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, February 28, 2011

Observing the Sabbath

February 28, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  Work all day today, and don’t get home till after dark.  No walk for Mway from me today

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Foot Sinks into Mud

February 27, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  Moi and I both work tonight, have to leave about 5.  I take Mway out about 3:15.
State of the Path:  Moi is out checking her chickens; Mway runs over to the cage to bark at them.  The snow on the path is soft today, with a soft slush underneath.  Lots of animal prints running in all directions.  Through the maples, I see Mway checking out the area where there was a big spot of urine and scat a few days ago, but she returns to the path without rolling in anything.  When I get down to where she was, I’m surprised to see the same urine and scat that was there a couple days ago, but which I then didn’t see after it had snowed.  Just before the pin oaks coming down to the creek, my foot sinks through the snow into mud – one of the seeps at bug land – and leaves a muddy foot print.  At most places along the walk, the snow in the fields is not much deeper than the snow in the path
State of the Creek:  Only traces of the slush that was there yesterday remain; what I wrote in it is, of course, gone.  There is foam and scum in places where the water is dammed up, especially behind the log and barrel jam.
The Fetch:  About four fetches, and Mway runs off to the back yard.  When I catch up with her there, she is grappling with the stick.  I wonder what she might be up to, but when she sees me, she picks up the stick between her teeth and follows me to the back porch.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Following the Boy's Footsteps

February 26, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:   Wake up early for a dentist appointment at 10 am.   Have to work tonight, leave around 4:15, but around 1:15 I tell Moi that I feel like taking Mway out then.  “The Boy just took her for a walk,” she says, “But she’ll go out anytime.  Hear that?  A thump upstairs when you said the word ‘walk.’”  It is probably not Mway upstairs, for the next moment Mway comes creeping out the music room, but, because she appears while we are discussing a walk, it is the same effect anyway.
State of the Path:  There is a fresh white powder over everything, and beyond the chicken coop I start following several new sets of foot and paw prints.  Past the pig pen, Mway wanders over toward the orchard, and, though I hesitate because I know it won’t be the easiest walking, I consider taking the side path.  At first, though, I can’t see where it begins.  Finally I see a clean break in the weeds.  As I come closer I also see a set of the Boy’s foot prints in the path, which decides the issue for me.  For a while I avoid trudging through the unbroken snow by stepping in his prints, but just before the ant hill, they take a sudden detour through the weeds.  I continue on the unbroken path, my boots sweeping through powder then hitting a harder layer of snow beneath, which gives way slowly with each step.  Mway wanders among the weeds.  Back at the main path, I meet up again with the Boy’s prints.  Along the creek, just before the log and barrel jam, they diverge again, this time through bug land.
State of the Creek:   Snow lies on top of the rocks and logs, on top of the barrel, in the crooks of trees.  The water in the deepest parts of the creek is a fine slush, a gray porridge, dimpled by the wind; behind the log and barrel jam, I take my walking stick and write “HI” in the slush.  I take the side path along the skating pond; the golf ball is lost in the snow.
The Fetch:  As I’m coming up the path beyond the ridge around bug land, because I don’t see it underneath the snow, I trip over the ant hill.  Up at the clearing, Mway is waiting for me.  A handful of fetches, and she races with the stick in her mouth back to the house.  In the back yard, I see she’s standing near the driveway, and I don’t see the stick near her.   I tell her to find her stick, but she just looks at me.  Perturbed that she might have lost such a fine stick (which doubled as a second walking stick), I call her to the door, let her in, then start back down the sidewalk to see if she dropped it anywhere there.  I don’t see it, and pick up a snow shovel to shovel a little bit among the cars.  Almost immediately I spot the stick, lying between the two cars on top of the snow next to the garbage can.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Keeping an Eye Out for It

February 25, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  Work tonight cancelled, due to inclement weather.  Outside the kitchen windows, a few flurries fall throughout the day; some snow has fallen around here, but not even enough to have to shovel the driveway.  I decide to take Mway out around 3, after she and Moi have had their nap.  While I’m putting on my walking clothes up in my bedroom, Mway stands in the doorway, staring at me.  Downstairs, as I’m suiting up, Moi tells me to make sure Mway doesn’t “roll in any shit.”  I explain to her that that’s kind of hard to do.  “In that case,” she goes on, “clean her back off with snow if she does.”
State of the Path:   Enough snow has fallen to cover up old foot and paw prints and urine stains from days past, and as I trudge behind Mway on the path, I follow her newly made paw prints, colored gray from an icy sludge just beneath the new snow.  I keep an eye on her as she runs ahead of me, and no sooner are we near the pig pen than I see her flip over on her back.  I yell, “No, Mway.”  She rights herself immediately, gives me a quick look, and continues on; when I reach the spot where she rolled over, I see a big fresh stain of urine right in the middle of the path.  I try to keep my eye on her as she scurries down through the maples and past the wigwams.  Between the sumacs and the maples, I look down to see another big fresh stain of urine across the path – I hadn’t seen Mway rolling her back in this, but it looks to me like the snow is packed down around the stain.  I immediately look up to see Mway, beyond the maples, venturing into bug land – I know she’s looking for the spot of urine and scat she rolled in yesterday, and I yell out, “No!  No!”  Mway looks up at me, paces around a little, and then heads back to the path – which I’m happy to see.  When I finally get down to bug land, I look over to where the urine and scat was yesterday, but see nothing but fresh white snow.
State of the Creek:  Running much the same as yesterday.  Underneath the big oaks, the path is still bare and muddy, and Mway’s new paw prints in the snow beyond for a while turn brown.  A particularly ugly bramble has bent over into the path, which I snap off with my hands.  Some multiflora briars near the feed channel (which I decide to cross over to walk along the skating pond) seem to stick out more in the path today.  I try to break them off, but they are too green to snap, and I only end up twisting them back.  Some snow has fallen around it, but the golf ball is still visible.  Coming back up along bug land, I see yet another fresh stain of urine in the path, which looks like it was rolled on at some time or another.
The Fetch:  Mway is already waiting for me in the clearing when I arrive there.  I stand in the middle of it and toss the stick in various directions.  Mway fetches it about four times. Back in the back yard, as I’m approaching the porch, Mway is standing at the end of it closest to the driveway, the stick lying on the sidewalk in front of her.  When I get on the porch, I tell her “Come on.  Bring your stick here,” but she just looks back at me.  I repeat myself a couple times, and finally she just walks over to the door without bringing her stick.  I let her into the house, then go and fetch the stick myself, placing it on the bench where I know it will be for tomorrow.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Large Area of Scat and Urine

