Taking some time to observe nature

Published 1:20pm Saturday, September 21, 2013

Column: Woods and Water, by Dick Herfindahl

Over the past few years, there have been occasions when I’ve been able to spend time alone at our cabin in the north woods. There are special moments when there’s nothing better than to be able to take a step back and observe the wonders of nature first-hand. One such instance occurred on my last visit to the cabin.

As I ventured out into the woods in early morning, I paused as I noticed that the sunlight shining through the trees was magnifying the brilliance of a spider web. It was then I realized how simple yet complex nature’s beings really are. I can’t even begin to imagine the time it took to make such an intricate piece of nature. It’s astounding that it’s just another day at the office for the spider and a part of its plan to put food on the table.

If a person pauses and looks at nature from a little different perspective, it can almost be overwhelming. Take for example, a beaver lodge: A beaver spends its whole life making a home to raise its family and keep them safe from predators. Another water-related critter, the muskrat, builds its house on ponds for the same reason. Some of us may think muskrat houses are built primarily for us to make predictions for the upcoming winter. The old saying is that if the houses are close to shore, it will be a mild winter. But, if they’re farther toward the middle, it will be a harsh winter. Acorns can be another sign. When more acorns fall early, it is said there will be a hard winter. In reality, if you want to predict the upcoming season, you will always have a 50-50 chance of being right.

There is a lake just down the road from our cabin where I fish quite frequently. Over the years, I’ve seen otters playing in the lily pads while eagles and osprey soared in the sky above. Along the eastern shoreline, there’s an eagle’s nest that was built in one of the old dead trees. Call it coincidence, or superstition if you like, but it always seemed like whenever that resident eagle would perch on a certain dead tree in my favorite bay, we would catch fish. It almost seemed like a sign from old mother nature herself saying that this is where you must fish. I know that probably had nothing to it — or did it? I have always taken it as a good sign that meant we were destined to have good luck on that day.

I don’t consider myself a superstitious person, but being a fisherman I do certain things by habit that may seem strange to the average person. No, I don’t spit on the hook or any of that scientific stuff, but I do have a natural sequence with which I select a lure to entice fish. I usually start with a lure that I have a gut feeling about. I will pick one that feels just right for the conditions, and usually over the course of a day, depending on its effectiveness, I will stick with it. I always have a couple of old dependable lures that I don’t break out until I really need them. These are lures that have been tried and proven to catch fish in the past. Now, this is where you might ask, “Why not start out with them?” In my mind, the answer is quite simple: If you start with your best stuff and it doesn’t work, you can psych yourself out and get the feeling that nothing that you do will catch fish. Call it superstition if you want, but I always want the feeling that I haven’t tipped my hand yet and still have that trump card just in case I need it.

One thing I enjoy about being up north in the fall is the aurora borealis or northern lights. That spectacular sight can be seen from the deck of our cabin which faces due north. This is just another of the wonders that nature provides for our viewing pleasure while visiting the north woods.

You don’t have to be in the north woods to enjoy one of nature’s best displays of natural beauty. The colors of autumn will be coming to light shortly, and the natural beauty of this area is surely a sight to enjoy. There is nothing more relaxing than taking a leisurely fall drive and enjoying the colorful countryside. We have plenty to enjoy right here in our area, and all the lakes we have available to us amplify the beauty of fall.

The waterfowl season opened on Saturday. Remember to have a life jacket along when in a boat, and more importantly, wear it! Hunt safe and enjoy the moment.

Until next time, this is a great time for hunting and fishing, but most of all it’s fun to just get out and enjoy the natural beauty of our great Minnesota outdoors.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers, because they are the reason we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.

Dick Herfindahl’s column appears in the Tribune each Sunday.