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)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Wish I Brought the Clippers Today

July 31, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  Again I go through the routine, the morning routine I now know so well (discovering that it’s 8:30 when I get down to the kitchen).  When I pull down Squeak’s dish to put a wedge of cat food in it, I find that the wedge I put in it yesterday is still there, dried up – I don’t know why, but Squeak doesn’t eat up the canned food I give to her; fortunately, she has other dry cat food in the laundry room she can eat, so I don’t worry about this.  Last night when I came home from work, I stepped in some dog poop in front of the kitchen sink; yesterday afternoon I only took Mway out in the back yard to fetch stick, and that apparently was not sufficient to get her to evacuate her bowels.  I had seen her pee, but I hadn’t seen her poop (she tends to like to poop on the path).  I work tonight, and I suppose I’ll have to take her at least out to the clearing before I leave.  Since Squeak didn’t eat her food from yesterday, I don’t give her any more today.  I put on my walking clothes, let Mway out the door, go out to take care of the chickens (I realize now I forgot to check for eggs), then Mway and I head for the path.
State of the Path:  In the back yard, there are brown spots in the lawn where the chickens have torn up the grass scratching for handfuls of feed.  Just beyond the walled garden, a crow flies in front of the electric wire and circles back – I don’t think I’ve seen a crow since spring time, and I wonder if they only fly around in spring and autumn.  Mway turns right onto the path toward the clearing (remember, Moi only fetches stick with Mway in the morning, so Mway’s more used to this).  But it’s my intention to take a full walk, and even to go on the side path along the old orchard, so Mway ends up turning around when she sees I’m going off in that direction.  I’ve thought about bringing the clippers with me this morning, but decide to check on the side path first to see how much clipping needs to be done there.  I soon wish that I had brought the clippers.  Some grape vines sprawl out onto the path before the anthills, and some goldenrod hems in the path just beyond.  More grape vine forms a canopy over the path closer to the back hedgerow; in fact, it seems to sprawl onto and form the crown of a tree (one of the boxelders?) that has no leaves of its own.  Near the jack-in-the-pulpits, I lose sight of the path altogether for a moment, confused by bare spots in the ground caused by the drought that steer me in the wrong direction.  Beyond the multiflora bush, I find myself wading through goldenrod and jewelweed for longer than I care to, before I come upon the swatch of path that I had clipped open yesterday.  I see that I will need to bring the clippers with me back here sometime soon.   All along the path, I have to watch out for spider webs strung from the weeds on one side to the weeds on the other.  Down along the creek, it seems I don’t hear the cicadas as loud as they were yesterday (or perhaps I should say “grasshoppers” – the World Book tells me that “grasshoppers ‘sing’ to their mates.  Most species make sounds by rubbing their hind legs against their front wings”).  I walk into and get pricked by a bull thistle (which yesterday I deliberately spared from my clippers).  I look at the tall ironweed, and it bothers me that the petals of their flowers are packed together like paint brushes, so that none of the plants look exactly like the photo in Audubon.  But toward the clearing, I see that the fleabane flowers are still packed together; apparently flowers in general have not opened up all the way yet in the morning sun.  (By the way, yesterday I noticed while going down the lane to get the mail a wildflower that I don’t see out in our fields: some, easily identifiable, chickory, whose flower heads, according to Audubon, “each lasts only a day” and whose “roots can be roasted and ground as a coffee substitute or additive.”)
State of the Creek:  The pool at the log jam is losing water.  Fresh mud in front of the big log thwarts the creek.  The vinyl siding sits completely out of the water, and looks dry.
The Fetch:  Just one fetch this morning – and while this is all right with me, I’m kind of irritated by it, for Mway must know that I’m going to feed her breakfast when we get back.  Maybe Mway has figured out that, no matter how many times she fetches the stick, if I take her out in the morning, she’s going to get fed.  Or maybe she’s just feeling lazy today, or maybe she’s upset that I didn’t take her for a second walk yesterday and she ended up taking a poop in the house.  I have long ago decided that I can’t quite figure out what’s going through her mind, and I don’t know why I’m still speculating about it now.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Continue Clipping from Yesterday

July 30, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  Again, with Moi away, I have to wake up to the morning chores she usually does; but since I learned them the last time she was away, I’ve got them down to a routine, and I even derive a kind of pleasure from carrying them out so efficiently.  First thing, turn on the computer, then go pee while the start-up program is progressing toward the log-on icon; when I’m done peeing I go back to the computer, the icon is ready to be clicked, and I click it.  Then go downstairs, measure out coffee and pour in water, then fork out a wedge of Squeak’s canned cat food and microwave for 15 seconds…and so on.  Everything is carried out so there’s not a wasted movement, not a moment of standing or sitting around waiting.  I don’t know if I would want to do this everyday, but I enjoy it today.  I don’t know what time it is when I first awake; my alarm clock in my bedroom has completely broken, but it must be around 8:30 when Mway and I, after letting out the chickens, feeding them, and checking for eggs, head out onto the path.  I have to work tonight; I’m not sure yet if I’ll take Mway for a full walk this afternoon or not.
State of the Path:  I bring along the clippers again today.  I’m pleased to take in the advantages of my industry from yesterday: the main path opens up before me, about two feet wide, without me having to get my pants soaked from morning dew (though there doesn’t seem to be much dew on the plants this morning anyway).  I trim some weeds that I missed yesterday, cut down a giant ragweed that I previously decided to spare – why did I think to spare it, I wonder, because there’s not as much ragweed this year as in years past?  I look at one plant leaning into the path beneath the maple tree at the edge of the sumacs; I had spared this, but why? – the only thing I know is that it is not a goldenrod.  Then when I get down to where I had whacked down some goldenrod with the stick the other day, at the exiting juncture to the side path, I decide to clip my way through the goldenrod as far as my energy will allow.  Bend down, snip the stems to the right, then to the left, step forward.  Mway follows slowly behind me – and I wonder why?  does she think I’m snooping around for little animals to chase?  I proceed through the goldenrod, following the curve of the path, until I get to the stand of jewelweed, just before the big maple and the area of brambles.  I decide to stop here, and spare the jewelweed – why? because I feel sorry for it this year, so much of it having come up early in the year then dying off in the drought?  I turn around to head back to the main path.  I see the goldernrod swaying some ways away toward the old orchard, and I realize this is Mway, who finally ventured off on her own, indeed, to snoop out little animals.  I head down to the creek.  Yesterday I had noticed, and had forgotten to mention, that there’s not many ripe blackberries anymore; there’s a few clusters of new red ones, but it seems the black ones haven’t lasted for long this year.  I also had noticed that under the big locusts along the creek, the two multiflora bushes that engulfed the two trees at their bases are both dead – nothing left but their dead branches sticking up along the tree trunks.  Did they die because of the drought or because I’ve been cutting back their branches or simply because of old age?  Two honeysuckle bushes continue to thrive next to the multifloras, closer to the edge of bug land.  Through the red willows, I see that I did a pretty good job of clipping here, and I pass through the area quickly.  Also on the other side of the ridge, I did a good clipping job, although the main weeds here are grasses, hard to cut back, and on a wet, dewy morning I might still get wet.  Down at the creek, I again hear the sound of – did I say the other day, grasshoppers?  Seems to me this should be, and I should have said, the sound of cicadas.  It’s not crickets, not locusts.  I don’t think grasshoppers make a sound.  Probably the sound of cicadas.
State of the Creek:  The water in the rock bed between the pool under the tree stand and the pool under the black walnut is dried up.  Pools becoming disconnected again.  The piece of vinyl siding sits pretty much out of the water.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, I fully expect Mway to fetch the stick more times than I care to count.  But only one fetch again today.  Why?  She must know that I’m going to feed her when we get back to the house.  Maybe she thinks that spending a lot of time snooping along the path is equivalent to fetching: if she does the one, she doesn’t have to do the other, to earn her breakfast.  Back at the house, dish out her food.  Pour out coffee, look forward guiltily to first cigarette.  Didn’t see any grasshoppers in the clearing, or maybe just didn’t notice them.  In the back yard, the pool filter is whining away, louder than the sound of cicadas, like the sound of locusts, so loud I close the kitchen door so I don’t have to hear it.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Finally Figure Out the Purple Wildflower Is Ironweed

