It has been unreasonably beautiful in Michigan this April. We have been seriously lucky with weather this year, and I just know it can’t last. Since Office Dog Graham was at dog day camp today, I decided to get out and enjoy the spring and clear the clouds from my head. I took a little picnic and a notebook and went to a nearby park to walk and think – a mini nature retreat.

I ate my lunch at a picnic table, but it was a little breezy, so I decided to sit in a sunny patch on the ground. It didn’t seem damp, and I didn’t see any obvious ant hills. As I was getting settled, I noticed a bright green bug… and a moment later a small spotted snake inches from my foot.

One very relieved snake.

I rarely move as quickly as I did then. I’m not afraid of snakes in an Indiana Jones sort of way, but that instinctive flight response sure kicks in when I come upon one suddenly.

Back at the table I caught my breath, then took my camera and returned to look at the snake. I stared at the ground for a couple of minutes before I saw it in the brown leaves, looking at me with a “whew, that was close” expression. I couldn’t identify it immediately (turns out it was an Eastern Milk Snake), but I figured the little rattle I thought I’d heard was probably just an insect or a dry leaf.

No longer startled, I admired its markings and marveled at how invisible it could be. I was reminded of how seldom I really look at anything up close, like the ground for instance, and how much more you see if you take a minute to look.

My little nature encounter wasn’t as peaceful as what I’d gone searching for, but it certainly snapped me into the present and cleared my mind.