Friday, August 13, 2010


Lake in the Woods is a two acre pond, actually a reservoir, surrounded by tall, deep forest. It is one of our favorite places to photograph dragonflies. It is always a treat when we see otter on the pond, and sometimes an osprey comes to fish.

Dale and I arrive at Lake in the Woods about noon. The air barely moves. Each dragonfly flying low over the water has a twin on the surface of the pond. They zip and zoom in the bright sunshine. After eating cold chicken, veggies and crackers, I set up a spotting scope near shore and sit down to wait. I’m hoping an otter will come (more about that in the next post). It is still cool in the shade but a little warm in the sun. Dale has gone over to the dike on the far side to watch and wait.

There is a charm sitting here by myself. The temperature in the shade is perfect. Occasionally I hear a song sparrow in the cattails. I’m waiting for paint to dry on a field sketch of cattails. The trees across the pond are mostly in shadow. The cattails near me are backlit by the afternoon sun. Last year’s heads are fluffing out. Wisps of cattail fuzz drift with the wind. Every spider web is decorated with cattail fluff and I soon will be too.

This year’s cattail heads are just finishing pollination. For a brief period in early summer cattails have two heads, stacked one on top of the other. The lower is the traditional dark brown head. They are trim and firm at this time of year and just turning from a fresh bright green to roasted brown. The head on top is usually just as long or longer. A quick flick of my finger and this head explodes into a cloud of yellow pollen. Eventually all the pollen will have flown in the breeze, leaving a bare stalk above the cattail head.

This cattail patch has been good to me. One of my favorite otter encounters happened here three years ago, on October 28, 2007. I was waiting for otter then too. Earlier in the day we watched an adult and two half grown pups fishing in the pond. We soon realized they were eating salamanders and wondered what kind. I tucked myself in the cattails to observe. Here are my notes from that day:

Usually all three dive together, giving me the opportunity to move through the cattails and get closer to the edge of the pond. I get a sense of their underwater direction from the stream of bubbles. First up almost always has prey, then #2 and #3 pop up. It doesn’t’ take long to eat a small salamander. I think there are at least two species of salamanders, one olive-green-brown and the other shows some bright orange. It is the orange that piques our attention. Could it be a rough-skinned newt?

Sometimes I feel so fortunate, and sometime I’m not quite so fortunate. Picnickers! A noisy group comes down to the site to my right, just when the otter were beginning to get close. The otter disappear into the cattails – the ones I’m hiding in. About five minutes pass and I see cattails waving a few feet to my left. Quiet for a couple more minutes … and whoosh! A little snort and the commotion of a herd of three tiny elephants scampering away as fast as they can go. They were only about four feet from me when they were horrified to find me.


  1. you write and draw beautifully. Do you have any published books? Are you published in magazines? You really have a gift and I thank you for sharing it!

  2. Thank you Margaret. I feel as though I'm just finding my voice. I've painted for years and submitted a couple of articles years ago that weren't accepted. Blogging is giving me a better focus on what to write. I'm just learning that someone might enjoy reading what I write.

  3. Oh my gosh girl. You need to write a book. I am drawn to your writing like a moth to a flame. Just think you can illustrate your own book. !! You've got it all. Go for it.

  4. I enjoy your writing too, when you write, you're able to bring a person right in with you so that we feel like were there.

  5. I love your cattail sketch! I tried to draw one a few weeks ago but it didn't come out very well. Yours makes me want to try again. I loved your story about the otters and hope you get another chance to see them up close!

  6. Elva, of course, all of the previous comments are spot on. Even if they have never met you, they now know you as you are so true in life to what you write. I feel privileged to know you in person and in print.

    It is funny that you have included Lake in the Woods soon after you shared your blog with me. We were there about 3 weeks ago. Afterward, I almost called to see if you ever go there, because all the wildflowers, butterflies, and damsels that we saw just screamed Dale and Elva! We didn't see the otters, but now we have another good reason to return! We will try to be quiet....just in case.