Sunday, August 8, 2010

Teal Pond Getaway

A short path through the over-hanging cedar branches leads to one of my favorite places in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum - Teal Pond. The heavy tree canopy dims even the midday sun. Little groundcover survives the shade. A permanent pier sits at the path's end, supported by sturdy aluminum poles. Standing on the weathered planks, my eyes take a moment to adjust to the bright sunshine after leaving the shadows of the cedars.

If I had a stone, I could easily heave it the 100 feet across the water to the other side, about the distance from first base to home plate. Ash, alder, and dogwood ring the pond, creating a pocket of natural silence around the water. The faraway mosquito-like whine of traffic on the Beltline (US Highway 12/18) blends with the buzz and hum of the pond's inhabitants. I like best the escape from the bustle of city sounds -- wailing sirens, blaring horns, the jarring sounds of road construction. All fade at the edge of the pond.

The Arboretum's location within Madison makes it a much-used recreation waypoint - bicyclists have easy entry to numerous close-by bike trails. The long entrance road, with its 25 mph speed limit, sees little vehicular traffic and runners and walkers favor it. Joggers have worn a narrow path into the grass on either side of the pavement.

Today, a Sunday, groups of multi-colored spandex-clad cyclists pass me on their way out of the Arboretum. Runners in twos and threes, jog along the long winding access road. This morning, the humidity hangs heavy in the air; the dew-laden grass soaks the tips of my shoes. No one joined me on the trails to Teal Pond, though.

Green Darner dragonfly
Rarely have I encountered other people here. Within these moments of solitude, I observe and, for a short time, sink uninterrupted into the goings-on. The pond bustles with activity and sounds. Dragonflies, the largest a green darner, lead the fast-paced charge, bouncing across the water's surface with a purpose known only to them.

Occasionally, they come to rest, a brilliant cherry-faced meadowhawk alighting nearly at my foot. A butterfly, its jet black wings be-jeweled with red spots, rests on a willow leaf for a moment's respite. Skimming just beneath the pond's surface, a pair of Western painted turtles lazily moves amongst the spidery aquatic grasses. A muskrat glides into an unseen den amongst the bulrush, leaving a barely perceptible wake; he heads out minutes later and passes a female mallard dipping for edibles. Green frogs calling to one another with their distinctive loose banjo string twang punctuate the background buzz. Cicadas sound the top notes of this natural symphony; the hum of a thousand insects carries the base notes.

Cherry-faced meadowhawk dragonfly
I could spend hours here watching, lost in the moment. For a brief time, it feels as though I am a part of this bustle. Everywhere I turn, there is some wonder to observe. My presence is neither a threat nor a disturbance to the pond’s inhabitants.

I try not to look at my watch but before I know it, an hour has passed. I don’t think the muskrat and turtles hear the sigh that passes resignedly from my lips. Its time to head back …… the hustle and bustle of my world awaits me.

All images by CartoGeek


Dani said...

great pics. Thanks for sharing. There are so many places I could stop and get lost in.

Dani @ ONNO Hemp Clothing

CartoGeek said...


Thanks for stopping by! It's been awhile since I've written anything. But since I now have anew camera, there's a good excuse to get back to it.

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