Goose Lake is rapidly throwing off the last bonds of winter. As the surface water warms, the lake is turning and belching up wads of gunk from the bottom. The gigantic grass carp are back on the scene. Their ominous dorsal fins signal their presence as they prowl the shallow water, muscling aside native fish that need those same aquatic plants to survive. Birds skim the surface, scooping up low-flying insects. Tree leaves that were fresh and whole a week ago already show signs that the insects have found them.
The cover over our pool accumulates more than one foot of standing water over the winter; not the sort you’d want to drink (although passing cats and all the neighborhood birds, squirrels, and chipmunks do). By the time the pool guys come around to remove the cover and get us ready for summer, we’re more than ready.
Every year Goose Lake brings its own choice of nuisances. Three years ago we were inundated with Japanese beetles that devoured most of our climbing vines. Two years ago our shrubs were eaten alive by scales, teeny white organisms that taunt you with their damage and dare you to find a way to kill them. Last year it was small biting flies called midges that sent us to bed itching and muttering from their beastly incisions.
This year has brought a different sort of plague. For the past two weeks we’ve hardly dared to open any of the back doors for fear of letting in hoards of midges of a large, nonbiting variety that look at first glance like souped-up mosquitoes. They’ve come in swarms. Insect sprays clear the way to go in or out for a few hours but hundreds more soon take their place.
The black water standing on our pool cover was the source of all these insects and when we stooped down for a closer look we were startled to see midge pupae by the thousands hanging under the surface while new adults kept emerging and flying away as we watched. This picture looks like you are gazing into the cosmos but this is a cosmos of a different stripe. The water is a regular bouillabaisse of animal life. Those aren’t star clusters or other galaxies. They’re bits and pieces of this and that — leaf parts, pollen, twigs — that support a lively colony of things we can see — midge (and I’ve no doubt mosquito) larvae, water striders — and untold numbers of things too small to see. If my M.O.W. would get me that microscope I keep whining about, the slides would reveal an amazing array of one-celled protozoans such as paramecia and amoebas.
I can’t imagine running out of ideas to write about when I’m surrounded by endless wonders, large and small, in our natural world.