Chapter 5: Johnathan
Meanwhile, Johnathan was slowing down his work hours. When you have the funding to do field research, you do as much as possible when you’ve got the money to pay your help. He had been trying to survey the entire county, and that was a huge area to cover. Now that the weather was getting cool, he would send everyone else home for a bit and they would start again in the Spring. Meanwhile, he would be on sabbatical and have a little more time with his family.
Field research was rewarding work, but exhausting. They would have a huge collection of data to pour over when they were through. It could take him years to sift through it all. Tiring as it was, he loved being outside and getting to see what was in a trap. Other than the glass lizards, through the late summer and fall they had seen quite a few box turtles, black racers, rat snakes, timber rattlers, skinks and many, many lizards. He had also come upon a very frightened vole or two, and numerous insects. Anything small that fell into the trap couldn’t get out. The vertical, slippery sides of the buckets dug into the ground, and the cloth fences gently funneling animals into the traps were very effective. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a great way to get a survey of reptiles in the area.
They had also used nets for the aquatic species and found a good number of water snakes and turtles. So far he was heartened by his counts. Amphibians everywhere were in trouble, but most of his reptiles were hearty souls and survivors. He was doing good work, and it was the kind of work that might stand up for many years and be a solid contribution to science. It would also be helpful for regulators trying to protect key areas. Too often, a lack of information hampered these efforts. This refuge and the surrounding undeveloped forests really were a haven for these creatures and he hoped to prove it.
For the past several hours he had been sitting in his “office”, a small closet they had jammed a desk into in the most out-of-the-way place that could be managed in this house, but he hadn’t gotten very much done. Joe kept wandering in and giving him things: Legos, rubber balls, matchbox cars, wooden blocks, old Cheerios… Each gift was given with such an air of solemn and earnest love, that he didn’t have the heart to ask Joe to stop interrupting.
Downstairs, he had overheard Sarah and Jack have a rare and pointless fight (heated argument they would say) about who got to read the new book in their favorite series first. Then he heard Karen interrupting, asking them to give her the book, and would they please both sit down and finish their math work? Ellie slammed the door on her way out. She was probably going to go sketch some more bugs.
He had brought Ellie some of the more interesting bugs they found his fall, and she loved to look at them. She looked each and every one over carefully, and then flipped through the field guides to find out what they were called and learn about them. Often she would sketch them, and she liked to go out and see if she could find new ones she had never seen before. There was no shortage of bugs out here in the grassy fields and pine forests. He hated to think about what it was going to be like in the spring, however. The ticks would probably be pretty bad. They would have to all take appropriate and extreme precautions and he’d have to tell Ellie to restrict her wanderings.
Jack had begged to be allowed to come on the survey with him this season, but he had been a bit nervous about this initial effort. So many things could have gone wrong, and he had a responsibility to his graduate students and his funders to give them and the study his full attention. He hadn’t wanted the added distraction, but now he felt bad about it. It would have been a terrific learning opportunity. He would have to make sure that any of the kids that wanted to come out with him would get at least a day to do so when they started up again.
It did hearten him though, that of five children, at least two of them shared some of the love of animals he had always had. Karen had always been somewhat interested in the work he did, and was blessedly unafraid of the snakes and other things that he loved. She had forbidden him to bring any of them home though. She probably knew that if he started down that road, it would be a slippery slope, and the house was full enough as it is.
He looked out the window. The sun was setting through the pines and the light was a beautiful golden hue. Suddenly, sitting there trying to summarize his work thus far seemed unimportant. He went downstairs. Sarah was making spaghetti for the family for dinner and Karen was supervising while feeding Emma and giving Ellie a Spelling test. He said, “Hon, it’s beautiful outside, would you like to go take a walk? I can take care of things here for a bit.” Karen stopped and looked at him for a minute, trying to process what he was saying. “Well… yes, that would be nice.” She said slowly. What a wonderful surprise! She often had her nose bent so close to the grindstone that she forgot what it was like to stop and take time for herself. The golden light called to her, and she gratefully got up to let Johnathan take over with Emma and Ellie.