February 24, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  Work tonight.  Moi is up early ironing pants for the Boy’s job interview in NYC.  She is complaining that Jazz wants her to go down to pick up Atlas for her to watch him while Jazz and Matt go to Atlantic City for a few days.  She is also complaining that Mway has been outside all morning “rolling in shit.”  I decide to take Mway out early, around 1:30.  Moi advises me about an area in the path where Mway likes to roll, and tells me to keep her from doing that.
State of the Path:  The snow is soft, with a layer of icy slush beneath, so it is fairly slippery.  The bare spots along the path are either places to get a foot hold, or muddy areas that can be just as slippery.  Mway pokes around the pig pen, then runs downs the path, past the sumacs, down through the maples and past the wigwams.  I don’t see her stopping to roll anywhere.  But as I pass the wigwams, there she is, off a little ways into bug land, rolling in something.  I yell at her to get up, and she flips over quickly and scoots down toward the creek.  I venture over to the spot where she was:  it is a fairly large deposit of urine and scat, too big for a rabbit or squirrel.  Mway stays ahead of me along the creek, and as I come up to the drainage area of bug land, I see Mway prowling along the feed channel to the skating pond, then venturing toward the flat land and the ridge beyond the pond.   I decide to follow.  Because the snow is not as deep today, the channel is not too treacherous too cross, and I’m happy that, when I step onto the snow inside the channel, I don’t end up breaking through any ice.  I follow the path to the ridge – Mway has disappeared on top of it somewhere among the sumacs.  Then I turn around at the far feed channel to pass closer to the creek.  In an area bare of snow on the other side of the creek, I’m surprised to spy the golf ball that I spotted a few weeks ago, looking like a little ball of snow among the brown leaves.
State of the Creek:   The water is green in the deepest spots, brown where its travels over the rocks.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, I take a stand at the exit and toss the stick.  When Mway brings it back, she first drops it short of my reach, then, quickly correcting herself, picks it up again and flings it at my feet.  Some water from the snow splatters on my suit, and I figure this could be a little messy today.  But Mway only does three fetches, then runs off to the back yard.   When I come into the back yard, though, I’m surprised to find her standing at the outbuilding with the stick on the ground, rather than waiting for me to arrive up at the back porch to go in.  I yell at her to pick up the stick and come on, and she follows me to the sidewalk.  She soon passes me, but instead of running up on the porch, she veers underneath our big spruce tree and heads toward the driveway – I figure she’s trying to lollygag around, in the hopes that I will forget about her, and allow her to stay outside.  But I call her to the door, and she comes promptly.  While she’s standing at the door, I check the fur on her back with my glove – at least there’s nothing conspicuously brown on it that I can see.  When we get inside, instead of running over to her food dish as she usually does, she slinks into the music room, to hide in a corner where Moi won’t see her for a while.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Evergreen Sapling

February 23, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  No work today.  Moi has been collecting sap from a maple tree in our back yard that we pulled up from beneath a power line and transferred there shortly after we moved in – it may indeed be a sugar maple.  Moi has been boiling the sap down all day and it is, as she claims, yielding a nice syrup – enough for one pancake so far.  I have been following my regimen of 4 pills of penicillin a day, plus mouth washings of hydrogen peroxide, regular mouth wash, and brushing with a new toothbrush and more careful flossing.  Today at noon I was able to eat two eggs and a boiled potato, with some crumbs of salmon thrown in.  Last night I took an hour and half to eat a salad.  I take Mway out about 3.
State of the Path:  Though this morning there was a new coating of snow on the ground, by late afternoon the path looks pretty much the way it did yesterday.  I consider taking a walk along the old orchard, but the snow still looks too deep to make for a leisurely stroll, which is all I’m up for today.  I hear birds down through the maples and along the creek, as well crows up in the field beyond the creek somewhere.  I also consider taking a walk past the skating pond, but I don’t venture beyond the feed channel, because the snow covering it looks treacherous.  I suddenly spy Mway skulking along the ridge at the far end of the pond.  Walking back along bug land, I spot a lot of new sumac berries fallen on the snow.  I also finally see, sticking out of the snow, the evergreen sapling that Moi told me several weeks ago not to step on – fortunately the path I’ve been tracing in the snow winds around the sapling.  The leaves on the sapling look rather brown, and I don’t know if it will survive to grow much bigger.  Mway catches up to me as I walk toward the clearing. 
State of the Creek:  The path is starting to get pretty muddy along the creek.  I take my time looking among the trees, trying to spot what birds might be chirping there, when suddenly I spot a gray bird I’m not able to identify, then soon afterward a red cardinal, both birds among the branches of two multiflora bushes that engulf two oaks on the opposite bank of the creek.  They take off soon after I spot them – I conclude that the gray bird is the red cardinal’s female mate.
The Fetch:  There is some bare ground starting to show where the snow is packed down in the clearing.  I don’t hesitate to throw the stick farther than that area, because the snow is now low enough that it doesn’t hinder Mway in any way.   Four fetches.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sleeting a Little

