I'm in Ojai, CA, for my sister Leslie's birthday bash. Actually several miles outside Ojai, up Matilija Canyon, in a little complex of houses on a 560 ranch surrounded by the Los Padres National Forest. After driving up a very rickety road one comes to a funky gate made of big steel pipes which one gets thru only if you have the combination to the lock. Anyway, it's quiet here except for the herds of peacocks shouting Hey Lookit Me! to all the peababes. And a donkey which likes to join in from time to time. There are fruit trees all around the main house, so we have an unending supply of oranges, blood oranges, tangeloes, limes, lemons, and avocadoes. Not too bad.
Anyway, today I decided to take a walk up the valley. A few hundred yards up I had to ford a small stream, which involved leaping from rock to rock with the grace of a mountain goat, or possibly a wounded marmot, then trekking on until I had to ford again, this time too deep and wide to be done dry, so I shed boots, hung them around my neck, and waded across.
A bit later I came to a sign for a side trail called the Murieta Camp Trail (if I recall correctly named for Three-Fingered Jack who allegedly hung out there) so decided to try that. Quite dry at first, with appropriate vegetation, and a couple fairly large cat(?) poops full of what looked like undigested feathers. There are supposed to be mountain lions hereabouts but these were too small, so maybe bobcats. Or an owl.
Further up the trail it got a lot lusher, with a stream glimpsable off to the left now and then. Finally the trail got close to it so I flaked out an a rock by the water for a while. Big grey rocks, with rows of trees along the creek edge with their roots all entwined holding everything together. Light filtering thru green leaves and splotching on the rocks and water.
Eventually I moved on, but the trail seemed to peter out in a few hundred more yards at a wide spot in the stream where I stopped again for a half hour or so, watching the water rush over a little fall about seven feet high before pooling below. On the way back across the rocks to the trail I looked down to see what was noodling around in the water and saw a couple water bugs. They cast great shadows: The pressure of their feet depress the surface of the water enuf to create a lensing effect. The hind legs cast big, slightly oval shadows, the short front feet cast little round shadows, and the middle legs, which are the ones they use to swim with, cast round shadows a little smaller than the hind legs. Plus the shadow cast by the long thin body. Very neat. Anyway, if you are looking for a water bug, don't look for the water bug itself: look for the water bug's shadow.