July 29, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  We got back from NYC yesterday afternoon, about 3:15, a little less than an hour before I had to leave for work.  Since we’d just driven some 200 miles in an un-air-conditioned car, my first priority was to hop into the pool to cool off.  So while Moi talked to Barb about our trip, I slipped on my swimming trunks and got in the water, spending my time largely skimming off dead bugs from the surface of the water, since we left the filter off during the trip as it’s been making a whining noise.  Mway followed me out the door, heading toward the path and looking over her shoulder, only to be disappointed when I stopped far short of the path and started climbing up the pool ladder.  This morning Moi has left for three days of out-of-town work.  It has just been raining, but right now, about 9:10, it looks like it’s clearing up.  I know Moi has fed Mway, but the dog’s been keeping close by my side.  I have to work today, and I know the path will be soaking wet, but right now I’m going to put on my walking clothes and take her out.
State of the Path:  I find the “pro-quality” stick under the bench where I had stored it (I didn’t want Barb using it, lest she might lose it).   Thankfully I had clipped many of the weeds in the main path, or I would get more soaked than I do (as it is I don’t start getting really wet until I hit the red willows and the area over the ridge).  Some of the goldenrod leaning into the path is very strongly anchored in the ground, and the best I can do as I’m walking along is bend the stem in half.  The same brambles that have been clutching at me lately grab my shoulder again today.  The stands of jewelweed that have survived the hot dry weather, particularly below the maples at the edge of bug land and along the creek, seem to look hearty today.  (On our trip to NYC, I found myself gazing at the wild flowers along Interstate XX, seeing fringed loosestrife and common mullein; outside our hotel in Queens, Moi identified lamb’s quarters in the cracks at the street curb.)   I look again at the still unnamed purple wildflowers in bug land (I told Moi about them but she hasn’t yet had the chance to look at them); on the way to the strawberry field I see a specimen growing along the path there, whose flowers have opened up more than the plants down at bug land, and so look less like a thistle and more like the outspreading flowers of knapweed.  Unfortunately Audubon only lists the spotted knapweed, whose flowers are pink, but it seems to me I remember finding a purple knapweed online, which someone called common knapweed; with the evidence before me I’m beginning to think that this plant is at least some kind of knapweed – no, I want to correct myself: looking through Audubon just now I recheck the photo for tall ironweed.  With the plant I just saw today, I see that these purple wildflowers are looking more and more like that photo.  The photo is deceptive: the flowers look much bigger than the quarter inch heads mentioned in the commentary; the leaves are blurry, but they look like what I see, long, thin, lanceolate, pointed.  I do believe I’ve made a definitive identification: tall ironweed (“tall erect stem bears deep purple-blue flower heads in loose terminal clusters,” “bracts beneath flower head blunt-tipped,” “Height: 3 – 7’.”
State of the Creek:  Beyond the multiflora beneath the tree stand, I’m surprised the water is not gushing over the rocks after the rain.  I almost stick my head in a cob web, which I belatedly see strewn with rain drops.  The water covers about three quarters of the vinyl siding.
The Fetch:  Mway seems rusty at first, but maybe it’s because I first stand in a new location in the clearing, but after a while she warms up and fetches the stick more times than I bother to count and plays “Put it down” about five times.  On the way back to the house, she has to stop to readjust her mouth grip on the stick, as it gets knocked out of her mouth by the firm weeds along the path.
Addendum: After I finish work, I take Mway for a second walk, about 4:30, the first afternoon walk I believe I’ve taken her for for a while, because it has simply been too hot.   But I also want to do some clipping.  First I have to do Moi’s evening chores: feed chickens, gather the two eggs I find.  I also turn on the pool and clean out the filter basket; in addition to the leaves and dead bugs I usually find in there, I uncover a drowned bird (a starling?).  The chickens, who have gathered around me to eat any bugs I might dump on the ground, start pecking at the dead bird when I toss it under the lilacs.  Out on the path, I trim along part of what I had clipped before, and then I bend forward in earnest on the way toward the clearing, chopping down goldenrod, sumac saplings, and any briars sticking in the way.  Mway follows slowly behind me, in anticipation, I believe, that we’re heading immediately to the clearing to toss stick.  But I throw her for a loop by turning around suddenly and heading toward the creek.  I do some more rigorous clipping through the red willows and beyond the ridge, trying not to chop down any plants that I think might be promising new wildflowers, but of course I have no strict criteria to follow, so I have no idea really what I might have spared or not.  I’m a little disconcerted when, after chopping down a row of goldenrod, I find suddenly revealed a lot of hearty poison ivy plants close to the ground, and I try to clip off the tops of these as best as my waning energy will allow me.  Up at the clearing, finally, I expect Mway to fetch the stick many times.  Moi mentioned to me a couple days ago that she has discovered that Mway will not eat her food if she has not taken her out to fetch stick beforehand.  This observation confirms to me that Mway associates food and fetching, that the one is the just reward, or just wage, for the other.  So I’m surprised when Mway only fetches the stick once.  But things could be more complicated.  Mway has perhaps become accustomed to me taking her for a walk between feedings, an extra walk, as it were, which does not require her to fetch the stick many times.  Moi has said that if Mway does something twice it becomes a rule.  And Mway perhaps had no idea that when we got to the house I would dish out some food for her; but I have no idea, really, what goes on in the dog’s mind.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mway's Smiling Face in the Goldenrod

