The beginning of wisdom, as the Chinese say, is calling things by their right names. (E. O. Wilson, as cited by Elizabeth J. Rosenthal, Birdwatcher: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson)

Monday, January 31, 2011

On the Seventh Day

January 31, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation.  Work all day today, don’t get home until dark.  No walk for Mway from me today.  (Jazz and Matt had come up Saturday night with Atlas, to have him neutered this morning by Lenny, but Matt took him home before I got back.  No walk for Atlas either.)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Spot a Golf Ball

January 30, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  Work tonight.  Take Mway out about 3.
State of the Path:  The mud is all frozen: it has become just dirt, a tan color.  Moi’s garden pond is still full, and the water in it is frozen, and there are frozen puddles in the path in front of it (the chicken coop nearby used to be a spring house; so this area is always wet when aquifers are high).  Elsewhere along the path, the puddles and little ponds are frozen.  I take the side path along the old orchard.  Rabbits have chewed the bark off at the bottoms of a few sumac saplings. Some white corn husks have blown into the old orchard from Hutchinson’s field.  I’m impressed with how flattened the grass is in bug land.
State of the Creek:  Slowly getting more ice, though the water is still flowing in the rocky areas.  The ice that I could break with my stick yesterday is now too thick to puncture.  Because the mud is now frozen, I venture across the feed channel to the skating pond, not stepping on the ice in it, but using the footholds along the side.  I don’t see any water in the skating pond, but the grass and weeds in it are so high, they could be hiding any water.  I note some brown catty-nine tails in the pond.  I spot a golf ball from one of our neighbors sitting in the washed out bank across the creek.  We’ve already collected a number of lost golf balls, but it would be too hard for me to cross the creek today to get this one.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, Mway is waiting for me, smiling, and ready to spring.  I throw the stick once toward the exit to the clearing, Mway dashes after it, and pretty soon I lose track of how many times I’m throwing the stick, this way, that way, Mway fetching one time after another.  Eventually I’m even a little winded.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Whack A Jagger to Pieces

January 29, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  I have to work tonight, plus I have some other work to do beforehand, so I take Mway out about 1:30.
State of the Path:  The ground, the mud, the puddles in the path, bug land, in the maples, and elsewhere – everything is frozen solid.  But no sooner do I judge this to be so than I slip on some unfrozen mud on the path down by the creek.  Coming up to the clearing, a gray dead jagger sticks out in the path, and I whack it to pieces with my walking stick.
State of the Creek:  The creek is beginning to freeze, and the ice is in a variegated state – similar to what it was back -- I don’t remember when exactly now.   On the rocks, the ice is a crystallized lace work; along the banks, it tends to be a solid fuzzy white; in deeper areas, it is a transparent sheet showing brown water beneath, and thin enough to break through with my walking stick.
The Fetch:  Up in the clearing, Mway seems very eager to fetch stick, but she only fetches it three times.  Maybe she feels it is too early for her “real” afternoon walk, but this is the only one she’s going to get from me today.  I note that the weird fungi on the stick on the ground is deteriorating, or maybe it’s just crumbling apart from Mway carelessly stepping on it as she focuses fully on her fetching stick.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Mud Riddled with Prints

January 28, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  Have to leave for work around 3:30, so take Mway out around 2.  Moi has cemented what I believe to be the last crack in my boots.  Dried mud stirs up like dust as I put the boots on.
State of the Path:  Mway shoots out the door, dashes to the chicken pen to bark at the chickens.  The mud on the path is all jumbled up and riddled with prints, and it takes up more and more of the path.  I walk in the weeds as much as possible.  The streams through the maples are little more than long shallow puddles and trails of mud.  I don’t hear water sucking into the hole.  The wind is roaring high in the sky, sending frequent gusts into the trees.  I think about walking along the skating pond, but there is water and ice in the feed channel, and it looks too formidable today to cross.  Moi must have removed the red willow that was sticking in the path on the way back toward bug land, because I don’t end up stepping on it.
State of the Creek:  You can hear the water gurgling loudly over the rocks beneath the roar of the wind.
The Fetch:  I lose track of how many times I throw the stick for Mway.  I throw it every which way, toward the exit to the clearing, into the weeds toward the cement pile, within the clearing toward the electric pole, down the path toward the strawberry patch.  When I get back inside, Moi asks me how my boots held up.  It’s hard to say, I tell her.  My socks may still be damp from previous days’ walks.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Testing the Repair

January 27, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  Have to leave for work around 4, take Mwayla for walk about 3.  Chance to try out my boots with the rubber cement bulging out on them.
State of the Path:  No sooner am I walking into the walled garden than I realize there’s a crack in one of the boots that Moi missed cementing up.  Walk as much as I can into the weeds, although it’s hard to do (and probably hard on the boots) where there are jaggers sticking up.  Water still trickling in streams through the maples down by the wigwam; still hear water being sucked into the hole.
State of the Creek:  The water behind the log and barrel jam doesn’t seem as deep as yesterday.  Cow piss foam against one of the logs.
The Fetch:   When I get up to the clearing, Mway is not there.   I have to call out, “Mway!  Mway!”  I see her form running through the back yard.  I wait a minute, then see her coming down the path.   Five fetches, and she rushes off.  When we get into the house, I understand what’s been up.  Alma is here for her lesson.  Mway rushes around, gets her treat.  I point out to Moi the crack in one of the boots.  Then as Mway passes us to go upstairs, Moi yells “She’s all wet and filthy.  Close the bed room door,” and I have to race Mway up the steps, pulling her back by the hair, to get to the door first.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Boots Being Repaired

January 26, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:   I have no work outside the house today.  Moi works tonight.  Around 3:30, I take Mway for her walk.  Because earlier today Moi used some shoe repair cement on my boots, and that has to dry overnight, I have to wear an old pair of shoes and rubbers for my walk.  I am back to wearing my orange wool cap.
State of the Path:  It is colder and windy today.  There are no streams of water in the path, but it is still soggy, very muddy in places, with plenty of puddles of water along the way.  Because I’m only wearing rubbers, psychologically I feel my feet are more vulnerable to getting wet, so I walk into the weeds even more than I did yesterday, at one point even beating down a bunch of briars with my walking stick.  Water is still streaming down through the maples, and by the wigwam just before bug land, I hear a sucking noise.  When I look carefully, I see that water is trickling down a little hole in the ground.  Although it’s hard to tell because of the weeds, the water is probably flowing underground for a few feet, where it then spouts into bug land.
State of the Creek:  The water is down a little.  I can hear it rushing loudly over rocks, but it is not roaring as loudly as yesterday when it was more in a state of turbulence.  The logs, debris, and the plastic barrel at one of the bends are acting like a dam, and the water is pooling deeply in front, along with cow piss foam.  The path is very muddy along the creek, and I see puddles of water in bugland and of course the little pond of water between the ridge around bug land and the ridge around the skating pond.  At the drainage area to bug land, I see that a kind of sand bar has formed at the end along the creek, so that the water streaming out of bug land has to take a detour to the left as it trickles into the creek.
The Fetch:  There are also a lot of puddles just on the other side of the ridge around bug land, where I have to step on the ant hill, but up at the clearing the ground is fairly dry.  I start throwing the stick, and to my surprise I start to lose count how many times I’m throwing it.  As Mway fetches the stick more and more, I throw it more and more into the weeds.  Finally I throw it and the stick lands in a shrub that’s entangled in multiflora briars.  Mway hops up to try to grab it from the branches, but squeals from the prick of the briars.  After that, I throw the stick a few more times, but keep it well away from any weeds.  When we get home, my feet are completely dry, for the first time this year.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


