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A year or so ago, Lauren got into the car after swim practice and was very angry with a teammate—a boy that she usually likes and has fun with. She disparaged him pretty thoroughly to me, listing all of his faults and quirks that now irked her.

It was odd for her to turn on a friend so quickly, but eventually the truth came out, and then it all made sense: He killed an ant.

I guess she’d been watching this ant go about it’s business on the pool deck, collecting crumbs left behind by kids who are not supposed to be eating in the natatorium. This boy noticed her watching the ant and did was most boys do and promptly stuck out his thumb and squished it.

I wasn’t there, but I can tell you that her face probably flushed with anger and she immediately regretted calling attention to the ant and setting in motion something that couldn’t be undone.

I’ve been there. I’ve wanted to beat boys black and blue for burning ants or tearing the legs off spiders or wings off flies, leaving them to suffer. I hate it today when coworkers flush bugs and kill arachnids. I’m the weirdo gathering them up and setting them on my windowsill, giving them a second chance at life outdoors.

Remember that time a robin kept building a nest on the door hinge? I still think about it. I hope I never learn which person I work with had it in their heart to destroy that nest.

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Last week, Dan told me he came upon something in the middle of I79 on his drive home and realized after he passed it that it was a terrified turtle, all shut up in it’s shell.

“Why didn’t you stop and help it?!”

“I couldn’t,” he said. “I was already past it. Poor thing.”

“Why did you even tell me that? Now I have to think about that poor turtle. I would’ve stopped and went back.”

I would’ve, too.

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Sunday morning I was running with a friend along Lake Erie bay when we noticed a seagull struggling to take off with something big and long in it’s mouth. A fish?  Do seagulls eat fish?

He got nervous as we got closer and dropped it so he could fly off to safety.

It was a small mudpuppy, an aquatic salamander common to Lake Erie and the tributaries. They are not cute, but they are cool to look at. My running partner didn’t agree.

“Ewwww…that’s gross,” she said after a quick look at it.

“Actually, they’re really pretty interesting creatures….” I said as we continued running on.  Then, I bored her for a few minutes with all the things I know about mudpuppies.

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I can’t explain my soft spot for the world’s tiniest creatures, even the “ugly” ones—like insects and snakes—that make other people scream, but I know I passed it along to my daughters.

Sunday turned out to be a cool, but beautiful day. Perfect for an evening walk outdoors. I suggested Bull’s Dam, but Kelly wanted to go to Presque Isle, which was fine by me because I could easily trick them into a five or six mile walk on the paved trail.

While we walked, Lauren talked. It’s mostly Lauren that talks. She has a lot to say, I guess. Kelly would occasionally get a question or word in edge-wise. I half listened and half went over my pre-vacation to-do list in my head.

“OH!” Lauren said as she stopped short. “That’s a big worm.”

Indeed. It was a big worm, trying to make it’s way across a very busy multi-purpose trail.

“I better move it or he’s going to get hurt,” she said.

Kelly and I waited while she carefully picked it up and put it back in the grass, and thought: If I didn’t so anything else right, at least I raised kids who care enough to move a worm to safety.

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A mile or so later, Kelly stopped walking.

Another worm? No, a tiny baby turtle. Again, on the busy multipurpose trail.

We all crouched down for a closer look. A red-eared slider, no bigger than a half dollar. After poking him gently with a twig, we concluded he was most definitely dead. I was silently thankful because if it has just been injured, that would’ve been worse. I can deal with a dead baby turtle. I can’t deal with a suffering baby turtle.

The girls insisted on moving him off the trail so he wouldn’t be squished. I’m sure he’ll make a nice meal for some hungry bird or persistent insects. Circle of life, you know? But…at least he won’t be splattered by some kid’s Schwinn.

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In our final mile, Lauren spotted a bird’s nest in a tree in the marsh a few feet away from the path.

“I wonder if there are babies in there,” Kelly said.

We spent a few seconds trying to get closer.  Kelly thought she saw a feather sticking up in the back.  We ultimately couldn’t get a good look, even with my camera’s long lens because the nest was too high and behind too many other obstructions.  We eventually gave up and continued on.

“Welp, that’s how it’s supposed to be, I guess,” Lauren said. “That mom did a good job building her nest in a safe place away from people.”

Yeah, not everyone appreciates the little things.

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About Just Write: Just Write is my adaptation of free writing, a technique in which a person writes continuously and quickly without little regard for spelling, grammar, or topic. It helps writers overcome blocks of apathy and explore everything from meaningful topics to mundane observations with the same effort and without the pressure of crafting perfect prose. I just start writing.