July 26, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  So far today I have no work, although I will have to check my email again before noon to see if anything came in.  I will have to mow the lawn sometime today; with the storms and humidity of the last few days, though there are brown spots in the lawn, much of the grass has gotten high.  It is cool today, the humidity gone, a breeze blowing in the office window.  Tomorrow Moi and I are going to NYC to visit the Boy.  He’s scheduled us for a taping of the “Daily Show.”  We plan to stay the night in a hotel, then come back Wednesday in time for me to work Wednesday night.  Barb Dennehy will stay at the house to watch Mway, Squeak, and the chickens.  I may not have time on Tuesday or Wednesday to take Mway for a walk, or if I do I may not have time to write about it in this journal.  Moi is working this morning, and she already has thrown stick with Mway and has fed her, but she hasn’t taken her for a walk.  The dog is lying down in front of my bedroom door, waiting, I’m sure, for me to put on my walking clothes.  It’s 9:48.
State of the Path:  The sky is striking, almost artificial like a china bowl, in its blue cloudlessness, especially above the green leafy tree tops.  Out on the side path, I run into a 4-foot curly dock, like those in the front of the house – it must have been here before, but I’d never noticed it.  A strange flower, something like a heal-all, sprouts from one of the anthills; its center seems to have burst open with dark purple seeds or buds; I haven’t seen this happen with any of the other heal-alls, so I’m not sure what kind of plant this is.   As I round the bend of the side path and come into the goldenrod, I regret not bringing my clippers.  It’s a cool day, a good day for clipping.  The path is almost imperceptible through the goldenrod, with occasional briars sticking out in the way.  When I get to the main path, I think about going back to the house to get the clippers.  But instead I start whacking, rather impulsively, at the goldenrod I’ve just waded through with the “pro-quality” stick.  The plants fold back, and soon I see, just beyond the reach of my stick, Mway’s tiny smiling face looking at me through the leaves and stems; I’m immediately thankful I didn’t bash in the head of the poor dog.  Along the creek, I determine that the yellow flowers I thought might be St. johnswort are indeed that; I see the markings on the flowers; they’re just not as big as the ones above the ridge.  The fringed loosestrife, I’m sure also, is fringed loosestrife; but it’s also not as vigorous as plants I’d seen earlier; I see a few more specimens along the crest of the skating pond (to get across the feed channel, I have to grab hold of the honeysuckle bush).  Among the red willows, I take another look at the pink carnation-like, milkweed-type plant.  Whatever it is, I still don’t find anything like it in the Audubon, just like the purple wildflowers growing up nameless a little farther beyond in bug land.
State of the Creek:  As I near the creek, I hear a bullfrog.  Below the tree stand, I look beyond the multiflora bush and actually see water flowing toward the pool of water beneath the big maple tree, which Mway wades into as usual.  All along the creek, there is water, trickling through the rocks, flowing around weeds, shimmering in the pools, with smoky shadows cast across the pools’ surfaces.  The vinyl siding is completely under water, and near the car tire, water trickles through the wide basin of rocks.  The water, though, is not high enough to be heard, and as I note this I realize I’ve been hearing the constant shimmering racket of grasshoppers, or some sort of grasshopper-like insect.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, Mway makes one fetch – just as expected on a morning walk after Moi has already tossed stick with her.  Before I throw the stick, I see what I believe are little grasshoppers leaping, out of fear of my approaching legs, from one goldenrod plant to the next.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A New Pink Wildflower I Can't Identify

July 25, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  I have to, as usual, work today, but at a different place, so I won’t have as much commuting time taking up my day.  It rained last night so I’m curious to know how the creek is faring.  When I wake up, Moi is milling around the house, getting ready to take Mway out to fetch stick (she won’t take her for a walk when the weeds are wet). (I have to break off for a moment and jump in the pool; sweat is pouring down my face as I write.)  Mway must bark for about 10 minutes while waiting for Moi to take her out; “Damn it,” I think to myself, “take the dog out already.”  Finally she takes Mway out, and I have to deal with my computer warming up.  I don’t have to leave for work till noon; Moi plans to bottle beer, and has cleaned the kitchen, with a strict pronouncement that I have to eat my breakfast by a certain time.  At any rate, when Moi finishes fetching stick with Mway, I decide to take the dog for a full walk; there could be thunderstorms this afternoon and evening.  Mway is already outside when I step out the door, about 10.
State of the Path:  I stick to the main path.  The weeds are dripping a little with rain, but the path is fairly open since I clipped many of the weeds a few days ago, although there is a new line of weeds leaning into the path, including the moth mullein I spared with my clippers.  At bug land, the red grass, with brown lower stems, is bent over and thatched together.  Between the pin oaks and the hedgerow, the ground looks like an autumn scene: no plants, brown leaves and broken branches, dead branches hanging down from the big oak in the hedgerow.  I walk past the flowers that, when I look at them today, I doubt are St. johnswort, but I have no time to bother to try to identify them today.  The weeds are choking the path at the swale from bug land, through the red willows, and on the other side of the ridge.  I wander over to the feed channel.  There’s a little bit of water in it, and I don’t intend to step across.  Just before it, I spot a new wildflower with a pink carnation-like flower; it looks something like milkweed; I’ve leafed through Audubon without finding anything I can confidently say is it.  The purple wildflowers stand tall in bug land, a dozen or more plants in all, as nameless as ever.  On the other side of the ridge, before the anthill, a bramble clutches me across the chest, almost scratching my face.
State of the Creek:  The pools look a little fuller, but not as much as I expected from the hard rains last night.  The rock beds between the pools are still mostly dry.  At the pool beyond the big locusts, the water does not yet touch the piece of vinyl siding.
The Fetch:  Since Moi already threw stick for Mway, I expect Mway to only fetch the stick once up at the clearing.  And, dripping with sweat as I am, I’m very happy when she does just that.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Catbird? and -- Could It Be a Black-throated Sparrow?