January 25, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  Early this morning, it is still raining.  Out of my office window, I can see water over the banks in the creek down by the deer stand, water in the skating pond.  I see the most water on the oversized lawn of one of our neighbors, where water from the creek is rising in their McBackyard.  There is also water streaming down the path beside the summer house and pooling in the lane behind it, and water gushing in the drainage ditch in front of our property.   As I drive to work shortly after 10, I see water up to the top of the drainage ditch that runs along our right-of-way along one side of the development, water streaming down the lawn between two houses outside of the drainage swales put in by the developer (there’s no water in the holding pond that the developer put in), water on the road near the entrance to the development, and water rushing fast in the stream that comes down from the S_____ C_____ hills and cuts through the development.  On S____ Road, there is dirt and cinders that must have been swept across the road when that stream was higher sometime earlier this morning or last night.  As I turn onto O__ C____ Road, I see that stream rushing down through the field and along the road and gushing up at the drain to the pipe below S____ Road.  Then after I pass the new jail and come to Q____ Road, I see the creek (now coming closer to where it enters P____ Creek) flooding in the low lands and going into people’s backyards.  When I come to the second bridge, the one closest to Route YYY, water is coursing over it, and it is impassable.  I have to turn around, and take Old Route XXX to get to YYY.  Now I see Township trucks and bulldozers on the road, apparently responding to these flooding conditions. I work during the late morning and early afternoon, and get home around 2.  Moi’s not home when I arrive, and it has pretty much stopped raining.  I put on my snow suit, and instead of my orange wool cap, I don my father’s Air Force Sergeant World War II safari helmet, and Mway and I take our walk.
State of the Path:  The lawn is soggy.  There is water up to the top of Moi’s garden pond, and water in the path along it.  Moi has covered up the trash in the walled garden with plastic sheets.  As we come to the pig pen, the path becomes just one long pool of water or a soggy muddy mess.  I step as much as I can into the weeds, but even here most of the time, especially down at bug land, I can still feel water welling up inside my boots.  I take the side path along the old orchard, and see the several little streams that pop up in the back acre during rains and in the spring.  These streams gather together and become even more prominent in the maples down by the wigwams, where they then flow into bug land.  Down below the wigwam, the water in the path is flowing.
State of the Creek:  Since the rain has stopped, the creek is back within its banks, but it is up to the top of them, and the water is coursing along strongly, swishing against the banks, over rocks and against logs.  All along the creek, I can see where it earlier this morning flowed over the banks and swept away dead vegetation.  Leaves and dead weeds are piled and draped against logs and shrubs; there are areas where the vegetation is swept away completely and bare dirt is showing.  At one bend in the creek, where logs tend to accumulate, one log has been swept up onto the bank, and several new logs have been caught between the banks, along with a gray plastic barrel that came from who knows where.  The plank at the drainage stream to bug land has been flung into the shrubs, and I have to place it back in place to cross the stream.  I can see in bug land where water earlier swept through the high grass.  I try to walk by the skating pond, but the feed channel is filled with water and it is too wide and the banks too muddy for me to try to hop across it.
The Fetch:  The clearing is one of the drier places, but even so the grass there is soggy.  I step into the dead goldenrod to throw the stick, and today Mway fetches it about 8 times, splashing water and mud up onto me from the ground as she spins around at my feet between each fetch.  As we’re heading back toward the house, Mway, who always has to be ahead of me of me when she has her stick in her mouth, passes me on the path, catching my walking stick when its point is in the mud and breaking a part of it off.   In the walled garden, I hear Moi calling out to me.  She comes to meet me and wants to walk down to the creek.  Mway goes into the water in Moi’s garden pond to wash off and drops her stick at the edge.  We all walk down to the creek again and back up.  At the clearing, Mway starts prancing up and down, expecting me to throw stick again.  But I brush her aside, and at the walled garden, I call out, “Where’s your stick.”  Mway finds it where she left it and carries it back to the house.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sunday, A Day of Worship

January 24, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  Work all day today, and do not get home until dark.  Plus it’s raining.  No walk for Mway from me today.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Stuff That Remains Green

January 23, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  I am very tired all day.  Still, around 3:30, I take Mwayla for her afternoon walk, shortly before both Moi and I leave for work around 5.
State of the Path:  Just take the circuit down to the creek and back.  In the brown weeds around the pig pen, I take note that there is gill-of-the-ground, or some similar plant, which seems to have remained green all winter.  It is green like much of the grass in our back yard, or like the grass in the path; though in the narrower parts of the path, the grass is being worn down, and being replaced by mud or dirt.  Everywhere else, except for moss and the scum in Moi’s pond, there is so much brown, including the creek.  There are discernable foot prints on the ant hill.
State of the Creek:  A new spot of cow piss foam has formed in front of a shelf of ice that readily crumbles when I touch it with my walking stick.
The Fetch:  Mway beats me to the clearing, and greets me with a smile.   She puts such energy in her first fetch, tossing the stick so vigorously at my feet that I expect I’ll be tossing the stick quite a few times today.  Not so.  One more fetch, and she heads back to the house.  In the clearing I note again the stick with all the fungus on it – Moi has mentioned to me earlier that she saw it today and took a picture of it.   Back in the back yard, Mway is running around without the stick.  I have to raise my arms and yell “Where’s the stick?”  Mway starts looking around, and for a moment I’m afraid that she’s lost it – it’s such a fine stick to throw that I’d be disappointed at that – but pretty soon she finds it in the side yard, carries it to the back porch, and drops it.  Inside, I decide to fill her bowl with dog food (a task which I’ve been leaving to Moi to do this past winter).  (I do this partly to test my theory that Mway has been lax about her number of fetches with me because I haven’t been giving her food immediately upon returning to the house.)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dead Mouse Gone

January 22, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:   I wake up early today and learn from Moi that Mway threw up last night in her bedroom.  While Moi and I are both down in the kitchen, Mway throws up again.  Moi yells at me because I am slow at grabbing paper towels.   Right now I hear Mway outside on her morning walk with Moi.  She is barking up a storm.  It’s a busy day today before I go to work around 4 – phone interview with the Sun-Gazette, report into CALL-TRACK, my automated probation officer.  Moi talks to Barb Dennehy on the phone, tells her the Boy is on his way to Colorado for a gig with ESPN’s coverage of extreme sports; they plan to get together at 11:30 pm to watch the last tonight show hosted by Conan O’Brien.  I pay a bill, work in the music room for about 15 minutes while Moi goes into town.  I go up to rest and read before Moi does.  But about 2:30 I go into the kitchen before Moi and Mway wake up, reheat some coffee.  Out the kitchen windows, see a whole bunch of cardinals, a bluejay, some other birds I can’t identify, a squirrel up on the roof of the summer house.  I go upstairs to put on my walking clothes, then back downstairs to put on boots and snowsuit.  Mway sneeks downstairs into the kitchen.
State of the Path:  Outside she starts sniffing at the edge of the lawn, then under the abandoned rabbit hutch attached to the old outbuilding.   Moi’s garden pond, which has been filled with ice, is now full of green scum, presided over by a cupid statue.   I don’t see the dead field mouse on the path.  Mway takes a dump.  We take the usual circuit, down to the creek and back.  I don’t see any birds.
State of the Creek:  The brown scum of cow piss foam has dispersed across the width of the creek, forming bands along the far bank and ripples across the water toward a partially submerged ice shelf hanging onto the nearby bank.
The Fetch:  Mway catches the stick on a bounce on the second throw.  But that’s it, she tells me with a glance of her eyes as she runs past me.   Two fetches, that’s all we do nowadays.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Spot a Dead Mouse