February 22, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  Work in the early afternoon, and when I get home, Moi and Mway are ready to take a nap.  I first call my automated probation officer, then I go up for a nap myself.  I actually do fall asleep, and it is five when I wake up.  Moi has already taken Mway out, and she says it is starting to sleet or rain.  I take my pill of penicillin; Mway, although she’s just been out, is nevertheless pacing around and giving me the eye.  I step outside in my bedroom slippers; it does not seem to be doing anything very hard.  I feel weak – I haven’t had anything to eat since Sunday noon except two cans of nutrient-enriched liquid shakes – but I decide to take Mway out anyway.
State of the Path:  Parts of the sidewalk are showing on the way to the coop; muddy paw prints appear at the start of the path.  In the walled garden, a bag of trash is split open, with papers spilling out.   Just before the pig pen, the path is no longer muddy, but the foot prints in it are gray with slush and ice.  Walking through the sumacs, I spy a rabbit running across the snow.  Mway doesn’t see it; instead starts running toward the clearing, but doubles back when she sees I’m heading toward the creek.  In the snow in the field, there are lots of paw prints, urine, and feces; weeds seem to stand out more.  Down by the wigwams, parts of the path are bare with brown grass, and under the maples, the snow is gone.  Under the oaks along the creek, it’s also bare and muddy.  And, as she runs ahead of me, Mway leaves some new muddy foot prints on the patch coming back up through bug land.
State of the Creek:  The stream is entirely visible the length of the path.  Though the creek is still banked in snow for the most part, there are large portions of the bank that are bare, showing leaves, branches, and other debris that got caught up in roots from the rain a few weeks ago.  The water behind the log and barrel jam is still and has scum on top of it.
The Fetch:  By the time we reach the clearing, I realize there is no longer any sleet or rain coming down.  The clearing is still covered with snow, and I position myself near the exit so I can toss the stick within the packed down area of snow.   Mway is full of energy.  After the first toss, the stick ends up more in the unpacked snow, but it is shallow enough that the snow does not hinder Mway in any way.  By the time we get up to about four or five fetches, I think Mway is going to keep on going, but as soon as I think that, she runs past me and heads off way ahead of me back to the house.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sunday As Usual

February 21, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  Work all day today and do not get home till after dark.  No walk for Mway from me today.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Saturday Like Sunday

February 20, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  Usually Moi and I work together on Saturday night, but today I’m working in the late afternoon in W________.  I woke up about 7 am to take some penicillin, but then I fell back to sleep and didn’t wake again until 11.  Mway and Moi go upstairs to take a nap at noon and don’t wake up until just before I’m ready to head out the door.  No walk for Mway from me today.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Three Rolls in the Snow

February 19, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  Work tonight and have to leave about 4:15.  Take Mway out about 2.  I don’t bother to put on my walking clothes, but suit up in the same clothes (a newer pair of jeans and a cleaner shirt) I’ve been wearing all day to go to the dentist and to drive Moi back and forth to the garage.
State of the Path:   Wish again I had sunglasses, but I hadn’t bothered to put in my contacts to go to the dentist and I have no clip-ons to put on over my glasses.  The snow is starting to slush up on the sidewalk, but it and the path, and the ground all around, are still covered with snow.  But my sticks do not have as much snow to plunge through before they hit the ground, and in a few places the foot prints we have placed in the path have almost melted all the way down to dirt and grass.  Three times on the way to the creek, Mway flips over on her back to roll in the snow.
State of the Creek:  The water is running in a low stream along much of the creek; only in shady places, such as behind the log and barrel jam, does the snow still reach from bank to bank.  In front of the log jam, there is a berg of ice floating in the brown water; downstream some, in front of another pile up of sticks and leaves, some cow piss foam floats on top of the water.  Birds are chirping and singing in the trees.  Coming up to the clearing, I see and hear two crows flying overhead.
The Fetch:  As I enter the clearing, Mway has taken off up the path to run after something or other, and I have to call her back.  I throw the stick once where the snow is packed down; she brings it back only half way, but barks loudly.  I throw the next stick a little farther, placing it into the untouched snow, and Mway dashes after it, has not too much trouble digging it up, and brings it back.  Three more fetches in like manner, and Mway decides she’s done for the day.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Wish I Was Wearing Sunglasses

February 18, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  Work tonight, have to leave around 3:30.   Take Mway out at 1:30.
State of the Path:  Wish I was wearing sunglasses as soon as I step outside.  The snow is soft today, and for a while it seems easy walking.  But beyond the sumacs, my feet slide a number of times through the powder.  Coming along the other side of bug land, the path is still choppy.  I hear a bird chirping in the sumacs, but can’t see it.
State of the Creek:  More water showing today; some places slush; but still mounds of snow at places, and even snow topped rocks.
The Fetch:  By the time I get to the clearing I am sweating.  Two fetches, and that is all I feel like doing myself.  Inside, my tooth, or teeth, start to ache, affected, I believe, by the cold.  Tomorrow morning I have an appointment for the dentist.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Very Red Rabbit Pee

