By Jeff Tome, Public Engagement Specialist

I have always been fascinated by ripples in the water. As a child, I loved to throw pebbles in puddles and ponds and watch the patterns created by the ripples as they overlapped. The surface became an ever-changing kaleidoscope of shapes as the ripples bounced off the edges of the puddle and criss-crossed in an organized chaos of mini-waves. It was simply mesmerizing.

I sometimes wish I could conjure up that time again. It was a simpler era when I had all the time in the world to stop and watch the ripples in a puddle. There was no agenda, no worries, and no responsibility. It is a space that I feel should be created for all children, a space where they can simply explore the world in irrelevant and frivolous ways just to see how things respond.

As an adult, ripples in the water mean there is a mystery to solve. What made the ripples? Is it big or small? Does it come up for air or accidentally stir the surface. If it comes up for air, where will it come up? Can I find it? Ripples represent an almost unlimited potential of interesting things happening, even if there is nothing else to see.

Just think of the possibilities! Is it a River Otter diving under the water to find a fish or a frog? Is it a fish or a frog? My daughter and I saw a December-active frog just last week. Could it be a beaver, diving under the water and disappearing into a well-hidden hole on the edge of the pond or a lodge that is just out of sight?  Was it a muskrat or perhaps a kingfisher? Kingfishers are Blue Jay-sized birds that dive into the water and grab fish to eat, bashing them over and over on a branch till they stop moving. Perhaps it was a small ripple caused by an insect swimming to the surface for a moment.

Ripples are the sign of a larger story happening under the water, a story that may start and end with a mystery of ripples or expand into a larger tale of animals living their usually hidden lives in the water. The thing is, you never know what will happen unless you pause and watch.

Last week, I was gathering rose hips to decorate wreaths for Audubon’s wreath sale. Rose hips resemble small red berries perched at the end of rose bushes. It might be better to say I was tangled in the grip of a thorny cluster of roses while attempting to gather red rose hips. Regardless, I was on the edge of a pond when I heard a splash. I looked out and saw ripples in the water. Whatever it was, it made a lot of ripples.

Having nothing better to do than struggle out of the roses, I watched the pond. I lose track of time easily when I am waiting for something to happen. Seconds can pass like minutes and a moment can seem like forever. At the same time, I know that being still and patient can lead to great rewards, so minutes can also pass like seconds. It is a quandary, time flies and creeps at the same time in anticipation that something great may happen, but probably won’t.

On this thorny afternoon, a beaver poked its head out of the water twenty feet from where the ripples were peacefully spreading. The beaver peacefully swam in circles for several minutes while I watched from the privacy of my rose bush. Time again stood still. Was it seconds, minutes or hours as I watched? I’m not sure, but I enjoyed watching the beaver swim so close to me.

On this occasion, I was lucky enough to see what caused the ripples. Many times, nothing else happens. I think that sometimes life is more about the anticipation and endless possibilities of what is happening than actually finding out. Sometimes, ripples on the pond are only that, with nothing more to find. Other times, there is a five-minute-long peek into the life of an animal that feels like a lifetime. Part of the joy of the ripples is that you never know which is going to happen.

To learn more about beavers, go to

Audubon Community Nature Center builds and nurtures connections between people and nature. ACNC is located just east of Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. The trails are open from dawn to dusk and birds of prey can be viewed anytime the trails are open. The Nature Center is open from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily except Sunday when it opens at 1 p.m. More information can be found online at or by calling (716) 569-2345.