I thought, “That’s not a cat,” as an animal with a strange gait crossed an intersection ahead of me.

Its rounded back reminded me of an armadillo until I reminded myself that there are no armadillos in West Hazleton.

“Maybe it’s an opossum,” I thought while pulling out my phone, anticipating a photo op.

I approached, looking toward a storm grate where the animal had stopped.

It was a brown bag that the wind had tumbled across the street.

We see what we want to see or imagine things that aren’t.

Thus prepared, I wasn’t fooled when I reached the newsroom and saw a swan swimming in a pool set up on a vacant lot where the city plans to remove soil tainted by an oil pit.

I knew the bird was an inflatable pool toy, but I snapped a photo anyway.

The weeds and grass that rose up on the lot this summer remind me of how fast nature arrives after people leave.

I had the same thought two weeks ago while walking with an archaeologist along the route of the proposed rail trial to Eckley Miners’ Village.

He wanted to show me the century-old stone pilings that once upheld a bridge across railroad tracks in Hazlebrook.

The woods were so thick that we didn’t spot the pilings — all though a deer broke cover as we walked.

Rather than keep searching, we decided to return with GPS coordinates that would lead us precisely to the pilings.

Trees have started to obscure century-old stone pilings that once supported a bridge over a railroad and will uphold a new footbridge along Hazleton’s rail trial.

When I did see the pilings, the surrounding trees and undergrowth kept me from getting a clear picture from any angle.

If 100 years of undergrowth in a Pennsylvania forest could start to shroud bridge abutments, I imagined how entire ancient cities vanished in the rain forest.

I’m reading “The Lost City of Z” that English explorer Percy Fawcett entered the Amazon jungle to find in 1925.

Fawcett never returned.