February 17, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  Work tonight, but decide to take Mway out around 12:45 so I’m not in a rush later.  Mway is already outside sitting on the porch.  The Boy then goes out to do some chores Moi set for him, and Mway starts following him around.  Moi is on the phone with her friend, Laurie, who she hasn’t heard from in 20 years.
State of the Path:  The Boy and Mway are ready to come in by the time I set foot on the back porch, but I surprise Mway by gathering together my two sticks – no matter, she’s ready for a walk anytime.  Beyond the pig pen, I decide to take the side path along the old orchard.  It’s hard to find exactly where the path is, since the snow is deep here and no one has walked here lately, and I have to negotiate my way mainly by following the lay out of the trees and shrubs.  I walk into one of the ant hills that are along the path, and when I spot the jar candle on the tree, I know I’m going the right way.  Mway follows behind me.  Here and there I see expressways of rabbit prints.  When I come back to the main path, walking seems so much easier.  I also take, for the first time since it’s snowed, the side path along the skating pond, stumbling across the snow covered banks and ice of the feed channel.   Just before the channel, I see what I think is a spot of blood – I expect Mway to really start sniffing at it.  But she ignores it, and looking at it more closely, I conclude that it must just be some very red rabbit pee, there being plenty specimens of rabbit pee along the path.
State of the Creek:  In the middle of the path along the creek, I start tearing down some of the low hanging branches of multiflora that engulf two of the oaks there.  I take a close look at the shrubs – on the one tree the shrub goes up about half way up the tree, on the other a shrub seems to climb up two-thirds of the way.
The Fetch:  Mway only makes three fetches.  When I get back into the house, Moi is still on the phone with Laurie.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Two Cardinals

February 16, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  Work rather late tonight, at 7:30.  Take Mway out about 4, while Moi is starting to make supper.
State of the Path:  There’s a new coating of snow on the ground.  The path out to the clearing is well packed, but beyond the sumacs it is less clear – which means that in the mornings Moi has only taken Mway out as far as the clearing.  Walking along the creek, I spot boot prints going across bug land – probably from Moi taking a short cut a day or two before.  Coming up from the ridge around bug land, I hear a fascinating and rather complicated bird call coming from some shrubs – I’m about ready to despair of ever identifying what birds are making these sounds, when looking through the branches I finally make out a male cardinal.  The next moment he and his female companion fly out of the bushes.
State of the Creek:  Still mostly covered with snow, but the visible portions of the water look like so many ponds surrounded by curvy bends of snow.
The Fetch:   Two fetches today.  When we are back at the back door, Mway is pouncing on the door to get in.   She knows Moi is cooking.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

It Doesn't Matter It's Washington's Birthday Observed or Presidents Day

February 15, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  No work today: it’s a vacation day, though an unpaid one.  Take Mway out around 3.
State of the Path:   More sumac berries on the snow, more rabbit turds on the path, spots of brown or yellow urine here and there.  Walking’s about the same.  My cap gets caught a lot, and I tear away a few hanging briars and branches.  Across the field the snow looks just a little older and grayer on this gray day.
State of the Creek:  Still covered with snow, though in a few spots, the snow seems to be melting down into a gray slush.  Walking along the creek, I first hear, then see, a green two-propeller helicopter flying over the ridge above F_____ Road.
The Fetch:   This is one of those days I just don’t feel like tossing a stick.  Fortunately, Mway only makes two fetches, and heads back to the house.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day Falls on a Sunday

February 14, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation.  Work all day today, don’t come home till after dark.  No walk for Mway from me today.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Choppy Snow

February 13, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  Moi and I both work tonight.  At noon I suggest that we go out to eat at Arlene’s – as we’ll be eating also later tonight at work, Moi complains that two full meals are too much to eat in one day.  I take Mway out about 3:45.  Down in the kitchen, I’m happy to see that she hasn’t disturbed my boots.   As I put on my snow suit, Mway charges at Squeak, who rears up on her hind legs.
State of the Path:  Mway takes a dump first by the chicken coop then on the path before the pig pen.  She’s full of energy and runs way ahead of me, just past the sumacs flipping over on her back and rolling in the snow.  It seems tougher walking today;  the path is choppy, a combination of hard packed ridges, icy foot prints,  and powder, which too many times gives way to my walking stick and fetch stick (which I’m still using in tandem like ski poles) or causes my feet to slide off to the side of the path.   Up above the ridge along bug land, I spot more sumac berries on top of the snow, mouse prints too, a few rabbit turds on the path.  The climb up the path to the clearing is even more tiring than yesterday.
State of the Creek:  Down from the corner property post, some of the snow has given way to the appearance of water.  But from the log jam on down, snow still covers the creek same as before.
The Fetch:  Mway has to wait for me for some time as I’m trudging up the field to the clearing.  Like yesterday she has an easy time fetching the stick where the snow’s been packed down, and I lose track how many times I throw the stick.  A number of times, though, probably in her excitement, she drops the stick short of my feet, and I have to coax her, “Bring it all the way here,” after which she picks up the stick with a growl of exasperation and tosses it at my feet.  Eventually I start throwing the stick into the snow where it’s not packed down, which forces Mway to have to dig it out.  She grows tired of this quickly -- a couple of these throws and she’s ready to head back to the house.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

We Call It the Jazz Bird

February 12, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  Work tonight, have to leave about 3:45, take Mway out at 2:30.
State of the Path:  As soon as I step outside, I wish I was wearing sunglasses it’s so bright.  But it’s far easier walking today, stepping on the snow hardened a little by the sun and from further smashing down.  Across the lawn, across the fields, the snow is remarkably clean and white, and it spreads like a desert across bug land, hiding all but the biggest and most stubborn weeds.  I walk along with a stride, knocking apart the ridges from yesterday’s foot prints.  But by the time I’m walking back uphill to the clearing, I’m surprised to find myself a little tired, my feet tending to step only right in the foot prints that are already there.
State of the Creek:  The loopy vine is sticking up in the path.  Snow has melted off the barrel, but the logs and ice are still covered.  I hear birds in the trees, and further down a second type of bird – I believe it’s the kind that Moi and I call the jazz bird, although I could be wrong.
The Fetch:   With the snow partly packed down in the clearing, Mway has an easier time fetching, and she goes at it almost as if there were no snow today.  I lose count how many times I throw the stick.   Back at the porch, I note that the stick is caked with snow and glistening with her saliva.  Inside, since my boots are wet, I don’t hide them behind the door as I have been, but put them out in the open beside the clothes hutch, where I hope they’ll dry off better (but I am a little concerned that tomorrow Mway might drag away one or both of my boots, either to the music room or into Moi’s bedroom, like she did for many years, to remind me that it is time for her walk).

