Back at the pond today (we've actually been getting back there, at least for a walk, every day this week!), we saw one of the smaller turtles again. Only this time, it was positioned such that we could see its bright, orangish-red underbelly. And now I'm thinking, hey! Maybe those little guys aren't snappers after all! (which would be nice to know, since snappers are such meanies--I'm not sure I want too many of those guys crawling around me and my kids!!) Clue #1 should have been the number of times we've actually seen them--the snapper we already knew about is almost never out where we can see it, and we've seen at least one of the smaller turtles every time we've gone out. (Be patient with me here--I'm a major neophyte in the nature studies department!)
Anyway, we'll need to do some more observing to be sure, but a cursory look in The Handbook of Nature Study--and a quick Google image search (love that thing!) leads me to tentatively conclude that, at least this one, may be a painted turtle or terrapin. Oh, how cool! TWO kinds of turtles! And one of them may actually be nice to have around! :) (O, for a professional-quality telephoto lens! But, alas, I'm an accidental photographer, too...)
I've already mentioned that I find nature studies intimidating, largely because the knowledge base I bring to it is so dismally inadequate. But I do know a little bit about observing, and I also know a thing or two about how to look things up (my 18 years of traditional education was not a total loss!) (And as a corollary, it relieves some of the pressure I place on myself to provide a "great" education for my kids, to realize that I made it all the way through graduate school without ever knowing half the things I'm teaching my 7 year old daughter now. I think she'll do just fine.) So my kids will actually be way ahead of the game, at least compared to me, if all I ever do is give them a love and respect for God's creation, a desire to know more, and a few good tools for accomplishing that.
Our goals, then, at least for now, are pretty simple:
- Let's see what's back here, and find out what we can about it;
- Listen, look closely, talk about what you see, and, most of all, enjoy its beauty (we're also doing some rudimentary sketching, but attention spans at this stage can be pretty limited and I don't want to make this a chore);
- Stay close together, and never approach a wild animal unless mom or dad says it's ok;
- Never destroy anything you find back here;
- Don't eat anything!!!
- Be careful to clean up when we're done.
And finally, a few more, shall we say, pragmatic rules:
- Put down that stick.
- Stop poking your sister.
- Didn't I say put down that stick?
You know, rules like that.
I take a lot of pictures of what we see, and try to identify them; and we press a lot of wildflowers. (When they are sketched, I like to put a pressed sample between two pieces of clear contact paper and staple the sample, and a photo, next to the sketch.) Sometimes, I'm wrong about what we've found; and since I'm now freely posting these errors here on my blog, I'm sure that--if anyone ever sees them!--that will totally embarrass me! But I'm doing the best I can to follow Ms. Frizzle's advice: "Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!" Like my dad says, getting to heaven doesn't require that you be "right" (and he should know--he's right about pretty much everything!)--but rather that you seek and try to do God's will. I gotta tell you, being back by the pond softens my heart somehow. I want to know, love and serve the One who put all this here, and gave me the heart to appreciate it.
And that, most of all, is what I want my little children to glean from this experience.