July 24, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  Moi is working all day today, and I’m working alone tonight.  Decide to take Mway out in the morning, before the heat and possible thunderstorms of the afternoon.  It’s 10:42.  Yesterday Steve Gray Wolf came to the house to look at the possibility of painting the high part of the side of our house.  He said he’s extremely allergic to poison ivy and that we’d have to pull all of it out of the flower beds (more properly called “weed” beds) before he could paint.  Usually once a summer I pull down any poison ivy vines that have started creeping up the side of the house, and I clip the leaves of any poison ivy I see, but to pull it out, to dig down in the ground and pull out the root system, is a major undertaking, and Moi and I haven’t discussed the matter.  While we’re out looking at the side of the house, I see two curly dock plants (Moi has to remind me of the name) that are each about 4 feet high.  Steve has never seen curly dock (a common lawn weed) at that height.  “All our plants grow to their maximum heights,” Moi boasts.
State of the Path:  Out in the lawn I see a black-capped chickadee fly from the grass into the mulberry tree.  I haven’t been mentioning birds too much lately, mainly because they’ve been usually hidden in trees.  I call this bird a chickadee, but, after looking through Audubon, I think it looks more like a black-throated sparrow, and I would say it was a black-throated sparrow, except that Audubon says this is a bird of the arid Southwest.  Near the walled garden, I spot another bull thistle along the path; the one deeper in the weeds has sprouted fuzzy seeds.  Along the old orchard, I see a hollow in the trunk of a black walnut tree, and I poke the “pro-quality” stick into it.  A monarch butterfly (though it could be a viceroy) sails by the back hedgerow.  I didn’t bring along the clippers, but I pull up a goldenrod or three or four as I walk along; still have to wade through them at the end of the side path.  Down at the wigwams, I spot one of the purple wildflowers I’ve been trying to identify, and along the creek, I see some new yellow flowers.  I don’t feel like trying to identify them today, and, anyway, I think they might be St. johnswort.  Some sort of mammal with bright brown fur scoots ahead of us along the creek – I don’t know what it is; Mway doesn’t see it, but catches its scent after it’s gone.  Along the ridge, I go to look at the purple wildflowers again.  It angers me that I don’t know what these are, because I remember seeing them in years past.  Beyond what I described yesterday, I note that these plants have reddish stems, and reddish veins down the center of its leaves.  Just before the strawberry patch, a bird in a maple tree scolds me with an obscene sucking sound.  Is it a catbird?  I don’t know what it is, and I can’t see any bird when I look up in the tree.
State of the Creek:  The pools of water are shrinking; what water used to be lying below the big locusts is now gone; the rock beds are dry again.  The fungus on the log at the log jam has fallen off or shriveled up.
The Fetch:  No messing around today – just one fetch. (But, after all, Moi already took her out this morning.)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Still Can't Identify the Purple Wildflower

July 23, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  Last night I described to Moi the purple wildflower down at bug land – without looking at it, she said it was probably Canadian thistle, but I don’t think she’s right about this.  This morning I searched thistle online, as well as the similar knapweed, but I didn’t find anything to my satisfaction.  The photo on one site of a common knapweed showed a flower very similar to mine, but nothing in the description of the plant seemed right.  I came across a guy named Josh in a similar dilemma I’m in, but with the advantage of having a camera, who posted a flower he took a photo of and confessed he didn’t know whether it was a thistle or a knapweed, and asked for comments.  I see I’m hardly alone in the world about being confused about wildflowers, but Josh’s flower, whether a thistle or a knapweed, didn’t look like mine.  I have to work tonight, and decide to take Mway for her walk about 10:30, bringing along the Audubon, though without much hope of settling my confusion.
State of the Path:  Near the pig pen, underneath a couple young black walnut trees, I see a bull thistle – no doubt in my mind about this, as the photo in Audubon matches exactly what I see, and whatever’s down at bug land is definitely not a bull thistle.  I decide to take the side path along the old orchard, as I haven’t gone this way in a while.  With the dry weather, the path is still fairly open, except where it finally goes into the goldenrod, which I end up having to wade through.  Some of the jack-in-the-pulpit fruit is still green, some white and rotting, and others, I notice for the first time, are turning orange.  Jewelweed is still flowering here and there, but not as much as I recall it doing in past years.  I don’t whack back any weeds with my stick, although I think about bringing my clippers with me on a walk soon, and I have to pull aside many briars that arch along the path.  Down near the wigwams, a bramble seizes my shoulder and claws my skin for a step or two before I finally pull away from it.  Along the creek, I decide that the yellow flower I saw yesterday is indeed fringed loosestrife, but much beleaguered from the dry weather.  Finally in bug land, I take another look at the purple wildflower – I still can’t identify it.  Whatever it is it has purple thistle-like flowers, about a half-inch wide, with bracts beneath them, appearing in clusters at the crown.  The clusters on some of the plants have as many as thirty potential flowers, although only a half dozen to a dozen of the flowers in the center are opened.  The leaves are bluish-green, elongated, with fine serrations on the edge.  If I had a camera like Josh, I could post a photo online, and ask for help; as it is, I can only close my book and head with my stick up to the clearing.
State of the Creek:  Under the tree stand, Mway goes into the pool of water – still enough water to take a sip and cool off.   Down where the path narrows, I notice that the piece of vinyl siding, which was under water when I last mentioned it, is now lying on dry creek bed –  the vinyl siding acts as a good marker for the water level.  I see some movement of frogs in the pool of water here, and as I’m trying to see what’s going on, I lose my footing on the creek bank and nearly fall into a patch of weeds.
The Fetch:  Only one fetch – good enough for Mway, good enough for me.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Try to Identify Purple Wildflower in Bug Land

July 22, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  I have to work both this afternoon and tonight, so I’ve decided to take Mway out this morning, about 10.
State of the Path:  I bring along the Audubon, my focus to identify the purple wildflower in bug land.  Along the creek, I come across one specimen of a new yellow wildflower, but I’m unable to identify this – I don’t think it’s more fringed loosestrife.  Disappointed I move on to the purple flower.  This seems to me to have petals and bracts like a thistle, but its color is purple and not rose like all the thistles in the book.  The stem and leaves look something like in the photo for tall ironweed, but the flower is all wrong.  Perhaps Moi knows what this plant is.
State of the Creek:  The pools holding their own, water drying up between them.  On the big log at the log jam, a fungus has emerged.  Will I ever have time to try to identify this?
The Fetch:  Two fetches, then Mway forces me to play “Put it down” once.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Weeds Still Brush Against Arms and Legs

July 21, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  I have to leave for work about 4, and take Mway out about 2:45.
State of the Path:  Since I also want to get in a swim before I leave, I’m pretty much in a hurry today.  Most interested in how the path fares where I clipped yesterday: while weeds no long hit me across the chest, they still, for the most part, brush my arms and legs, but this is an improvement.  Wonder again what the purple wildflowers in bug land are – wish I had time to scour through the Audubon; this plant must be in there somewhere.  Eat a dozen blackberries on the way to the strawberry patch, all of them sweet and juicy, with a slight musty undertaste to them.
State of the Creek:  In the pool beneath the black walnut tree, notice some sort of aquatic plant.  Don’t think it’s duckweed; it has spiky leaves like goose grass.
The Fetch:  On the second fetch, Mway backs away from the “pro-quality” stick as if it’s bitten her, then looks back at me, with one paw raised, as if to plead “Time out.”  Never saw her assume such a stance before.  I have no problem with stopping at this point, though, and start walking toward the stick.  Mway picks it up and heads toward the house.  Moi’s student Alma has arrived, with treats, and perhaps Mway knew this.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

