A Hot Afternoon at Southwest Nature Preserve
I walked north toward the pond at the northwest corner of the preserve, along a shallow hillside where post oak and blackjack oak woods open here and there to pockets of little bluestem grasses. It was a clear day, hot and dry, with leaves yellowing and falling as if from exhaustion due to a summer that refused to give up. We were about six weeks into autumn; in Texas the turning of the seasons from summer to fall tends to be gradual, but today felt like not so much a turning but a thinning of the same hot, dry season we knew in August. In fact, we set another record today, based on information at Weather.com showing that the record high temperature for this date was 88 degrees. At the north pond, the temperature in the shade, about three feet off the ground, was 92. The relative humidity was 41%.
The mud banks of the pond were getting broader as the water recedes, and cricket frogs jumped for the safety of vegetation or into the water as I approached the edge. In one spot, a red admiral butterfly sipped moisture from the mud, and the damselflies and dragonflies were still very common. There were plenty of red-eared sliders in various spots around the surface of the pond and basking in the afternoon sun on a couple of snags. A big bullfrog that had jumped into the water later revealed himself, a pair of eyes watching me carefully from the shallows. He allowed one photo and then – was gone.
Sitting on top of “Kennedale Mountain” on a sandstone ledge was pleasant, in the shade. The oaks at the top of the ridge blocked out the city, but did not block out the sounds of the nearby streets and highway. It was enough, though, getting away for an hour and a half or so, surrounded by things that are no less beautiful for being common: the cricket frogs, the sliders, the butterflies and dragonflies.
I do find myself hoping for winter. I am hoping for days when the high temperatures do not break records, when a jacket might even be necessary. I even wish for snow, for a quiet walk through a woodland white with several inches of snow, for big snowflakes falling from a cold, gray sky. For now, I’ll enjoy whatever kind of day the preserve offers.