Friday, February 11, 2011

Blue Skies Follow Gray

February 11, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  Bright blue skies today.   Expect to work tonight, will have to leave around 3:30.  Last night Moi called the plow man, but by 10 am he hasn’t shown, and Moi is outside shoveling.  I take over at 11, and we clear the driveway by ourselves.  I tell Mway to stay inside while I’m shoveling.  When I come back in about noon, she is under the kitchen table, patiently waiting.
State of the Path:  Moi and Mway have made fresh tracks to the clearing, but beyond the sumacs there’s untouched snow to trudge through.  Mway veers off at places: down at bug land sticking her nose up in the air again; above the ridge around bug land finding herself stuck among briars. Coming down from the summer house, rabbits have made a winding trail through the snow.  Trudging through the snow is more tiring than shoveling 75 yards of lane.
State of the Creek:   Still largely bound in by snow.  There are a few more places where running water can be seen; two spots where you can hear the water trickling.
The Fetch:  There’s a slight clearing in the clearing, where Moi, Mway, and I have previously smashed down snow.  But the problems that Mway had yesterday with fetching the stick plague her again, and I don’t throw the stick more than 10 feet.  She can’t drag it back more than 5 feet.  But again and again, I toss the stick and she doggedly drags it halfway back, snorting, barking.  She keeps at it more than 20 times, then finally decides for herself that she has accomplished whatever it is she accomplishes, and I’m happy to watch her proudly carry the stick back to the house.   Inside, she runs to her water dish, while I remove a briar that’s clinging to my wool cap.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Snowing Two Inches an Hour

February 10, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  At about 9 this morning Moi wakes me with the report that it is snowing about 2 inches an hour, and according to the meteorologists it’s suppose to snow all day.  Out my office window, the snow is gathering deep on everything; it seems likely that my work for tonight will be cancelled.  Moi tells me that she wants to go down to her new wigwam and fetch a tarp from there to put over the chicken cage.  Downstairs I put on my snow suit and orange wool cap; Moi dons a flannel wool jacket and wide-brimmed hat, telling me that “the hat is what the Amish use.  It’s better than a cap, because it keeps snow from falling down your neck.”  Mway is at the door, waiting to go out with us.
State of the Path:  Mway scoots out the door, and starts leaping through the new snow, smiling.  Moi leads the way down to the new wigwam, clearing with her feet a new path through the snow.  Every tree branch, shrub branch, every weed and briar sticking up, is caked white on one side. The picnic table looks like it has two feet on top of it.  It is not now snowing hard, but the sky is white and snow is in the air.  We get the tarp, but there is another one already on the cage, with snow and ice on top of it, which Moi starts scraping off.  The chickens haven’t ventured out of the coop.   When she sees me just standing around, Moi snarls, “You can help too.”  We finally get the tarp off, and Moi starts putting the new tarp on and reapplying the old one, suggesting that I shovel off the walk to the chicken coop.  I’m wearing my glasses, and snow has stuck to the lenses.  When we’re both done, I tell Moi I’ll take Mway for her walk, but she is no where to be seen.  We both yell, “Mway!  Mway!" and finally she appears from out of the walled garden.  I first take the lead trudging through the new snow, but Mway soon overtakes me, etching a path that leaves a trace of her belly scooping out the snow.
State of the Creek:   The creek is almost hidden in snow.  Only because of the banks winding along can you tell that there is a creek here, and in about three spots I notice, for some reason, cavities in the snow where the water creeps momentarily into sight.  At one of these spots, there is a faint trickling.  I’m careful to duck very low under branches so I don’t get snow down my neck.  But my shoulders and limbs are caked with snow, and water clings to the lenses of my glasses.  From a neighbor’s house comes the pathetic puttering of a snow blower.
The Fetch:   Up in the clearing, I’m careful not to throw the stick more than about ten feet, lest the stick gets lost.   The snow swallows the stick on each throw, and Mway has to sort of surmise where it is when she clamps down at it with her teeth, sometimes coming up with a mouthful of snow instead of the stick.  When she does get the stick, then it becomes a labor to drag its ends through the snow.  She drops it after a few feet, coughing, snorting, and yapping at a high pitch until water clears from her throat and she can bark with a greater volume.  From running back and forth, Mway clears away some of the snow, and it becomes easier on each throw for her to fetch the stick, except that the stick becomes caked with snow that still gets in her mouth and nostrils.  I lose track how many fetches she makes, and eventually, when she lies down and starts angrily chewing bark off the stick, I call it quits.   With the stick between her mouth, she proudly trots to the back porch.  I try to keep up with her because I’m afraid she’ll drop the stick in the backyard and lose it in the snow, but she runs way ahead of me.  When I get to the back porch, sure enough she is standing there without a stick.  I throw up my arms and sigh, “Where’s the stick?”  But Mway knows exactly what I’m asking, disappears for moment around the side of the house, and confidently tosses the stick up on the sidewalk.
            Later on, about 5, I go out to shovel some snow.  Mway comes out with me, but it is not my intent to take her for a second walk.  I shovel off the porch, my car and the area around it, the stoop, and the sidewalk to the chicken coop.  Because Mway is prancing around and eyeing me for a walk, I finally relent and take her to the clearing.  I throw the stick once, and Mway runs after it, but drops it where she finds it.  I don’t feel like dealing with throwing the stick in the snow, so I go over, pick up the stick, and start walking back to the house.  Mway follows, beckoning for the stick by leaping anxiously up at my side.  In the back yard, she leaps and beckons even more, but I keep carrying the stick to the back porch.  Inside, I feel bad for Mway and call her to come to the sofa, but she creeps head down into the music room.  Later on, after supper, I call her again to the sofa.  She comes to the sofa, and I pet her and tell her she’s a good dog, but she keeps her head down.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Loopy Vine