While McNeighbor Chainsaws Our Tree, I Clip Back along the Path

July 20, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  Work this afternoon, and take Mway out about 4:30.  Earlier this morning I heard a chain saw and thought I’d better walk out toward the back acre to make sure one of the McNeighbors wasn’t making some sort of incursion on our land (as at least one has done in the past, namely, by cutting down trees and dumping spare cement on the ground).  I see two guys amidst some sawed-off branches near a black walnut tree, and figure this must be the McNeighbor concerned about black walnuts dirtying his McLawn and finally getting around to trimming back the tree.  Before I go out on the walk, Moi goes out to check the apple trees by the outbuilding.  She’s a little upset because the small apples she had seen on the tree are now all gone.  “I wonder if they were blown away by the wind,” she says.  We also check her plum tree.  This year was the first year any plums turned purple on the tree, but in the course of the season they all dried up and rotted on the ground.
State of the Path:  I bring along the clippers to widen the path a little as I thought about doing yesterday.  Mainly I just work along the main path from the walled garden down to the wigwams, cutting back goldenrod, sumac saplings, briars, honeysuckle and red willow branches, and trying not to touch any plant that’s not so prevalent, namely, the moth mullein near the wigwams.  My legs are still sore from yesterday’s mowing, and I do a fairly half-ass job, but it’s better than nothing.  Hardest to clip back is the grass, and I don’t even bother with any of the red grass down at bug land, although this is pretty much still covering up the path after being beaten down by the last rain, and it would be nice to clip this back.  Coming along the ridge around bug land, I see a new wildflower, purple and tall, in the middle of bug land, and I walk over into the tall grass, to look at what are more than a half dozen of these plants.  Damn, though, if I can find this plant right now in Audubon.
State of the Creek:  The rock bed between the tree stand and the black walnut tree is almost completely dry, and the rock beds between the other pools are drying, so the pools are becoming disconnected again.  At the pool at the log jam, I watch some sort of dragonfly darting across some newly exposed mud.
The Fetch:  I see a cardinal fly across the clearing as I’m walking toward it – haven’t seen one of these in a while, though I’ve probably been hearing them all summer, invisible in the honeysuckles.  Up at the clearing, I see there’s a new giant anthill in front of the red willow at the corner of the clearing, and I do see one ant crawling around on top of it.  I realize that in past days I’ve been throwing the stick towards this anthill a lot, so today I try to throw the stick in a different direction.  Mway fetches the “pro-quality” stick more times than I care to count – many of the tosses end up being toward the ant hill anyway.  After playing “Put it down” a number of times, Mway dashes after the stick, then just stands in the middle of the goldenrod, panting and looking back at me with her tongue hanging out.   I think maybe she might have stuck her nose in a nettle, but I don’t see any when I walk up to the stick.  Probably she’s just worn herself out, and I toss the stick one more time, and we head back to the house.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Trip down the Path; Glance at Vinyl Siding; Go in Pool

July 19, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  I work this afternoon, and after a cold supper that Moi prepares, I decide to mow the lawn.  Sort of like giving a haircut to a marine, but it gives me a chance to see some wildflowers I don’t see too much in the fields.  Aside from the heal-all and clover in the back yard, there’s a lot of buckeye (English plantain) in the side yard and in my father’s lane.  There’s a giant pokeweed in front of the evergreen where Moi has buried the cats, and a giant burdock in front of the cellar door.  After I finish mowing the lawn, I take Mway for her walk, about 7 pm.
State of the Path:  I’m exhausted after mowing the lawn, and trip a lot along the path.  Just down to the creek and back is all I can take.  I think about how it would be good to take the clippers to widen the path a little, making sure to be careful to leave such things as the moth mullein, which has a few flowers on it today.  I take a pee in the shade of the maples, while Mway rummages around Moi’s collapsing wigwam.   It is tempting to eat some of the blackberries, but I am too tired even to eat.
State of the Creek:  There’s about as much water in the creek today as there was yesterday.  Down past the big locusts, just before the narrows before the swale to bug land, there’s a piece of what looks like vinyl siding in the water.  This has been there ever since I started keeping this journal, but I don’t believe I have mentioned it before.  I’ve mentioned the plastic barrel and the car tire, but I don’t know why I’ve never mentioned this – my glance probably falls upon it on every walk
The Fetch:  I’m hoping Mway doesn’t want to fetch the stick much today, but she goes after it more times than I care to count, then even forces me to play “Put it down” about five or six times.  I throw the stick into a triangle of goldenrod, formed by the path that comes up from the strawberry field and the path in the middle of the clearing that Mway has beatened down in fetching the stick.  Back at the house, Mway drops the stick somewhere in the yard.  At the door, since this is the “pro-quality” stick I’ve been using for months now, I ask Mway where the stick is.  She knows exactly what I’m asking her, and with what seems to me great enthusiasm she goes over to where she dropped it, carries it to the door, and redrops it there.  After I let her in the house, I get ready to go into the pool.  I’m too tired to put on my suit, so I just hang up my workshirt soaked with sweat on the line (I’ve already taken my pants and sweat socks off inside).  I turn off the filter and clean out the basket filled with leaves and some bugs, then hang my underpants on the clothesline next to the towel that’s perpetually on the line.  Usually when I get in our above-ground pool (which is about every day), I swim twenty laps around the circumference, doing ten laps of breast stroke, five of back stroke with inverted frog leg and hand strokes, two of side stroke on one side, two of side stroke on the other side, then a final lap of breast stroke or a mock head-above-the-water Australian crawl (the pool’s too small to do a proper Australian crawl).  Today, though, I’m too tired to do all this, and I figure I can skip all the laps.   I still have to scoop up from the water whatever willow or maple leaves have fallen in the water and whatever gnats, flies, bees, or beetles have died in it.  Usually when I’m doing this, and cleaning out the basket, the chickens are milling around ready to snap up any dead bugs I’ve dumped on the ground.  Tonight, though, they’ve already retired to their coop; only the gray hen, which Moi has noted lays the biggest eggs, is still pecking around, and eventually she wanders toward the pool.  The other day I mentioned to Moi how efficient I thought it was that the chickens eat the dead bugs from the pool.  “Yeah,” she said fatalistically, “Bugs killed by Bacquacil, and we eat the eggs that the chickens lay.”  I hadn’t thought about that.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Blackberries an Inch Long or More

