In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Happy Place.”
The North Carolina Museum of Art is one of the places that, when I first moved to the Triangle, convinced me that I’d made a good decision. It’s a museum, obviously, with a large collection of art from an amazing range of time and space. As you would expect.
But there’s also an amphitheater where they hold their summer concert series. Their concerts are popular events: the bleachers fill up fast, but then people bring chairs and blankets and sit on the lawn. I usually sit on the retaining wall in the back. I don’t get a good view of the band there, but I can hear just fine and also watch the people mill around and the fireflies come out, and not get stepped on or bumped into. I’ve seen the Lost Bayou Ramblers, the Indigo Girls, and Iron & Wine there, as well as an impressive show by Paperhand Puppet Intervention.
And it has a lovely park outside, with miles of walking and bicycle trails where sculptures loom up along the way. Like these. They have real names (mouse over to see them) but I am not very sophisticated about art, so I think of them as the Corn Cob, the Stargates, and the Dragon Ribs.
The Corn Cob
The Dragon Ribs
And if you go on a cold, sunny afternoon when you have nothing pressing to do, you’ll follow a side trail until you’re away from the main part of the park and down the hill, so that even the giant Stargates are mostly out of sight. And then you’ll take a few more side trails off that, and you’ll come to this tiny dome-shaped building. It’s just out there in the woods. No big, obvious signs pointing to it. The trail is small and easily missed. The builder can’t have expected many people to see it, but there it is. Just for you, the aimlessly wandering person who happened across it.
Several years ago, I was working as a field biologist. I was out in the woods all summer and winter, trapping small amphibians and reptiles. It gave me an appreciation of the sheer diversity of animals hidden in the trees, underwater, underground, in any patch of grass. The places I worked were only a mile or so from suburban housing developments, yet most people I talked to, even the anglers and hunters and hikers, were unaware that many of these species even existed.
And I did talk to a lot of people. It’s the sort of job people are curious about. If I happened to stop by the grocery store while wearing my work T-shirt, some random shopper would ask how to get my job. “Do you have to have a college degree?” I’d tell them that I did have a degree, but it was possible to get a job without one if you had relevant experience. They would begin to look hopeful. Then I would regretfully crush their dreams: I’d tell them how much it paid. They would look at me disbelievingly and tell me their nephew made that holding a STOP/SLOW sign for the road company.
After a while I realized I was never going to pay off my student loans, so I left that job and went back to school to accumulate more. I’m now a graduate student, and I spend a lot less time in the woods these days. But one thing that happens when you walk around in the woods and look at things for a living is that you take a ton of pictures. Some of them even turn out well. A few months ago I was looking for a specific photo to show a friend, and ended up scrolling through the photos I took and thinking, hey, these aren’t bad. I should do something with them.
So this blog is for showing some of the hidden and lesser-known species of the southeast US: the burrowers, the swimmers, the creepers, the camouflaged, and the just plain overlooked.