Over the last eighteen months, there had been improvements and large scale installations on the 40 acre park. Most impressive among them was the large pagoda tucked into the undergrowth and surrounded by swampy water. This feature was named Dragon Fly Pond. To reach its baldachin, one had to walk across a wooden gangplank. As we ventured into its depths, we saw a regal bird standing in the water. It was the exotic Yellow Crown Night Heron, said to be elusive by park employees. It froze as we approached and then took flight into the lower branches of a tree, hopping branch-to-branch higher into the canopy. It is thrilling to witness fauna in its natural habitat. A rush sweeps over me as I try to capture the experience with my little pocket camcorder.
We wind our way through the park delighted with each new discovery. My daughter, clutching her umbrella while wearing a raincoat, was reminiscent of the Morton Salt girl. We saw Wild Olive trees in full bloom, enormous Texas Sabal Palms, and Huisache trees nestled in with Shrubby Blue Sage, Dove Croton, and the nefariously named Snake Eyes. The list of native trees, shrubs, and ground cover can be found in the birding center, and carrying the informative pamphlets helps elevate the experience. In addition, identification and information markers are placed throughout the trails.
One of the most romantic and exciting parts of the trail came in the form of a nature made tunnel. Branches and vines entwined themselves from both sides of the path and formed above one's head a luscious, leafy dome cocooning the trail for more than fifty feet. Upon approaching the verdant underpass, one was made giddy at the idea of venturing in the darken passage. For my daughter, there was apprehension and the need to take her father's hand before mounting the courage to walk inside. The walk through had a mystical quality to it, almost as if we were taking a portal to another time and place.
It was a splendid day, a restorative day that left one feeling satisfied and content in the present moment. So simple, yet monumentally beautiful. Gratitude expresses it best. I am grateful to have shared this exceptional life affirming experience with my loved ones. How fortunate we are to have this park so near to home. What a wonderful way to teach my children about preserving and caring for the Earth and all her creatures. That spontaneous decision to venture out into the rain and explore mother nature awakened the child inside me. I left feeling blissfully happy.
by Chelse Benham (Lae Lae Team Member)