Confidential

Tweet, post, share, blog—the human realm runs on TMI, but the natural world lives by secrets. What do you see in this picture of an old sugar maple tree?

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If you’re the tidy type, you might see an unkempt yard, an eyesore, a weed patch. If you’re an environmentalist, you might see an unexpected pocket of biodiversity in place of the typical suburban monoculture. If you’re one of my children, you might see the base of the tree where the rope swing once hung. If you’re an old dog, you might see a good spot to pee.

If you’re a mama cottontail, you see the place where you hid your babies:

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Cottontail rabbit nursing her young.

The nest is so well hidden that you wouldn’t see it if you walked right up to it. The old dog who does his business there every morning has not discovered it. The rat snake that ate all the chickadee nestlings has not found it in his nightly rounds. Neither the cat two doors down nor the cat across the street has any idea it’s there. It’s a secret I discovered only because it happens to be in my line of sight when I stand at the window and watch the bluebirds picking mealworms out of the feeder to take to their own young. I know where the rabbit’s nest is hidden, but I would never try to peek—these pictures were taken with a telephoto lens—because my steps in the grass would leave a scent trail for predators to follow, and the nest would no longer be a secret.

But if you’ve ever wondered where lightning bugs go in the daytime, there’s no harm in checking the underside of a sun-drenched leaf. It will rest there, untroubled by your presence, waiting for its own time to shine.

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