Friday, May 8, 2009

7 Blocks

This morning, I wanted a newspaper. Normally I just hop in the van and drive the 7 blocks to Wawa (a ubiquitous South Jersey convenience store, for those not from around here), but today finally the sun was out and the day was scrubbed clean and gorgeous. "Hey, why don't we walk?" I said to Logan.

The first interesting thing we came upon was a squashed frog in the road. Of course Logan wanted to take an up-close and personal look so we did. Then we noticed we were walking through a drift of pink flower petals and I pointed out to Logan that the tree above us was losing its flowers and growing new spring leaves. We took a good look at the nearest branch and then I caught the unmistakeable aroma of lilac. Sure enough, behind the tree was a flowering lilac bush. We both buried our faces in the blooms and inhaled deeply. "It smells kind of like vanilla," Logan said.

We went to take our usual detour down a dirt road that leads to a lake, but saw that there was a newly strung chain across the way, and a very definitive sign warning us to Keep Out! All righty then. So we kept going down the street and--omigod--I almost stepped on a snake! It was right at the edge of somebody's lawn, about a foot into the road. I recognized it as a cousin of the garter snake that almost gave me a heart attack in my backyard last year. It was perfectly still, except for its little tongue darting in and out. We squatted down to take a closer look (Logan closer than I). We noticed that the lawn's owners had just mowed, and surmised that the snake was probably trying to escape the mower. "Yeah, but what if it gets hit by a car?" Logan asked. I wished that I was brave enough to pick it up and throw it back into the grass, but alas, I was not. I asked Logan if he wanted to pick it up and throw it back, and he also declined. So we kept going, crossing our fingers that the snake would make it to safety.

Less than a block away, what should we find in the road, but damn! A smushed snake! We gave this one a wide berth since it had flies all over it, and then suddenly noticed that we were walking through a swirling storm of floating white fuzzies. "What the heck...?" There were hundreds of them! They looked like dandelion fluff, but they seemed to be coming from way high up in the trees. We shielded our eyes and peered into the sky but we couldn't figure out where they were coming from. Laughing, we snatched at the air, trying to catch some, but they were elusive little buggers. As we walked, the cloud thinned out and disappeared and then reappeared about a block later. This time, it was obvious where they were coming from--the ground. Logan said, "It was dandelion fluff."

"Mystery solved," I said. "The wind must have carried it up above the trees, and then they floated back down. Now you know why there are dandelions all over the place."


"Those are seeds. The wind carries them away and wherever they land--presto! More dandelions."

"I didn't see any seeds," said Logan. So we picked a dandelion puffball, and pulled out a few fuzzies so he could see the seeds attached to the ends.

By now we had almost gotten to Wawa, and Logan noticed muddy tire tracks on the newly paved road. He spent a few minutes speculating as to what type of vehicle might have made the tracks, and decided that that it must have been some kind of truck. We spent our last few minutes before going into the store reading the names some kids had written in the concrete. We bought our newspapers and some munchies and headed back home.

As we passed the spot where our friendly neighborhood garter snake had been, we were very relieved to see he was nowhere in sight, and so had clearly made it across the street unscathed. We resolved to be braver in the future and pick up and move any imperiled snakes to safety.

As we turned back onto our street, I said, "I'm sure glad we didn't take the van."

Logan smiled up at me, clutching his dandelions. "Me too."

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