January 21, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  Have to leave for work today around 3:30.  At 2:30, Moi and Mway are still taking a nap, but I go downstairs to suit up and decide to interrupt Mway’s nap if I have to.  While I’m suiting up, though, Mway suddenly slinks into the kitchen.
State of the Path:  Mway takes a pee near the chicken pen, then a dump on the path just before the sumacs.  While she’s taking a dump, I spot a dead field mouse on the path.
State of the Creek:  Just as the ground seems a little more frozen today, so the creek is starting to ice up a bit.  In a deep spot beyond one of the rock cascades, cow piss foam has formed into a brown scum in front of a thin sheet of ice.
The Fetch:  Just two fetches.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Go in Opposite Direction

January 20, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:   Early this morning Mway wakes me up with her barking while Moi’s apparently getting ready to take her for her morning walk.  I lie in bed listening to the loud yaps, which seem to go on for about five minutes, and then continue on outside.  I am impressed that Mway has two totally different ways of responding to the people who take her for a walk, and I am grateful that she does not bark so much when I’m the one taking her out.  I work tonight and have to leave around 4, so I take Mway out after Alma comes for her lesson at 3.
State of the Path:  As soon as we get out of the house, Mway runs off down the path through the trees next to the summer house and, while I’m gathering up the fetching stick and the walking stick, I see her pee in the lane (the one that my father had put in) then run off toward the development.  I think she’s maybe running after a squirrel, as I see one coming out of the hole on the roof of the summer house where the chimney has fallen off.  Since she’s already headed on this route (instead of going toward the walled garden and the back acre), I decide that I’ll follow and take the path in this direction today, which is essentially the opposite direction we usually take.  I walk down through the trees and into the lane behind the summer house, then head down the path that starts at all the logs that Paul Paulsen never got around to sculpting and then cuts down through the field between a bunch of multiflora shrubs on either side.  I look down the lane and see it covered with black walnuts that have fallen there this past fall, and which is what probably attracts the squirrels to this part of our property.   Before we managed to make paths at the back end of our property, this used to be the main way of getting down to the creek, but it’s not anymore and the path here is not as well worn as it used to be.  Mway has wandered beyond the lane into the weeds at the front end of our land, and I have to call her.  She comes running immediately and soon overtakes me as we head down toward the wild strawberry patch.  She then veers to the left and scoots up the path that goes to the clearing where we fetch stick, but when she sees I’m heading straight down to the creek, she turns around and follows me toward the ridge surrounding bug land.
State of the Creek:   Before we reach the ridge, Mway shoots ahead of me and I follow her down through the low area full of briars, stepping on that ant hill that I’ve mentioned before, and pass through the break in the ridge.  As I’m walking along the edge of bugland, Mway dashes across it and heads into the trees along the creek, scaring out two birds – what look like doves to me – that come flying across bug land beating their wings so fast they sound like bees buzzing.  I keep to the path, heading into the area of the red willow shrubs and stepping onto the plank of wood that sits in the drainage stream to bug land.  Mway ventures off toward the skating pond, but soon turns around and follows me along the creek, quickly shooting way ahead of me.  I enjoy walking in this opposite direction along the creek, as the vistas that open up to the creek’s bends and rocky cascades seem more dramatic as you walk from the shrubby area beneath the oaks toward the more open area just before the old deer stand at the corner of our property.  I follow Mway back up through the field along the edge of bug land toward the maples and the wigwams.  The entire ground here, which is saturated with water, seems to creak and crack as I walk across it.
The Fetch:  I meet Mway up at the clearing beyond the sumacs and just behind the garden.  With all the energy she showed already, I suspect that she might fetch the stick more times than she has lately.  But I throw the stick twice in the direction of the electric pole, and Mway, keeping to her new regimen, fetches the stick, just twice.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Slip on Some Mud

January 19, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  Today I work in the late morning and early afternoon.  Before going to work, while sitting at my computer between 8:30 and 9:00, I hear Moi walking from the bathroom to her bedroom and Mway out in the hall barking for her walk.  Mway used to bark at me in the afternoons too, but over the years perhaps I’ve yelled at her so much about that, that lately I haven’t heard any noises out of her as she’s waiting for her walk except loud huffs and pants of excitements and maybe a squeal or an occasional squeaky yawn.  I get home from work before 3, but Mway and Moi are napping, so I go into my room to read and rest.  But no sooner do I do so than I hear them walking around outside my door, and then there is a phone call for me (from of all people, the Sun-Gazette).  Since I’m up I take Mway out around 3:30.
State of the Path:  Though she doesn’t bark as she’s waiting for me to suit up, as soon as I open the door, Mway dashes off the porch and runs down the sidewalk to the chicken pen to bark at the chickens.  Today, though, the chickens have already retreated from their pen and gone into the coop, and Mway, slightly disappointed, can do nothing but sniff at the coop door.  As we round the corner and pass by the pig pen, she also starts snooping around that and eventually ventures into the door.   By the time, I reach the sumacs, though, she is back on the path and following me toward the creek.  Even though there is no snow or ice on the ground, I have brought my walking stick with me, and I’m glad that I have, because now the mud is slippery, and down by the wigwam, where run-off water tends to stream together before entering bug land, I actually slip on some mud and almost fall, only catching my balance thanks to the walking stick.  Beneath the mud, the ground is still frozen, but thawing, and at places where I step I feel the ground give way with a crunch.  Mway reaches the creek before I do, and I see her taking off on the path along the creek, sniffing at the ground a lot as she does so.  As I leave the path along the creek and step on the plank that crosses the drainage stream of bug land, then come into the area of the red willow shrubs, I see that the ground there is especially porous and seems to be giving way and eroding at places.  I take the side path along the skating pond, using the foot holds I made yesterday, but with some difficulty, as the mud there is slippery too.
State of the Creek:  The water is a little lower today, and it’s starting to lose its greenish gray color and turn browner.   More of the ice is gone; the berg that I spotted at the bend yesterday has melted away, but a little farther down I spot some clear planks of ice sitting on top of the grass of a wash-out area, and then, looking very carefully, I spot a whole shelf of ice resting against the bank underneath the oaks.  I almost don’t see it because it is brown with mud and silt, and almost looks like an area of dirt.  But with my walking stick, I can make the whole thing bob up and down in the water.
The Fetch:  On the other side of the ridge around bug land, as you head to the clearing, there is a low, run-off area that is getting wetter and wetter each day, and because of the way the water and the brambles lay, when I’ve been walking here, I’ve been forced to step for the past few weeks on a huge ant hill that is slowly getting quite squashed.  Mway is already waiting for me as I arrive at the clearing, and she starts spinning around in circles as she waits me for me to position myself to throw the stick.  I throw it once toward the exit of the clearing, just short of the briars so she doesn’t get tangled in them.  She brings the stick back, spins around and barks, and next I throw it toward the electric pole, well within the clearing.   She dashes off after it, brings it back, and again drops it at my feet, spinning around and barking.  This is fetch number two, I think to myself, and again I throw the stick toward the pole, expecting perhaps that we’ll go on with quite a few fetches today.  But as she’s running back with the stick in her mouth this time, she swerves away from me and goes dashing off up the path through the briars back toward the house.  She is already at the back door, and has dropped the stick on the back porch, when I come trudging into the back yard.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It Doesn't Matter It's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