February 9, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:   No work outside the house today, but I don’t get around to taking Mway for a walk until about 10 minutes to 5.   Looking out the living room windows, I see snow starting to fall, the first sight of the forecasted storm for tonight.  I rush upstairs to put on my walking clothes, including my new pair of socks, then rush downstairs to put on my boots and snow suit.   Moi and Mway have been napping, but as I’m putting on my orange wool cap, Moi appears in the kitchen, followed by Mway.
State of the Path:  Mway scoots out the door, pushes her snout into the snow.  She runs ahead of me, sniffing at foot prints, in the walled garden sniffing at the trash and the bushes, then running around the garden pond to stick her head in the pig pen.   The path is still smashed down and it’s still easy walking, but there is a fine powder starting to fill the foot prints.  Passing the sumacs just beyond the pig pen, I notice the same berries scattered across the snow as I noticed down at the ridge yesterday.  Down at bug land, Mway lifts her snout in the air, as if for the first time just noticing that it’s starting to snow.  Along the creek, I note the loopy vine sticking up out of the snow in the path; I haven’t mentioned this vine before because I haven’t lately noticed it, but I’ve been more conscious of it since Moi snapped a picture of it and sent it to me by email.  Lately I think I’ve been more mindful of the two shrubs that close in on the path at this point.  Coming up to the break in the ridge around bug land, I note, also sticking out of the snow, the new evergreen that Moi pointed out and said not to step on.  Seems to me that it’s looking a bit brown. 
State of the Creek:  There’s a new powder of snow forming a layer on the ice; new powder on the barrel in the log jam.  I look for the weird bicycle-tire-like track, but can’t find it anymore.   I spot an empty bird’s nest in a branch of a tree that overhangs the creek, and then spot a broken tree branch caught in the forks of two trees on the other side of the creek.   Like Mway, my head is in the air today more than usual.
The Fetch:  Up in the clearing, Mway greets me with a spot of snow on her nose, which she then wipes off, rather self-consciously it seems to me, with a flick of her tongue.  I throw the stick toward the exit of the clearing; Mway brings it back, coughing and snorting, but more used to the snow in her mouth and nostrils today than yesterday.   Still she doesn’t fetch the stick more than five times, before she’s ready to head back to the house.  As usual, she runs way ahead of me.  As I’m walking back, I see that, unlike at the beginning of our walk, the snow has started lodging visibly on the branches of trees and shrubs.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sumac Berries on the Snow

February 8, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:   Work in the early afternoon.  When I get home, Moi and Mway are napping, so I lie down to read a little.  After about an hour, around 4:30, I hear them get up, so I get up myself, and start to put on my walking clothes.  But I can’t find my white walking socks, so I go downstairs barefoot to see if I put them in front of the wood pellet stove the other day to warm them up, but I can’t find them downstairs either.  I ask Moi if she’s seen them, but she says no and gets me a pair of thick gray socks that, at any rate, will be better than the socks I’ve been wearing.  She then asks me, considering that I might have put my other socks in front of the fire to dry them off, how my boots have been working.   I tell her that there’s been a great improvement, but that my socks still seem to get damp somewhat after a walk.  She says that could be a problem with rubber boots, that my feet may perspire in them.  That may be true, I think, but I also suspect that there might be other hairline cracks in the boots that we’ve overlooked.
State of the Path:  Mway shoots out the door and immediately starts eating snow.  Moi has cleared most of the sidewalk off.   Down by the outbuilding, Mway starts sniffing at prints in the snow, and hangs behind for a while, while I walk past the snow covered trash in the walled garden toward the pig pen.  The path is smashed down by foot and paw prints, and it’s not too difficult walking.   On the side path by the orchard, there are one set of distantly spaced paw prints, probably rabbit prints, but I don’t go that way because the snow is not smashed down on the path.  I find similar prints down on the side path by the skating pond, and I don’t go that way either.  Along the creek, at the midcenter oaks, I tear off a muliflora briar that’s hanging down in the path.  On the other side of the ridge coming back up from bug land, the snow is speckled with red bits of dried sumac flower (I guess they would be the dried berries).
State of the Creek:  Snow still covers the logs at the log and barrel jam, and only around a few shrubs does it seem that the sun has melted the snow, so you can see the ground and brown leaves beneath.  The ice has grown thicker; air bubbles sliding along the thin ice around the rocks; caps of snow on the rocks.  A quiet gurgle here and there.
The Fetch:  I throw the stick once toward the exit of the clearing, and Mway eagerly dashes after it, but she drops it before bringing it all the way back, snorting and coughing, as I see, on the snow that’s gotten in her mouth and nostrils from retrieving the stick.  But then I start throwing the stick back down the path toward the strawberry patch, and Mway has a better time of it, because the stick isn’t sinking into the snow as much.   More than 3 fetches today, but still under 10.  Back in the house, I check my socks.  The one only seems a little damp, but the toe on the other seems soggier than it should be.