July 18, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  Work all day today, get home shortly before 7.  The Boy is still around, waiting for traffic to slow down before returning to NYC, so I have just a short time to take Mway for a walk before seeing him off.
State of the Path:  Just a quick walk down to the creek and back.  The moth mullein is growing taller, but no flowers have bloomed on it yet.  Eat a number of blackberries.  Above the ridge before the clearing, there’s a copious stand of ripe blackberries, a lot of them an inch long or more.  Would be good to gather them up in a bowel, eat them with milk and sugar, if I didn’t worry about seeds in my teeth.  (I’m afraid I might have a seed in my cracked molar, right now as I write.)
State of the Creek:  The creek is, more or less, still a creek.  But becoming less of one, as the water goes down in the runs of rocks between the pools.
The Fetch:   After a few fetches, Mway gets me playing “Put it down” more times than I care to count.   After a while, I wonder if she’s egging me on, or if I’m the one egging her on.  Eventually she pauses for a moment at the red willow where she’s picked up the stick, before returning to me, and I take this as a cue that’s she’s had enough.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dumb Me Should Have Known Yarrow

July 17, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  Yesterday afternoon, before going to work, I told Moi about the problem I was having in identifying the plants, one of which I’m sure is Queen Anne’s lace, or wild carrot.  Moi takes me out to the garden, where there’s a big wild carrot growing, and I see immediately that that’s the same as the second plant I saw in the clearing.  Referring to the similarity with poisonous hemlock, Moi says that that’s a plant that flowers in the spring; and, indeed, I recall seeing hemlock this spring, not in the fields, which is why I didn’t mention it, but along the perimeter of the lawn and in the midst of a stand of day lilies in the middle of the lawn.  Moi then tells me that the other plant I’ve been seeing, and have been hesitant to call wild carrot, is probably yarrow.  I fairly smack myself in the head, because this is a plant I should know, and I run into the house to look yarrow up in the Audubon.  The book has a photo of yarrow on the same page as Queen Anne’s lace, but it is a close-up view of the plant, a butterfly’s perspective, and doesn’t show any of the leaves.  In the entry on the plant, though, is a perfect description of what I’ve been seeing: “flat-topped clusters of small, whitish flowers grow at the top of a gray-green, leafy, usually hairy, stem”; “leaves…long, very finely dissected, gray-green, fern-like.”  If Audubon had had a photo from a human perspective in the book, I would have recognized the plant right away.  While we’re still out in the yard, I realize that the purple plants growing in the lawn, and about the only thing that’s been growing there the last few weeks, is heal-all, smaller specimens of the same plant I saw down at bug land, and I point this out to Moi, who didn’t know before what the plant was and is happy to learn what it is.  Moi and I both work tonight together, and sometime before then, I’ll be taking Mway out for her walk; in fact, why don’t I do that now – it’s 10:38.  I’m sure Moi didn’t take her for a walk earlier, and the Boy is visiting from NYC, he can take Mway out later, whenever he wakes up.  Yesterday late in the afternoon, a wicked storm passed over, and perhaps I’ll see some evidence of that.  I believe Mway doesn’t stink anymore; at least, she was sleeping in Moi’s room when I came home from work late last night.
State of the Path:  Out in the yard, while I’m taking a pee, the fat rooster pecking at my boot, Mway starts sniffing the grass, and before I know it, she’s flat on her back, rolling in something.  I yell at her to stop.  Just off the walled garden, I see what I think is another new wildflower, but its little purple flowers seem damaged somewhat, and I don’t feel like trying to identify a new plant today.  The weeds aren’t too wet, but they are a jumble in the path; I can barely see where the path is for most of the walk.  Mway shoots down the side path along the old orchard, and I follow.  Long green briars arch across the path, but, with the stress the plants have been experiencing in the dry weather, I’m hesitant to knock anything down.  We round the path at the back hedgerow, and just about at the place where there once was a stand of jack-in-the-pulpits, we stumble upon a rabbit, lying upon its shoulder, its head uplifted, as if it’s gazing at the weeds.  I think at once that it must be injured, but I see nothing to show that.  It sees us, and it’s breathing heavily, and seems to be having trouble getting up, but finally it springs off its belly and dashes into the brambles, with Mway in pursuit.  I don’t really want Mway to chase after it, but I realize that this is what dogs do, and I only half-heartedly tell her to stop.  At any rate, the rabbit seems to be doing well, as Mway thrashes about in the briars, losing sight of the animal, and I walk on.  Mway catches up with me when I get down to the creek.
State of the Creek:  The creek is, I realize as I’m walking along seeing water all along its extent, a creek again.  Trickles among the rocks, a shimmering in the pools, a half dozen frogs leaping into the water as I move toward them.  Even along the crest of the skating pond, water from the pool under the big oak tree flows down through the wide creek bed past the car tire.
The Fetch:  Mway fetches the “pro-quality” stick more times than I care to count, and plays “Put it down” once.  It’s not feeding time for her, and I’m through with trying to figure out what motivates her to fetch the stick many times on one walk and only three times on another, or to play “Put it down” five times or only once.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Fail with One Plant, But Identify a Heal-all

July 16, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  Last night Moi closed the bedroom door on Mway, and Mway was forced to sleep in the hall all night.  This morning, Moi tells me, Mway acted very ashamed, refusing to eat, skulking around the house, and hiding for more than an hour in the bushes outside.  Although Moi last night chided me for not hosing Mway down, as far as I know Moi hasn’t washed Mway either, and the dog might still stink.  I have to work tonight, and I plan to take Mway for a walk sometime this afternoon.  Mway lies down in the corner of the music room, and periodically throughout the morning, I can smell the stench coming from her.  Finally around 11:30 I decide I need some air, and get ready to take Mway out.
State of the Path:  In the walled garden, Mway sniffs a bag of trash, then wanders around, knowing there’s a ground hog somewhere around here.  I take off down the path, then, thinking I don’t want her rolling in anything, call Mway to follow.  She soon comes shooting down the path behind me.  I sniff the air down by the wigwams, but I don’t smell any odor, although perhaps the breeze is carrying it away today.  I’ve brought the Audubon along with me, and my focus is to try to identify decisively what that Queen-Anne’s-lace-like plant is.  I look carefully at a specimen down near the swale from bug land, but I’m still hampered by a photo that doesn’t show what the leaves look like, and I can’t find anywhere on the plant the “one dark reddish-brown floret usually at center of umbel.”  Then walking along the ridge around bug land, I see a new purple wildflower growing all over the place.  I think to myself, “Damn, here’s another wildflower I won’t be able to identify,” but I throw off my gloves and start leafing through the Audubon anyway.  I really despair at finding what I’m looking for, because I can’t even describe what the flower looks like, with some big bulbous thing in the middle of the tiny purple petals.  But to my amazement, after a short while, I come across a photo that matches what I’m looking at exactly.  It’s a photo of a heal-all.  The big bulbous thing, which I think must be part of the flower, is described as the “square stem [that] has dense, cylindrical terminal spikes of purple flowers.”
State of the Creek:  Hear what sounds like a bullfrog coming up from Hutchinson’s land.  The pools remain, but the creek bed between the tree stand and the black walnut tree is dry.  Between the black walnut and the big locusts, water still lies among the rocks, but there is not a trickle to be seen.  Jewelweed grows in some of the dry spots.  I see a frog swimming in one of the pools, which quickly disappears under a stone.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, I take my stance next to some of the Queen-Anne’s-lace type plant, and then I see right next to it something that looks very much like it – another plant, I think, that maybe really is Queen Anne’s lace, for it has an umbel, I guess you’d call it, that looks like something in the Audubon photo.  I throw down my gloves and take out the book, ignoring Mway, who’s waiting for me to throw the stick.   She eventually takes off, as I try to decide which plant before me is actually Queen Anne’s lace and which is something else, perhaps poisonous hemlock.  I’ve also tried to look up both plants online, and have found that wikipedia states that Queen Anne’s lace is often confused with poison hemlock; I realize this is my predicament, and have yet to find a photo that will clear up my confusion.  After a while, I call Mway back to the clearing.  She fetches the stick twice.   I think she only fetches it twice because I’ve taken her for a walk in the middle of the day, after which she won’t get a cup of food in her dish.  Whatever I may have theorized before, I believe that Mway loosely associates fetching the stick with getting fed, and whenever she realizes that a walk is not at feeding time she doesn’t feel obligated to fetch the stick very many times.   Back in the back yard, Mways jumps in her little wading pool to cool off, and leaves the stick crosswise on the rim, as she’s been doing the past several days.  The larger pool, that’s where I’m going to jump into now.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Three Days-In-One: Finally Realize It's Mway Who Stinks