January 18, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  A state holiday today, a paid vacation day for many in the corporate world, an unpaid vacation day for me. It’s around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and I’m sitting at the computer, when Moi comes out of the bedroom from her nap and asks me, “You going to take Nitwit for a walk?”  She looks down at Mway, who finally lumbers out of the room and creeps toward me for a pat on the head, then slowly begins pacing back at forth between the bedroom and the office, Squeak in a corner crouching and looking on.
State of the Path:  The snow is finally all gone, and I can hear my boots sucking in the mud as I walk along.  It is a rich black mud, especially around the wigwams where the maple leaves have rotted into the soil.   In the walled garden, strewn all around, are unburnt boxes and plastic sheet coverings.  As I walk along the path, I try to step to the side as much as possible to tramp down weeds, not only to avoid the mud, but also to widen the path, pretty much a hopeless task, but one that I try to carry out anyway.  I feel the bigger weeds and briars pricking my snow suit as I tramp along.  Mway follows at my footsteps as I take the side path along the old orchard and take note of an old, but colorful, mailbox lying on the ground  (just beyond it is the central tree of the old orchard with the Boy’s fort in it, falling down now these days, and to the right of the fort are a group of TV sets, which the Boy once used for playing paintball).  As I pass along the back hedge row, I note spots where someday I’ll have to bring clippers along with me to trim back blackberry brambles and multiflora briars if I want to keep this side path open all year.  Mway falls even further behind as we round the cedar and I begin tramping through the area of the fallen down briars and goldenrod.  I see that my stepping through here on occasion has not really traced out much of a path, and Mway has to step cautiously so as not get a briar in her paw.  She overtakes me, though, as I pass the wigwams and is already down at the creek when I reach it.  The seep in bug land is again wet.  I see a few puddles of water in the high grasses.  Mway disappears from my sight as I walk along the creek, but she reappears as I take the side path along the skating pond.  There is ice in the feed channel, but I don’t trust to step on it.   I’m able instead to scuff out some foot holds in the mud to get across it with relative ease.  As we walk across the crest of the pond, Mway overtakes me to run up onto the ridge, to check out any ground hog or other holes that are up there.  I note how much the sumac trees growing on the ridge have fallen over this winter and are lying across the feed channel and stick into the path.  Along bug land too, in the area of the many red willow shrubs, there is one red willow that has fallen over into the path also.  I have been stepping over this for the past few weeks now.
State of the Creek:  The ice is gone from the creek.  It is running high and swiftly, a greenish gray color, and it is noisy again today.  There is one block of ice left at one of the bends of the creek, which I’m able to move about in the water as I poke at it with my walking stick.   Bits of white foam (I call it cow piss foam) appear here and there in the roots of trees sticking out into the creek
The Fetch:  Mwayla is already waiting for me up at the clearing as I trudge up through the field to throw stick with her there.  I’m wondering how many times today she will fetch the stick.  I throw it once toward the exit of the clearing.  She brings it back.  I throw it again toward the electric pole.  She goes after it, and just like a few days ago, runs past me with the stick in her mouth to go back to the house.  As I’m entering the back yard, she’s already at the back porch, being let into the house by Moi.  Inside, I mention to Moi that Mway has only been fetching the stick twice with me in the afternoons.  “She goes after the stick a lot more with me in the mornings,” she says, then in a teasing high-pitch voice, “Is Mway being lazy?  Lazy?”

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sunday, No Walk

January 17, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  Work all today, don’t get home till after dark.  No walk for Mway from me today.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Where's the Stick?

January 16, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  This morning Moi was out early, and I was out in the morning too doing errands.  She gets home about 2, and since we’re both working tonight, I decide to take Mway out then.  Mway’s already down by the door as I’m suiting up.  Again, Moi comments that I don’t need a snow suit today; but I put it on just the same for the reasons I’ve mentioned already.
State of the Path:  I hear crows as soon as I step out on the back porch.  The snow is pretty much gone.  The only patches of ice I see are down around bug land, one or two across the path, and the rest within bug land itself.   The ground is still hard, but the surface has thawed a bit, and it is starting to get muddy, especially down the center of the path where Mway treads the most and around in bugland.   The weeds are as flat as I’ve seen this year, and I keep hearing various birds the whole length of the walk.
State of the Creek:  The ice in the creek has melted even more today; every where there’s rocks the water is flowing with ice crystals only around the banks.  Some places the ice has receded allowing a channel of water to flow down the middle of the creek.  Other places the ice is still thick, too thick to poke through with my walking stick, and here the water is puddling on top of the ice or flowing slowly over the top of it.
The Fetch:  Again, only two fetches today.  I have a theory that, since lately I’ve been taking Mway out before supper time and not filling her dish immediately after her walk, that maybe she feels she doesn’t have to work too hard at fetching her stick.  As she runs past me after her second fetch with the stick in her mouth, she gives me a look that seems to say “This is all I’m doing now.  You going to do anything about it?”   Back in the back yard, as I’m approaching the porch, I see Mway’s run off to the side of the house and doesn’t have her stick anymore.  I suspect that she senses the fat ground hog that I saw earlier out the kitchen window mosing around the side yard.  Before I go into the house, though, I want her to bring the stick to the back door so I can use it again.  I shout out “Where’s your stick, Mway?  Where’s the damn stick?”  It takes her a while -- she sniffs first at one that wasn’t the one we used -- but she finds it where she dropped it in the side yard, carries it up to the house, and drops it at the back door.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Warming Up After Missing a Day

