seek shade under them, dragonflies and frogs are frequent visitors. They are a food source for turtles, beavers and muskrats.
We are startled by a beaver slapping its tail on the water to express displeasure in our presence. We’re excited to catch a glimpse of it. “A beaver!” Beavers were once expatriated from Indiana, then reintroduced in 1935. This one seems settled in at the Seven Sisters’ Lakes.
June is Great Outdoors month. There are lots of ways to enjoy ACRES’ nature preserves. You can stay up a little later and enjoy these lingering summer evenings with a walk — or even a poem.