July 13, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  I have no work today, neither for the afternoon nor for the evening.  I don’t even have to mow the lawn.  I’m beginning to feel like a worker who has, if not a weekend, at least a Sunday.  I let Moi do whatever she will with Mway in the morning, reserving my time for the afternoon.  We’re out on the path shortly before 5.
State of the Path:  What weeds are bending into the path today are doing so, not because they’re weighed down by water, but by their own weight and will.  Huge briars arch through the air; stems of goldenrod are bumped by their neighbors into open space.  I take the side path, see the white jack-in-the-pulpit fruit, hear a McNeighbor talking in his McYard.  Find the mullein, but it hasn’t yet flowered.  The red grass is still flattened, but the path through bug land is now visible.  A few flowering jewelweed by the creek, but no seed pods as yet.  A berried honeysuckle branch blocks my way over the feed channel; I tear it off, but don’t quite know where to throw it, lest I unwittingly plant yet another honeysuckle bush.  I toss it under the existing shrub.  Greeted by more black blackberries on the way to the clearing.  I look for one which has lost its luster, having read that they are the sweet ones.  I eat two, which turn out to be rather sour.
State of the Creek:   The puddles have become pools again, as large and as muddy white as they were yesterday.  The one under the tree stand has links to a chain of puddles by where the skunk cabbages grew in the spring.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, Mway fetches the “pro-quality” stick more times than I care to count, then coaxes me to play “Put it down” four or five times.  When I turn around to go back to the house, I have to call her to come.  She fumbles with the stick, and rams my legs, trying to pass me.

July 14, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  It’s raining when I wake up about 9; it’s still raining, a gentle rain, when I sit down to enter this at 10:30.  I have to leave for work tonight about a quarter to 4; sometime before then I should take Mway for a walk, perhaps if and when the rain lets up.  After one o’clock, can hear the roosters crowing outside; means the rain has let up.  Mway lying around in the music room, waiting.  We go out shortly before 2.
State of the Path:   Mway sticks her head into the outbuilding; can’t tell what she might have spied.  The hour of sun has pretty much dried the rain off the weeds.  If my hand casually drops on a goldenrod or grass stalk, I pull it up in passing.  Don’t sample any of the blackberries before the maples.  Surmise that the putrid odor must be the dead bracken.  Again, have to guess where the path is through the red grass, but do so pretty successfully.  The plastic barrel, for weeks now, has been visible; the jewelweed around it has died and disappeared.  But along the banks of the creek, it appears the jewelweed might survive the dry weather and sprout seed pods one of these days.  I venture over the feed channel, despite the water in it, slip on the mud, and just manage not to fall.  In front of the ridge around bug land, Mway goes in the weeds after something; can’t tell what it might have been.  Even before the clearing, had seen some flowers on the goldenrod; now see even more, most of it green but some of it already yellow.  Realize, also, there are two different plants I am calling by one name: goldenrod.  One is sprouting tiny flowers, the other getting a big bud on top.  Will have to research this sometime soon.
State of the Creek:  The pools are full, and water lies among the rocks between them, even trickling here and there.  I think, as I walk along the creek, that I am seeing it, if not flowing, at least filled back up with water, until I check on the creek at the crest of the skating pond.  There, just below the pool of water below the swale, the creek bed is dry, with the discarded tire sitting in it.
The Fetch:  I stand over into some goldenrod to throw the stick today.  Don’t bother counting, but it’s not quite as many fetches today.  Play “Put it down” once or twice: but don’t feel like making a big issue out it.  Sweat’s pouring out of my eyes, and I want to get out of the sun.