January 15, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  Since I have to leave for work in D__ville tonight around 4:15, I decide to take Mwayla out early, around 1, so I’m not rushing around later.  Moi is cleaning out the laundry room, and there are piles of stray tools and discarded shoes in the area where I put on my boots and snowsuit.  I had spotted Mway on Moi’s bed, but as I’m suiting up she slips down into the kitchen, a little frazzled about where to pace around with all the junk on the floor.   Moi comes out of the laundry room and remarks, “Jeez, you’re not going to need your snow suit today!”  “No?” I say, deciding nevertheless to leave it on.  “No, it’s really warm out there.”  Then she hands me a few sticks of lumber she found in the laundry room.  “Could you help me out and put these in the corn crib?”
State of the Path:   First thing out on the porch I look for the fine stick Mway and I have been using, and not too surprisingly I don’t see it on the bench in the store of sticks.  One day without taking her for a walk, I think to myself, and this good stick is already gone; but then I immediately spot it on the ground just beyond the porch.   While I’m taking the sticks of lumber to the corn crib, Mway goes over to the chicken pen to bark at the chickens.  There is indeed a lot less snow on the ground today; nothing under the trees, nothing in the fields.  But there are still a few patches of snow and ice on the path, and I need to walk along just as carefully, using my fetch stick and walking stick like ski poles, as on any other day this past week.  As is typical after a snow melt, I spot a lot of little dog turds along the path.  I’m happy to have my snow suit on; it’s not yet too warm for it, and the snow suit, as much as it is protection against the cold, is equally protection against the briars and branches that jut at places into the path.
State of the Creek:  In bug land as I’m approaching the creek, I hear a fine soft breeze, and notice that the wind is rustling in the pin oaks, which still are covered in brown leaves even at this late date in the winter.  I hear the sound of birds cawing – these, I know, though I don’t see them, are crows, flying somewhere up on the hill beyond the creek.  Though most of the snow is gone, the creek has still pretty much as much ice in it as the last time I’d seen it, though the ice seems to be in various stages of melting, appearing in a motley of colors and textures; and in several of the creek’s rocky areas the water is again flowing.  I decide to take the side path along the skating pond; it’s fairly easy stepping over the feed channel, as the ice in it is still rock solid.   I take a quick survey of the skating pond, as Moi had been skating in town earlier this week, and had mentioned our own failed skating pond and what it would take to make it usable.  Indeed, I only glance quickly at the shrubs and thick grasses growing there, and don’t think too long about how much hard work it would be to clear those out.
The Fetch:  I’m wondering, since I didn’t take her out yesterday, will Mway want to fetch the stick quite a few times today?    Not so.  Two fetches, and we’re on our way back home.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Boy Covers for Me Again

January 14, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  Around quarter to three, I hear Mway pacing around outside my bedroom door.  I’ve been awfully tired all day.  Plus tonight I work in B___burg, and I have to leave around 3:30.  It’s too late to squeeze a walk in before getting ready to go out, so I’ve already decided to ask the Boy to take Mwayla for her afternoon walk today.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

In a Hurry

January 13, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation.  Around 3, take Mway out for a walk, just a quick one so I can shower, get dressed, and leave for work around 4. 
State of the Path and the Creek.  Seems to be just a little less snow on the ground than yesterday, same amount of ice in the creek.   Mway wanders off for a little while to peak into Moi’s old wigwam. 
The Fetch.  Fortunately, Mway keeps to her new habit of limiting her number of fetches to two.  But when I follow her home to the back door, she’s standing in front of it without her stick.  I open up my arms and exclaim “Where’s your stick?”  Mway, though, not to be caught off guard, knows exactly what I’m asking and precisely how to answer it.   She scoots off the porch, dashes to the pool, finds her stick (still the big one we’ve been using for a week or so now), drags it back and drops it at the door.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Looking for Squirrels?

January 12, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  Work today in the early afternoon.  When I get home around 3 pm, everyone is taking a nap: Boy on the sofa, Moi and Mway up in their bedroom.  I decide to go to my bedroom to rest and read.   After about 10 minutes, I hear Moi and Mway get up, hear Mway slump her body against my bedroom door.  After about a half hour, I start drifting off, but am rudely awakened by Mway’s very sharp barking; sounds like its coming from outside.  I get up, put on my walking clothes, go downstairs.  Moi’s in the kitchen, washing dishes; Mway’s underneath the kitchen table.  I start to suit up and put on my boots; without too much pacing or huffing with excitement, Mway walks over to the back door.
State of the Path:  By the time we get outside she is full of energy, though, running off past the chicken coop, while I’m still shuffling along the clothesline.  By the time I get to the walled garden, I see she’s bounded off into the old orchard (what we usually call the “back acre”), running around, sniffing at things.   Perhaps she’s looking for squirrels.  When Blue was alive, he and Mway used to often chase squirrels in the back acre, frequently chasing them into some PVC pipes that used to lay out there, and barking at them from each end of the pipe.  I decide, since Mway’s already out there, to take the side path along the old orchard.  But as soon as I start on the path, Mway comes dashing toward me, passes by me, and starts going down the main path.  I call her back, and she comes running to follow me, but she bounds ahead and runs off somewhere where I can’t see her.  There is a new powder of snow on the ground today, and much of the path that was bare yesterday is covered with snow.  I walk using both my walking stick and Mway’s fetching stick like ski poles.  I round the cedar, and press down on the brambles and briars that are strewn on the path, hoping to make an impression to make the path clearer, but that probably won’t happen and this part of the side path will probably grow up with weeds and become impassable again this summer.   I come back to the main path, pass the wigwams, and when I enter bug land I see Mway’s still running around, this time down by the creek.
State of the Creek:    She’s even running back and forth across the creek, and she’s staying way ahead of me the whole walk.  I don’t really meet up with her until we get up to the clearing.  The creek today is almost completely frozen, and the ice is almost all covered with a powder of snow.  I see Mway’s tracks on them.   The only place where there is no ice is in two small spots at the cascade of rocks beneath the big midcenter oak.   There you can see the water, with its air bubbles, flowing underneath the ice, undulating and slipping along like the wax in a lava lamp.
The Fetch:   When I meet up with Mway at the clearing, she is walking toward me, smiling, ready to fetch.  I throw the stick once toward the end of the clearing, and then again toward the electric pole.  Just like yesterday, though, she only fetches the stick twice, then she bounds up the path to head back to the house.   She is already up at the porch when I come back past the chicken coop into the back yard.  This only fetching the stick twice or a few times seems to be becoming a habit with her; maybe it’s because the snow is slippery, and maybe in her middle age she is becoming wise to the fact that she can hurt herself dashing after the stick on slippery snow.  Who knows?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ragged Snow

January 11, 2009.   Monday.
Situation:  Work today, get home just before 3.  Moi is at the kitchen table, and Mway greets me at the door.  I decide to take her for a walk right away, without putting on my walking clothes, so I suit up right then and there.  Mway starts pacing, circling the kitchen table, huffs of excitement growing louder and louder.   Eventually she makes a weird, squeaky half-gulping, half-yawning sound.  “You trying to say something Mway?”  Moi teases.
State of the Path:   The snow is completely gone beneath the big spruce tree behind our house.  In the back yard and elsewhere, it is ragged with foot and paw prints and exposed dirt and grass.  On much of the path, the snow is half-gone, so you have a strip of slick snow on one side, grass and dirt on the other.  Some places, such as underneath the small pin oaks before the creek, the snow is gone altogether; other places, such as along the ridge to bug land, the snow is still there, and still slippery.
State of the Creek:  Most of the creek has iced up, even in the shallow rocky areas.  The ice in the deep parts is either gray or transparent with brown water showing underneath.  I can’t break it with my walking stick.  In the rocky areas, the ice is thin; you can see a number of air bubbles sliding along under the ice, and if you listen closely you can hear the water gurgling in those spots.   I hear birds -- sparrows? -- chirping down by the creek, and see a few fly overhead.
The Fetch:   Again, today, up at the clearing, much of which does not have much snow on it today, Mway only fetches the stick two times.   As I said before, this is no skin off my nose, but I do wonder what’s up with her.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sunday, A Day of Rest

January 10, 2009.  Sunday.
Work all day today, don’t get home till after dark.  No walk for Mway from me today.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Only a Couple Fetches

