I found this curious seed-pod hanging from a branch that’d been knocked from a tree adjacent to the side-trail I took near the Riverwalk. It was literally on the ground in front of me, practically begging to be examined. I’d already noticed several other similar seed-pods lying on the ground a short distance before I reached this one. They’d all been trampled and were nearly unrecognizable, but this one was fully intact. Naturally, I had to take a photo. Several other photos preceded this one, none of them satisfactory. Finally, after seven or eight shots, I got the ideal lighting, focus, and perspective. That didn’t answer the question of what kind of seed-pod this was though. Only later, after I’d gotten home and remembered that I’d seen these same seeds-pods (technically achenes) at a sycamore in my neighborhood did I realize that this was in fact a sycamore seed-pod. An online search promptly confirmed my gut-instinct, and with that I gained a new appreciation for the gentle bottomland giants with flaky white bark and soft fluffy seeds.
This tower was one of the highlights of my hike on the Riverwalk. I saw it on the southern bank, across from where I was standing, near an area where the river flowed over a slight embankment, which may have been an old crossing of some sort. On my side of the river, there was a modern tower made of some kind of corrugated aluminum piping which extended ten or twelve feet in the air. On the aluminum tower, there were incremental measurements of height, similar to those on a ruler, extending up the side of the tower. On that basis, I’m assuming that the aluminum tower was some sort of floodwater-monitoring station. And because of the proximity of the old stone-and-mortar tower to the aluminum tower, I’m guessing the old one (pictured here) is the original floodwater-monitoring station for this stretch of the river. Unsurprisingly, I prefer the old one.
Near the embankment by the river, I stooped down to get a better view. The water was gurgling over the embankment to my left and would’ve made a great subject except for the fact that the sun was also in that direction and would’ve turned any photo I attempted to take into an overexposed mess. To my right, however, there was this view, with the old stone-and-mortar tower off to the far right of the frame. The river recedes gently toward the west from this angle, capturing the sunlight through overhanging branches which create a dappling of shadows on the water’s reflective surface.
Glancing up the side of this sycamore which I found after hiking another five minutes, I was struck by the size of it. Granted, it wasn’t particularly huge, measuring roughly forty feet tall and a foot in diameter. But the thought that this tree had once been the size of a grain of sand filled me with a greater appreciation for the way change affects all of us over time. We change in height, weight, experience, and wisdom. We change in relationships, opportunities, and circumstances. And we change in body, mind, and spirit. But if we keep true to the ground beneath our feet and the sky above our heads, we’ll be much less likely to lose ourselves in the process. At least that was the thought that crossed my mind while glancing up the side of a sycamore.
Before rejoining the main trail at the end of the eastern extent of the Riverwalk, I glanced back to get a sense of how far I’d come. I wasn’t expecting much. Nonetheless I was pleasantly surprised to see one of the clearest stretches of the side-trail and surrounding forest. It wasn’t as well-maintained or as easily accessible as the main trail, as can be seen clearly from the picture I took, which I’ve included here. But it was also more adventuresome and surprising than the wide paving and manicured margins of the main trail. It was, in its own way, a personal confirmation of the wisdom of Robert Frost.
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”