One of the things I like best about Steuben County is that it’s not just a place for the body, it’s a place for the whole person. That may sound silly at first, but how many times have you gone on vacation and caught yourself thinking about all the things you need to do back home? The email you forgot to send, the meeting you’re not attending, the lawn you’re not cutting…the list of responsibilities elsewhere goes on and on.
But here in Lake Country we have the unique advantage of plenty of hidden places to lose yourself in from crystal lakes with water still as glass in the early morning, to canopied woodlands sheltering gentle surprises of nature, to sunny fields full of sweet grass and bird songs, all of them perfect for quiet reflection, centering yourself, and taking a moment to enjoy being exactly where you are.
While being in the “now” is a great way to refresh the whole person, sometimes it’s not that easy. One of the activities that helps me reboot is hunting. But my kind of hunting doesn’t involve guns or getting up in the wee hours of the morning. Instead, I choose a subject and take my camera on a hike to find as many of it as I can.
For example right now mushrooms and fungus have popped out all over the place. As my 5-year-old would say, “Ewww!” Granted, I might have been right there with him, but in my latest walks, I’ve acquired what a friend calls “black truck syndrome.” In other words once something has been called to your attention, you see it everywhere. That’s what’s happened with mushrooms and me. I’d never noticed just how may varieties there are: large, small, stalky, delicate, and in so many colors I thought only existed in the tropics. They’re everywhere framing trees in lace, hiding in the shadows, upturned and blocking my path as if to scream, “you must take my picture.” And so I do.
If I knew more about them I might physically collect them, but shooting can be almost as much fun as eating—without the added calories or horrid death should you misjudge the poisonous ones! And yes, I’m aware of the silly psychedelic subtext that could come from all this, but honestly that isn’t what this is about. I love catching these little fungi in all their broken beauty, covered in bits of dirt, growing at odd angles, and missing tiny chunks. If you stop to think about it, these tiny systems are pretty cool. Whether you believe in God, evolution, a mixture of both, or nothing at all however they got to be as they are is pretty amazing. It becomes like a game trying to see how many new varieties, different textures, and strange places I can find them. This is a great activity to do with your kids (or someone else’s if you don’t have any of your own).
If mushrooms aren’t your thing, there are always plenty of other things to hunt, the changing leaves with all their different shapes and varying patterns, moss covered stones and brightly speckled rocks, clouds that look like folk art. Spider webs can be especially fun with Halloween fast approaching. They can pop up in the most unique places—the crook of a tree or angle of a street sign. The delicate threads might be difficult to shoot at first, but if you go out in the early morning while the light still filters at an angle and the dew is fresh, the tiny drops make spider webs easier to film.
There are as many ideas for “hunts” as there are species of plants, creatures that prowl, and rocks that shine. Whatever your collecting fascination, it’s bound to be found in the hidden places of Lakes Country if you dare to stay in the moment and fully be in the quiet beauty of Steuben County.