Monday, February 7, 2011

He Rested On the Seventh Day

February 7, 2010.  Sunday.  
Situation:  Work all day today, don’t get home till after dark.  No walk for Mway from me today.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

About Ten Inches of Snow

February 6, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:   Last night I made it to work right on the line, for as I was driving home the snow was coming down rather heavily.  This morning Moi, first out to check things, reports that about ten inches have fallen, judging by what’s on the picnic table.  Looking out my office window, I can see and hear the wind every once in a while blowing the snow off the limbs of trees.  Moi also reports that this morning she caught Mway running around with a loaf of bread dangling from her mouth.  Late in the morning, Moi shovels out most of the turnaround and around the mailbox, then I take my turn to shovel out the rest of the lane, about 75 yards of shoveling.  For about two minutes I hear neighbor kids in their yard.  One neighbor is out on his snow tractor, plowing his driveway, another has a snow blower out up near F_____ Road.  The Township truck plow passes by twice; and the mail woman makes her delivery.  After an hour’s work, though I’m quite tired, since I have my snow suit on, I decide to take Mway for her walk.  It’s noon (this afternoon I will have to leave for work around 5).
State of the Path:  Moi didn’t take Mway for a walk this morning, so this is Mway’s first and probably only walk for the day.  Moi has made tracks out to the chicken coop, but after that it’s untouched snow.  Sagging multiflora briars at the outbuilding snag my cap and pull it off my head.  Mway ventures over to the pig pen, and for a while, I’m shuffling through the snow first myself, but then she returns to the path, and I end up following her fresh trail of paw and belly prints.  I don’t see any other animal tracks – the rabbits and squirrels are probably not moving today.  Mway squats twice to poop into the clean white snow on the way to the creek.
State of the Creek:   The creek is packed tight with snow, much of the ice is sludge colored; the log and barrel jam is heaped up with snow.  I have to duck especially low under briars.  In places, though, the water is still running, and you can hear it quietly trickling.
The Fetch:  I’m slightly winded by the time we reach the clearing.  I throw the stick once toward the exit of the clearing.  Mway hops through the snow after it, but she has to practically dig it out to get it, which apparently frustrates her, for she just drops it back down and stands barking over it, while I have to walk over to pick it up.  I throw it one more time, and she digs the stick up again and half-heartedly drags it half-way back.  I turn around, signaling that I’m satisfied and ready to walk back to the house.  But back in the back yard, Mway drops the stick again.  I pick it up to throw it one last time, and Mway fetches it, then lies down and kind of fights with it.  She looks over at me, not sure what she wants to do.  I tell her “That’s it,” and start walking toward the porch.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Lot of Sniffing

February 5, 2010.  Friday.
Situtation:  Work tonight, plus have to leave a little earlier to do some extra work, so take Mway out about 1:30.  She stands in the hallway outside my bedroom door, looking at me as I put on my walking clothes.  Huffs, squeals.   Bends forward on her front legs, to yawn and stretch her muscles.
State of the Path:  She goes up past the lilac bushes by the car to pee, dashes to the chicken coop, sniffs around the walled garden, then scoots down the path to the creek, even as I’m taking the side path along the old orchard – usually she would back track and accompany me along the side path.  I had seen some cardinals outside the kitchen window this morning, and now I hear and see birds (gray ones) in the trees along the back hedge row.  As I come down past the wigwams, I can see Mway investigating around the log jam.  When I start walking along the creek, she’s even on the other side, sniffing, then heading down the ice a little and sniffing along the banks.   I take the side path along the skating pond, and Mway goes up to prowl among the sumacs on the far ridge.  At one point she has her head in a hole, I believe, and snaps her mouth, though nothing comes of it.  As we’re going through bug land, she even goes up to snoop around on top of the ridge around bug land.
State of the Creek:  Though some of the ice is receding, I can still see traces of the weird, bicycle-tire-like trail, and it extends farther than I realized before, going all the way from the central oaks to just beyond the drainage area from bug land.
The Fetch:  Though I pass her while she’s on top of the ridge sniffing around, she comes down when she sees me and beats me to the clearing.  Gives me one extra fetch today, for a total of four.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A White Object

February 4, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  Have to leave for work around 3:30, get ready to take Mway out about 2:15.  I open Moi’s bedroom door – the two have been napping.  Mway is standing behind the door, and for a moment poises as if to play the game that the Boy and I unfortunately taught her at one time and have never been able to unteach her – that of heaving herself against the door to slam it shut then hopping up against it and barking at the transom window.  But I yell at her, “Come on!” and she shoots out the door.
State of the Path:  Mway runs toward the summer house, apparently after a squirrel she must have spotted.  She runs way ahead of me on the path.  Looking across bug land, I see a white object at the other end down by the red willows.  When I come up to that area, I look more closely and see that it’s a white flower pot or piece of PVC pipe – maybe washed down from Moi’s wigwam.   My orange wool cap is caught in a lot of sagging multiflora briars today – these I will have to trim back sometime.
State of the Creek:   Mway again stops to check out the log and barrel jam.  Despite what I might have said yesterday, the blood is still perceptible on the log and on the ice.
The Fetch:   Three fetches.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Strange Track

February 3, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:    Early this morning about an inch of powdery snow has fallen.  Back from her morning walk with Mway, Moi reports seeing a strange track on the snow on the creek.  Because around 1:15 I have to take the garbage out, and Mway sneaks out the door into the back yard, I decide to take her for a walk then, long before I have to leave for work around 4.
State of the Path:  By the time I’m out for my walk with Mway, most of the snow has disappeared; scattered patches here and there, mostly on whatever ice is still around.  On the path down by the creek, the mud is actually slippery.   I take the side path by the skating pond, but I have to negotiate the foot holds along the ditch very carefully.
State of the Creek:  Mway stops again at the log jam – still aware of something that has gone on here, but not able to discover anything substantial.  The blood on the log seems to have disappeared.   Down where the path narrows along the creek before coming back up into bug land, I see the track Moi was talking about.  It looks like a bicycle tire track through the snow, with dog tracks running next to it.   I imagine a coyote or something dragging the limp body and legs of a rabbit.   Down at the skating pond, I consider again going after the golf ball, surveying the ice on the creek for several minutes, but decide again against it.   Back in bug land, instead of heading up to the clearing, Mway wanders off down the side of bug land – perhaps she wants to go back to that log jam – until she sees me passing through the ridge.
The Fetch:   She overtakes me and beats me to the clearing, but only three fetches today.  She is already on the back porch standing in front of the door by the time I get to the back yard.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It Doesn't Matter It's James Joyce's Birthday, Groundhog Day, Candlemas, St. Bridget's Day, or My Parents' Wedding Anniversary