January 9, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  Moi and I both work tonight.   She goes out in the early afternoon to give a lesson, and I take advantage of her absence to work loudly in the music room, but I quit before she comes back and decide to take Mway for a walk a little early today, around 2:30.   When I go upstairs to put on my walking clothes, I see her lying on the floor as I pass Moi’s bedroom.  She is lying there with her eyes open, as if she’s just been waiting there for this moment to happen.   Sure enough when I go back downstairs to put on my snow suit, she comes creeping down the stairs and soon enough is circling the kitchen table and huffing with excitement.
State of the Path:  The condition of the path is pretty much the same as yesterday, requiring shuffling feet.   Because I have gone out a little early, I decide to take the side path along the old orchard.  Mway has run way ahead down near the wigwams, but she turns back and follows me when she’s seen that I have turned.  There are none of my, Moi’s, or Mway prints on the side path, but there are a lot of rabbit prints – indeed, I remark how the rabbits particularly utilize the path that we have made for ourselves, although there are plenty of rabbit prints running off the path too.  When we come to where the side path goes into the pressed down brambles, Mway is not happy about this.  She hesitates and has to lift her paws carefully not to step on a thorn.
State of the Creek.  The ice on the creek is pretty much the same as it was yesterday.  At one point, where the ice covers the full width of the stream, I note how it is banded, with strips of snow at the banks, strips of gray ice next to that, then in the middle a strip of transparent ice revealing the brown of the water.  Wherever there is snow on the ice, there are also rabbits prints, something you didn’t see yesterday.   The only sound from the creek is coming from the cascade underneath the big oak at the midpoint of the path along the creek.  I also hear two different kinds of birds – sparrows, finches, catbirds? -- but I can’t see any birds when I look up into the trees.  I also take the side path along the skating pond.  The feed channel is fairly easy to negotiate, as the ice in it is solid (also covered with rabbit prints) and I can conveniently set my foot on top of it to cross.
The Fetch.  I go to the upper end of the clearing and throw the stick toward the electric pole.  Mway runs after it, brings it back, and drops it about two feet from my feet.  As I usually do when she does not bring it real close to me, I scold her “Bring it here” and point at my feet.  She picks the stick up, with a huff of exasperation, and throws it at my feet.  I throw the stick again toward the electric pole.  She runs after it, brings it back, drops it, not quite as closely as I’d like, but I make no issue about it this time, and step up to it, then throw it again.  She runs after it, and comes running back, then goes running past me, up through the path back toward the house.  I don’t know what it is:  Mway is not fetching the stick as many times as she usually does.  It’s not her paw, because she hasn’t been limping.  I’m a little disappointed, but if she doesn’t want to fetch much, it’s no skin off my nose.  Up at the house, she is standing at the door, waiting to go in.  But I don’t see the stick on the floor in front of the door.  “Where’s the stick?  Find the stick!” I yell, and she nervously runs to the end of the porch to show me that it is there.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Shuffling through New Powder

January 8, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:   Work tonight, have to leave about 4:15.  I hear Mway milling about as I get up from my rest around 3.   Downstairs, she is ready and eager for a walk, jumping at the back door as I open it.
State of the Path:  It snowed a little last night, and there is a new powder on the old hard snow, which is slippery underneath.  The sidewalk is not cleared off.  By the time I get to the walled garden, I realize I have to walk with shuffling feet and stab hard into the snow with my walking stick to keep my balance.  Beyond the pig pen, I begin following a new track made by Mway, meaning that Moi did not venture far this morning when she took Mwayla out.  Past the sumacs, I hear what sound like Canadian geese flying overhead, but when I look for them in the sky all I can spot is a sparrow or something flying over the ridge.   Mway runs way ahead of me, flipping over on her back one time to rub her back in something she has smelled.  By the time I am walking along the creek, Mway is off in bug land exploring, and I realize I am making my own new track in the snow.  When the path itself is too slippery, I step off to the side into the weeds.  At the seep in bug land my foot crushes the ice that formed there the last few days.  It is easier walking upward toward the clearing than it was walking downward to the creek. 
State of the Creek:  The new snow has fallen on some of the ice in the creek, so the creek is a patchwork of different colors, bright white, gray, various shades of brown.  There is no snow on the rocks, but there is on the logs and branches.  I still can’t break the ice with my walking stick.
The Fetch:   I still have the fine stick that I’ve been using for the last few days: Mway hasn’t mislaid it or chewed it to pieces.  Up in the clearing, where she knows the stick is to be thrown, Mway starts hopping up and down, walking backwards, as I carry the stick toward the upper part of the clearing.  As I look back in the direction of the electric pole, I survey the area that I have to throw the stick in and remark on how the clearing really is starting to widen as the goldenrod and other weeds become more trampled on and beat down by the cold and snow.  I throw the stick in various directions, toward the electric pole, toward the spot where we used to have our abandoned Dodge van.  But Mway only fetches the stick four times, then goes bounding off on the path back toward the house.  When I enter the backyard, I see Moi coming out of the back door to do something outside, and Mway stays in the backyard, loping around with the stick in her mouth.  When I get on the back porch, I have to call her to the door.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Slippery at Places

January 7, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:   Have to leave for work today about 3:30.  Mway is sitting underneath the kitchen table, beneath Moi, when I come down to suit up at 2:30.  She starts circling around the kitchen table.  Moi teases her, “Why are you so happy?”  My boots are both behind the laundry room door, where I have been storing them for some time.  For many years, I kept them in the laundry room itself.  On many days, Mway would steal one or both of them, and drag them up to Moi’s bed or my bed or into the music room or somewhere else to remind me to take her for a walk.  That meant that I would sometimes have to roam the house looking for one or both of my boots.  Also Mway would sometimes get teeth marks in a boot and ruin it.   Since I have been hiding them behind the laundry room door, I have only had to search the house for a boot once or twice.       
State of the Path:  The snow seems to be disappearing from the path, but there are a number of icy patches, very slippery.   What little snow is left is also slippery.  I am glad I have my walking stick today   Down at bug land,  I see Mway running off into the grass with another stick she has picked up somewhere.  But when she sees me keeping doggedly to our usual route, she drops the stick and returns to the path.  Down at the creek, she runs way ahead of me, full of energy.  I walk slowly behind her, careful not to slip on the path where it runs close to the creek edge.  As I wind through the oaks and wild olive shrubs, I come upon Mway sniffing at the patch of ice in the grass at the other end of bug land.  I think for a moment that it might be interesting to walk across bug land on top of the ice, but instead I keep to the path and cross bug land at the usual place, at the plank that lies just before the area of all the red willow shrubs.
State of the Creek:  I don’t pay too much attention to the creek today, though I notice, in general, that much of the ice is starting to melt.   I do stop at one point to jab the ice with my walking stick.  Where I do that, the ice is still rock hard.
The Fetch:  Up in the clearing, Mway starts hopping and barking, showing great enthusiasm for a round of fetching the stick.   I stand at the end of the clearing, throw the stick toward the electric pole.  I remark at how much the clearing seems to be clearing.  Mway fetches the stick only one time.  She comes bounding back, holding the stick in her mouth, then goes bounding up the path, way ahead of me, back to the house.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Boy Does the Honors

