I have an eco-confession to make. I am a Sunday driver. I loooove getting in the car and driving along back country roads on the weekend when I have the chance just to wander aimlessly. Southern Indiana is truly beautiful and I love exploring farms and forests and tiny towns.
Alas, I feel guilty wasting gas and celebrating pavement. I may drive a Prius with excellent gas mileage but it’s still not ecoconscious to go for a joyride. Beyond that, I’ve also realized that watching the world through my windshield separates me from truly experiencing the places I drive through.
Yesterday I did a little better – I went Sunday driving with a purpose. My mom and I signed on as citizen scientists with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources this winter. More specifically, we signed on to be eagle watchers, which involves driving out to Lake Monroe to make observations. There are a surprising number of bald eagles out at the lake, considering they were only introduced in the late 1980’s. There are also a surprising number of access points to the lake that of course are quite far from each other because there’s a big ol’ lake in the middle. Driving opportunity!
I focused on the southwest corner of the lake, hitting the two viewing stations at the dam/spillway, the Salt Creek Boat Ramp, and the Fairfax Boat Ramp. The lake was iced over and a fellow spotter pointed out a deer carcass that she said had been covered in eagles on Saturday. Alas, I saw only one and he (she?) was flying high overhead, enjoying the balmy 45 degree weather. Still, my sense of duty as an observer got me out of my car and into the outdoors where I could log my requisite 30 minutes of observation time.
While I still get a thrill every time I see an eagle, this time the most captivating part of my experience was listening to the ice. I’m not sure if it was the fast rise in temperature or the light breeze off the water or both but I could hear the lake ice cracking and tinkling as it shifted from one solid surface to a moonscape of jagged pieces. A few times the noise was so melodic I thought I was hearing stray wind chimes. Other times it sounded like a large rock had suddenly plummeted into the water. Mostly I was just glad not to be out on the ice, heart jumping with every CRAAACK!
Did I really need to drive those fifteen miles? No, probably not. Did I feel like I was being constructive? Yes, I did. Did I enjoy myself? Absolutely! It may be a long time before I completely give up my Sunday drives (or even better, replace them with Sunday bicycle rides) but for now I take the intermediate steps of 1.) driving with a purpose and 2.) making sure I get out of the car. Because there’s a whole big world out there, even in the frozen winter.