February 2, 2010.   Tuesday.
Situation:   Wake up at 8 am.   The animals are gathering around me even as I pee.  First I snap on the computer, second I go downstairs to let Mway out, third I fill the coffee maker with fresh grounds and water.   While the coffee is slowly getting made, I check the hopper to the wood pellet stove, look out on Mway, who’s sitting on the porch, and consider giving some canned cat food to Squeak, who’s smelling her dish on top of the refrigerator.  I decide not to give her any canned food, at least not right now (for years our cats always ate dried cat food, and I don’t feel like capitulating to this new indulgence on Moi’s part).   Since the coffee pot’s not yet filled, I put on a jacket to check on the chickens.  Mway shoots off the porch and runs to the cage, barking.  With difficulty I open the door to the cage, grab the chickens’ water dish, fill it at the spigot at the house, bring it back – Mway barking like mad the whole time.  Then she finds a stick in the yard, starts running around with it, but dashes to the back door when she sees that’s where I’m heading.  Inside, I fill her dish with dog food.  I learned last night that Moi’s coming home today around suppertime, so it’s only today that I have to take Mway on two walks.  But by late morning, I decide I’m only going to take her on one walk.  I have some rush work to do in the afternoon, and I don’t get around to taking her out till around 4 pm.
State of the Path:   I go to the coop to check for any eggs.  By this time in the afternoon, the chickens have already gone inside, so I create a ruckus when I open the coop door, chickens clucking and beating their wings at my face, running outside, Mway barking.  I find one egg and set it on the picnic table to bring in when I’m finished with the walk.   On the side path by the old orchard, I break apart with my feet several of the blackberry brambles lying across the ground that have been bothering Mway when she walks over them.  Down by the creek, I snap off a couple multiflora briars that are drooping down into the path.
State of the Creek:  Down past the log and barrel jam, I see Mway walking across the creek near some rock rapids to sniff at the weeds by the jam.  The blood on the log and on the ice has turned darker.  Mway knows something’s up, but she doesn’t find anything, and starts back across the creek, first slipping on some ice as she tries to walk across that, but then stepping through the water just above the rocks.   Considering that the ice is still thin in many spots, I decide not even to bother going down the side path by the skating pond to see if I can retrieve the golf ball.
The Fetch:   Standing in the middle of the clearing, I throw the stick in every direction.  Yet Mway only fetches the stick about five times.  She runs way ahead as we’re walking back on the path.   I grab the egg from the picnic table, and inside fill Mway’s dish with dog food.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Blood on the Ice

February 1, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  Moi has gone to Punxatawney to work there for the next couple days, and the Boy is still working in Aspen, Colorado.  That means that tomorrow and possibly Wednesday I’ll have to take Mway out for both her morning and afternoon walks.  When I leave for work late in the morning, Mway is in Moi’s bedroom, lying on the floor on top of Moi’s slippers.  When I come back early in the afternoon, she’s still lying there.  Doesn’t bark when I come in the door, or acknowledge my presence in any way.  But as soon as I start to put on my snow suit around 2:30, she dashes down the stairs and begins circling the kitchen table, ready for her walk.
State of the Path:  Moi’s garden pond and the puddles in front of it are still frozen, and the ground is still pretty hard, although the path from the pig pen down to bug land seems to have new mud jumbled and riddled with foot and paw prints (perhaps from Moi’s walks yesterday?).  I take the side path along the old orchard, Mway still lagging behind once we round the cedar and having to step gingerly over the blackberry and other brambles that still have not been pressed down by me walking over them.   Once we get back to the main path, though, Mway overtakes me and beats me down to the creek.
State of the Creek:   As I start walking along the creek, I see Mway has stopped at the log and barrel jam and is sniffing at one of the logs.  I stop there too, and as I’m looking at the frozen pool behind the jam, testing it with my walking stick, I suddenly see a spot of blood on the ice, and then I see blood splattered all over the log that thwarts the creek.  I look over at the far creek bank, and as it seems to me that the weeds are a little pressed down over there, I imagine a deer coming down at dusk, tripping over the log, and cutting its nose.  As I don’t see any sign of an animal, I move on, but Mway hangs out for a little while, looking up at me as I look back, as if to say, wait a minute, there’s something here to find.   I take the side path to the skating pond, finding it a little hard to cross the feed channel without slipping either on the side of the ditch or on the ice.   Because the weeds are beaten down along the pond, I decide to step up to it and look it over.  There’s definitely moisture and signs of water below the grass and weeds, but not enough, I think to myself, for a skating pond, especially with all the weeds and stuff.  As I turn around at the far ridge and come back along the creek, I spot the golf ball again on the other side and consider walking across the creek to get it.  But when I poke the ice with my walking stick, I find the ice is too thin in this part of the creek to venture across.  As I’m walking up to the clearing, I realize that my walking stick and Mway’s fetching stick are just about the same length, since Mway broke part of my walking stick a few days ago by passing me in the path.
The Fetch:  Mway beats me to clearing, but she only fetches the stick about three times.  Back at the porch, I let Mway in the house, but then I stay outside to do three chores that most of the time Moi would do: bring the trash can back from the end of the lane, check the coop for any eggs (I find three), and haul in a bag of wood pellets.  Back inside, as I see Mway is looking up at me and milling around the kitchen, I see that I’ll have to feed her too.  First I only give her a biscuit, because it seems too early for her supper, but since she keeps looking up at me, I fill her dog dish too.  As she’s eating, I rip open the bag of pellets and start dishing them out into the hopper of the stove (also, usually one of Moi’s chore).   Mway runs over by me and starts barking, the wood pellets rattling in the bag and in the hopper sounding to her just like her dried dog food.