January 6, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  Early this morning, before sunrise, I am awakened by Moi getting ready to go to W________ for jury duty.   I hear her walking back and forth, complaining about the weather, about having to rush and take Mway out.  She leaves, and although I fear I won’t, I do fall back to sleep.  I wake up about 10, check my email, and see I have no rush work to do today.  I don’t have to leave for my job tonight until about 4, so I plan to take Mway for a walk in the early afternoon.  As it turns out, Moi has told Jungle Boy to go out and feed the chickens, and he decides to take Mway for a walk.  When he returns I ask if he went down to the creek and if Mway fetched the stick.  He says yes.  He says that he was hoping to take some photos of wildlife, but a walk with Mway is not the best occasion for that, because she scares any wildlife away.  Since he took Mwayla out already, I guess I’ll forego a walk with her today.  I feel a little guilty, but not too much.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Limping Badly

January 5, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  Again work for a couple hours, get home around 3.  When I walk in the door, the kitchen is dark and empty.  I assume that Moi and Mway are again taking a nap, and I’ll have to wait an hour or so before they’re up.   But as I’m hanging up my coat and keys, Moi appears at the bottom of the stairs, and shortly after, Mway clunks down the stairs, eyes me as she circles me once, then plops down beneath the kitchen table.  As I’m putting on my snow suit and boots, she does not arouse herself as she usually does.  I have to call her to the door.
State of the Path:  Mway and I walk into the walled garden, then turn onto the path and pass the pig pen.   I see Mway limp once or twice, but don’t think too much about it, for she has taken complete walks before when her paw has been hurting her.  The snow is still a powder on the surface, but the path itself is fairly beaten down, the prints melding into one another into one fairly continuous hard packed surface.  Mway starts heading down the branch of the path toward the clearing, but I want to take a full walk today, and even go down the side path along the old orchard, so I call her to follow me.  But when I get about ten yards down the side path, I see Mway is lingering behind me, limping along aways, then stopping, and looking up at me.  I figure her paw is hurting her more than I first thought, so I turn around, and we head straight for the clearing.   To take it easy on Mway, I decide not to throw the stick into the goldenrod, but to stay within the boundaries of the clearing that was mostly just grass all year long.  I throw the stick once.  Mway runs after it, limps once or twice as she approaches, stops at the stick, then turns around and looks at me.  I’ve never seen her not fetch a stick before, no matter how bad she is limping.   I walk over to the stick, pick it up, and throw it in the opposite direction.  Mway limps over to it, stops, and again looks back at me without picking the stick up.  I walk over to the stick, pick it up, and do not press the matter any further.   Mway follows me back to the house, as I lead the way to the back door, using my walking stick and carrying along the fetching stick.  This has never happened before – Mway has always returned home before with the fetching stick.  This might not be strictly true; I might have had to bring the stick home once or twice before, but I can’t quite remember now what the reason would have been for – the point is that, except for once or perhaps twice before, Mway always brings the stick back home, and I do not remember her ever not fetching the stick.
Addendum:  Starting tomorrow I will be working a regular schedule of five nights a week, and I don’t know how many days out of the week I’ll have to work during the day too, so I’m not sure if I’ll be cramming walks in before work, or having to skip them altogether, or what.  In case I end up getting too busy in the weeks to come, I just want to add a little bit more background information right now while I have the time.  Moi got Mway about 7 years ago for her birthday, shortly after our first Australian blue heeler, Spot, died.   I remember the first walk we took Mway on.  She was just a little pup, and she was following along with our other dog, Blue, getting stuck frequently in the high weeds of summertime, sometimes getting tangled and having to back up and almost losing her way and tripping over weeds, but she followed along the whole time with a great smile.  Eventually the walks included fetching the stick, and this has become a daily routine, with Moi generally taking Mway out in the morning, and me taking her out in the afternoon.  In the morning Moi does not always take Mway for a full walk, either because she’s in a hurry or because in the summertime the weeds are soaked with dew; in the afternoon sometimes I have to cut out a complete walk too, either because it’s starting to rain or getting too dark.  But I estimate that in 7 years I have taken Mway for a walk on an average about 5 days out of the week, and I have only taken one one-week vacation in that time, so I figure that I have taken Mway for about 1,813 walks on our property.  Today is, if not the first, certainly a rare time, when Mway has not brought the stick back, and I am concerned enough to mention it to Moi.  But Mway doesn’t seem to be in pain or anything, and I trust she’ll be better by tomorrow or the next day.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Heedless of a Briar Sticking Up

January 4, 2010.  Monday. 
Situation:  Work for a couple hours today, get home around 3.   I put on my walking clothes, but Mway and Moi are taking a nap.  As I write this, I am waiting for them at any moment to come walking out of Moi’s bedroom door.   I might as well say, as I’m waiting, that for the last couple months, to irritate me, Moi has put a photo of Mway up on my computer’s home page.   It shows a slightly out-of-focus close-up of her lying on the bed, head turned toward the camera, eyes bugging out, tongue sticking out, poised as if ready anytime for a walk.  After an hour I am tired of waiting for the nappers to awaken, and I go downstairs to put on my boots and snow suit.  There is a thump from upstairs.  I walk back up the stairs, and when I open the bedroom door, Mway is standing behind it, and shoots out the door.
State of the Path:  It is too cold today to do anything but the circuit.  In the back yard, grass is starting to stick out at places through the snow, but for the most part the snow that fell the other day is still pretty much here.  On the path, there are some bare spots, with frozen ground and grass showing, a lot of frozen foot and paw prints.  The snow, though, is still a powder on top.  The seep at bugland is, for the first time, frozen.
State of the Creek:   Most of the creek has frozen.  The older ice that never melted is gray, the newer ice, too thick though to poke through with my walking stick, is transparent, and you can see the brown water beneath.  In the spots where there are rocks, ice has formed a crystalline lattice; you can see water flowing underneath, as well as air bubbles sliding beneath, which disappear when they reach a small open area of water.
The Fetch:  Throw the stick into the dead goldenrod, in the same places as has become my custom the last few days.  On her fourth or so fetch, Mway steps on a thorn or something and begins limping, but her vigor is undiminished.  One time she goes in the wrong direction, and I have to point to where the stick is.    She is satisfied with herself after less than twenty fetches, and looks at me with the stick in her mouth.  I thrust my finger at the ground.  She drops the stick, and fetches one last time.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Sunday, A Day to Relax

January 3, 2010.  Sunday.   Work all day today, and do not get home until after dark.  No walk for Mway from me today.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Wind Louder Than the Creek

January 2, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  No work tonight, so take Mway for a walk around 3:15, after hearing the news that Jungle Boy’s car was broken into down in Philly, and several very valuable items, including his laptop, were stolen.  Mway looks up from under the kitchen table as I pull down my snow suit that’s draped over the corner of the laundry room door, stretches, and lets out a squeaky yawn.  I’m hit by a blast of cold air as soon as I open the back door.
State of the Path:   The foot and paw prints are frozen up with ice, and you can hear them crunching when you step.  Beneath the powder on top, the snow is frozen underneath, which gives way underfoot.  There is a blue sky in all directions.  The seep in the path in bug land is still not frozen over.
State of the Creek:  Where the ice has receded the other day, new sheets of ice have formed.  The ice is thin, you can see the brown water beneath, and I can poke through the sheets with one jab of my walking stick.   Ice has crystallized around many of the rocks again.  The only place I can hear the gurgling of the water over the rocks is at the little cascade in the midpoint of the path along the creek.   The wind today is much louder than the creek.  The spots of water pooled up in the high grass of bug land are frozen.
The Fetch:   Throw the stick again in the strategic directions of a few days ago, toward the cement pile, the garden, and the exit to the clearing.  Even so I have not been beating down a whole bunch of the goldenrod the last couple days, though I expect by the end of the winter I might have the weeds in this whole area beaten down, except for one or two wild olive and multiflora shrubs, and might even have made some inroads into the briars growing along the garden.  I don’t notice how many times Mway fetches the stick.  One time I throw it toward the garden and she runs toward the cement pile, and I have to call her back and point in the direction where the stick is.  She corrects her direction without stopping and without wandering off the mark.  When she drops the stick, she barks, then spins around counterclockwise, as I’m stooping over to pick up the stick.  This is typically what she does; but it seems to me that she wasn’t barking a whole lot the last few days, or maybe I am so used to it I just didn’t notice it.    Her stick, the fine one that we had yesterday, is starting to get teeth marks in it and its bark is starting to wear off.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

It Doesn't Matter It's New Year's Day

January 1, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  Feel like I need some fresh air early today, so I decide to surprise Mway with a walk at noon.    Somehow, though, perhaps because she hears me tell Moi, “I’m going to take Mwayla for a walk now,” she knows what’s up, and she is already skulking under the kitchen table, ready to pace in a circle as I’m suiting up.  Last night I left my gloves and orange wool cap in my car, when Pete and Katie gave me a lift back home.  So I have to find another wool cap in the mess of mismatched gloves and never-used scarves at the bottom of the bureau, and I spot Moi’s garden gloves on the hutch.  The cap I find is a lemon-yellow one, which I remember fondly from a few winters back.
State of the Path:  The sun reflecting off the snow causes me to squint as I walk on the partly brushed-off sidewalk toward the chicken coop, then follow Mway between the coop and the big outbuilding where I store the lawnmower in summer and our pool ladder in winter.  I wish I had sunglasses but my sunglasses are in my car; besides, I don’t have my contacts in so I couldn’t wear them anyway.  The snow on the ground is still pretty much a powder, there are more footsteps and paw prints in it than yesterday.  On the limbs of the trees, the snow is mostly gone, except in especially shady areas.  Down by the creek, the sky is cloudy, and I am no longer squinting or wishing I had sunglasses.
State of the Creek:  The ice is receding more in the creek.  I can poke my walking stick through one area.  I take the side path along the skating pond, stepping gingerly over the feed channel, and testing the ice in it.  It is solid.   Up at the clearing, I am squinting again, so I take my stand at the exit to the clearing, facing away from the sun, to throw the stick toward the electric pole.  I don’t count how many times Mway fetches the stick, but it doesn’t seem like enough.  When she seems ready to stop, I point a finger fiercely at the ground.  She growls, then resignedly drops the stick at my feet.  I pick it up, throw it, and she fetches it one additional time.  Back behind the house, I notice, for the first time today, a fiercely blue southern sky.
Addendum:  Since I have the time today, I think I might as well describe the path in more detail.  It’s hard to say exactly where it begins.  There’s a passageway first that goes from the outbuilding to the walled garden.  This passageway is narrow, flanked on the sides by giant multiflora bushes and other shrubs, by the trees holding up the outbuilding, by a wild grape vine that hangs overhead and drapes up the trees, by a cedar, Moi’s neglected garden pond, two plum trees and the weeds and briars around them.   The passageway leads into what Moi calls the walled garden, the area surrounded by the crumbling barn foundation where we burn our trash.  The path, I guess, begins here, leading off to the right or to the north, and first heading into high grass and occasional briars (bent down and brown at this time of year) and passing by the dilapidated pig pen.  The main path then slopes down through the field all the way to the creek, which is really a run rather than a creek.  Just beyond the pig pen, the path branches.  One branch leads through a thick area of briars into a small clearing where the stick is usually thrown.  This clearing is just a stone’s throw away from our garden., and is a fairly level area with a nice view of the northern half of the valley in which we live and the hillsides beyond.  The other branch passes through a stand of sumac trees.  This is the branch usually first taken when making the circuit down to the creek and back.  Just before the sumac trees is a side path that leads along the edge of the old orchard (consisting mostly of ash and black walnut trees, the last apple tree there being almost already dead when we moved in many years ago).  The side path goes all the way to our property line, then circles around a large cedar through weeds and briars, and returns to the main path just below the sumac trees.  This side path is not always open all the way in summer time.  The main path beyond the sumac trees goes first through an area of mostly high grass, then an area of briars, then into an area of new maples and passes by Moi’s falling-down wigwam and her new, uncompleted wigwam.  Beyond the wigwams and maples, the path enters bug land.  This is a lowland, just before the creek, further lowered by my father’s bulldozing when he owned the land, and surrounded on the upper side by a ridge of topsoil overgrown with weeds, sumacs, and maples.  Bug land was named by Jungle Boy when he was about four or five.  Filled with high grass, it is a basin for water runoff, and the area is soggy most of the year.  The path skirts one side of bug land, veering closer to the hedgerow along our back property line, then passes underneath a couple young pin oak trees and meets the creek.  At the creek, the path makes a right turn and passes through a line of ash and oak trees, most of them surrounded by wild olive and multiflora shrubs, between the creek and the high grass of bug land.  The path is rather winding, and at places you have to duck under tree branches, fallen trees, and shrubs.   The creek is fairly winding too, with eroded banks, fallen logs and branches across it, low cascades with rocks and ripples, and wider deeper pools.  At one area, the path narrows to about a foot wide between the creek bank and a long thicket of shrubs and rotting trees.  After you pass through this narrow area, you find a plank of wood set on top of the grasses of the narrow drainage outlet to bug land. The path then passes through an area with a lot of red willow shrubs and maple saplings.   Here there is another side path that goes into an area between the failed skating pond and the creek, crossing one of the feed channels of the pond and passing by the end of a ridge of topsoil, then doubling back at another ridge of topsoil, both ridges made of soil bulldozed out by my father to make the pond.  But the main path turns back into bug land and skirts the ridge of topsoil that surrounds it.  Between the ridge of bug land and the one around the skating pond (failed because it is never completely filled with water), there is an area, smaller than the skating pond, always filled with water.  At a couple of wild evergreens, the path cuts through the ridge and comes out onto the main field in an area with a lot of grass and briars and one or two new maples.  (There used to be two other side paths here, one that cut sideways through the middle of the field and led up to the main path coming down from the pig pen, with a branch following along the upperside of the ridge of topsoil leading to Moi’s wigwam, and another heading back down to the skating pond, but both side paths have become impassable with weeds and brambles the last couple years.) After passing through the drainage area, the main path lets out onto a wild strawberry patch, with a few cedars in it.   The strawberry patch may be starting to be overtaken by other weeds from the field around it.  The path makes a branch here too.  One less-used branch goes to the eastern side of an electric pole, past the pile of tree trunks that Paul Paulsen never got around to sculpting, then into the lane that goes behind the old dilapidated summer house.  The other branch goes to the other side of the electric pole into the clearing.