July 15, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  Normally I would work tonight, but my Thursday job has been reduced to every other week for the remainder of the summer.  I have a little job to do this afternoon (along with some errands which I can do in tandem).  After I get home, I rest up a bit, and get ready to take Mway for a walk about 4.  Moi is working tonight, and before she leaves she says, “If you’re looking for something to do tonight, you could pull up the weeds around the red raspberries in the garden.”  I’m not looking for anything to do, but I ask her anyway to show me which weeds she means, so I don’t accidentally pull up any thing that is not a weed.  Out at the garden, she points, “You can pull up all those ox-eyed daisies.”  “That’s fleabane,” I tell her, and spend ten minutes before the walk getting hot and sweaty pulling it up.
State of the Path:  Out at the walled garden, I see Mway by the far wall, then hear her yelp.  I see her back away from something, then charge forward again at something that looks like a ground hog running along the top of the wall.  It scoots into a hole near where the sumacs are growing (the one sumac is still fallen into the burn pile), and that’s that.  Wherever I see them hanging, I pick a blackberry or two to eat, first by the back hedgerow, then before the wigwams, then past the ridge on the way to the clearing; there are enough ripe blackberries to pick a bowl of them, if I were not too lazy and didn’t have to worry about getting seeds between my teeth.  I’ve brought the Audubon with me, so I try to identify more precisely what type of goldenrod we’ve got in the fields.  It’s only starting to flower, so I have some difficulty with this.  I believe I see a specimen that has long leaves like lance-leaved goldenrod, but other specimens that are just getting their flowers have long leaves too, and these are toothed, which could indicate tall goldenrod; some of the goldenrod have bulb-like things part way down their stems, indicating I don’t know what – I believe I’ll have to reserve judgment till the flowers come in more.  Down by the wigwams, I smell the putrid odor again, and I’m too far from the dead bracken that the smell could be emanating from that.  I recognize the smell now as that of a dead mammal, recalling most recently the dead ground hogs that Blue would cure in the sun.  But when I get down to the creek, passing through where the path narrows before the swale from bug land, I catch a whiff of the smell again.  I look down and sniff at my shirt, thinking that I must have gotten something on it that I’m carrying around with me, but I don’t see or smell anything.  Again I catch a whiff of the smell walking along the ridge, and look again at my shirt and at my hands; I then sniff a honeysuckle bush, thinking that might be causing the odor, but no such smell emanates from that.
On the other side of the feed channel, I suddenly come across a new wildflower, something with little white flowers.  I have my Audubon, but I shake my head at the thought of leafing through its pages, probably in vain, in the hot sun, when suddenly the word “meadow rue,” from previous leafings through the pages, pops into my head.  I find two listings of meadow rue in the index, and when I refer to the photo of tall meadow rue, I’m quite amazed and relieved to find that what I’m staring at in the field is pictured so clearly there in the book, right down to the spiky white flowers (I guess these are the “thread-like stamens”) and the little sassafras-like mitten leaves (“roundish, 3-lobed leaflets” – not every leaf, I might argue).  Throughout the walk, I’ve been looking at this other white wildflower, which I’ve been calling, not to my satisfaction, Queen Anne’s lace.  I really think this flower, with its fern-like leaves, is something else, but I’ve looked into the Audubon too much already today.
State of the Creek:  The pools are holding their own, and as I walk along the creek, I see how the water seems to be trying to flow through the rocks between the pools, flickering if you look closely with a trickle here and there, until it suddenly disappears at a high spot in the creek bed.  The water is losing its cloudiness, and turning a clear brown; the rocks are drying and turning white.  I think I’m noting the lack of water striders, when I see one or two in the pools below the big locusts.
The Fetch:   Up in the clearing, I stand in the same goldenrod I did yesterday to toss the stick.  Right by me are some of the not-quite-Queen-Anne’s-lace-like flowers I’ve been talking about, and I think to myself I’d get out the Audubon right then and there if I wasn’t in the middle of throwing the stick for Mway.  Again I smell the putrid odor, and I look down at my shirt and hands, then leaning over to pick up the stick I bend over further to sniff Mway: the smell is coming from her, all this time it’s been Mway who stinks.  Mway coaxes me to play “Put it down” until she decides herself that she’s done with fetching.  Right now she is lying in the hall outside the office, and when I pass by her I can smell the stench of dead animal.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

After Another Rain, Something Smells Like Burnt Insects

July 12, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  I have to work this afternoon and have no work in the evening, so I decide, whatever Moi does in the morning, just to take Mway for an afternoon walk.   When I get home about 4, it is storming.  Water is coursing from the driveway down the sidewalk and down the slate walk.  Moi is not home.  The pool is running, so I turn it off and unplug it.  The chickens are stranded on the porch.  My computer is still on, but by the time I check it, it seems to me that the storm is passing over, so I leave it plugged in.  Moi arrives home, and by 5:15, it has stopped raining, and Mway and I venture out.
State of the Path:  The weeds are bent over in the path, dripping with rain.  My socks and pants immediately start to get soaked.  Briars catch on my shirt.  I twist around drooping sumac saplings, brush back goldenrod stems, duck under rain drenched honeysuckle and maple branches.  Among the more common weeds, what looks like a new mullein juts up along the path, full of promising buds.  Under the maples, the soil is dark brown with moisture.  Brown leaves have been displaced along the ground, grasses flattened.  I stop for a moment to try to identify a slightly putrid odor, something that smells like burnt insects.  The red grass in bug land is again beat down and thatched together.  I can only guess where the path is, and it seems all my guesses are wrong.  The weeds become less thick along the creek, at least under the trees, but they become a nuisance again at the swale from bug land, through the red willows, and on the other side of the ridge.  My footstep finally finds the safe haven of the anthill, where I see a bunch of purple half-inch-long blackberries hanging.  The first one tastes sweet, but the half a dozen or so more I eat afterwards could have stood longer ripening.  Both sleeves of my workshirt are soaked, my pants are hanging low, pulled down by the water in the drenched trouser legs.
State of the Creek:  The first puddle has now expanded beyond the trunk of the maple tree, upward toward the multiflora shrub that blocks access to the creek, and downward I can’t tell how far.  There’s a puddle again, maybe two, under the black walnut tree, a larger puddle at the log jam, a puddle again under the big locusts, and two big puddles beyond the bend, and it seems some of these puddles are trying to leak through the rocks, reconnect to become a stream again.  There’s water again in the feed channel, all the way back to the skating pond.  The sweetflag leaves lie bedraggled on top of it.
The Fetch:  After a few tosses of the stick, Mway coaxes me to play “Put it down” four, maybe five, times.  I want to get out of my wet clothes as soon as I can.  In the back yard, Moi has put Cornish hens on the grill.  Mway jumps to cool off in the little baby pool Moi has bought for her this weekend.  As soon as I learn that Moi is going to watch the grill, I take off my clothes and jump into the bigger pool.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Moi Reminds Me How Touch-Me-Nots Actually Work

July 11, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  I wake up about 8, my alarm clock, which I had set for that time, frozen at 7:50.  Moi is milling around but hasn’t taken Mway for a walk.  I tell Moi I’ll take her for her morning walk, but I don’t know why, since I’ll probably take her for a walk when I get home from work and I have preparatory work to do before leaving.  By the time we get to the pig pen, I decide just to take Mway to the clearing (Moi seldom takes Mway for a full morning walk during the summer anyway).  I throw the stick from one end of the clearing, and at one point as I’m backing up in my spot, I feel my foot sink and realize I’m stepping on one of the evergreen saplings Moi has planted.  Last night, when Moi and I were discussing the dry, hot weather, I mentioned how the touch-me-nots had come out early and how the flowers were not springing at the touch of my fingers this year.  “That’s because it’s not the flowers that do that,” Moi smiled, “It’s the seed pods, which come out after the flowers.”  I wince.  “That’s right,” I say, “I should’ve known that.”  I have to leave for work by 10, but I anticipate taking Mway for a full walk this evening.
States of the Path, Creek, the Fetch:  I get home, I don’t know what the time is, must be the usual time, close to the usual time, have it in mind to take Mway, the dog, for a walk, at the usual time, for a Sunday, for it is Sunday, and close to the time, the usual time, when I take Mway, the dog, for a walk, on Sundays.  Moi says something, don’t remember now what, something about phone calls, or about making calls, something about the work she’s been doing, having to do with phones and calls, but I don’t recall exactly what now.  Out on the path, see Mway following, we’re on her walk now, our usual Sunday walk, the two of us, together more or less, though I’m paying more attention to where I’m going, stumbling down the path, one foot before the other, hoping Mway is following, depending on Mway following, for this is her walk, not mine, brushing away weeds, a briar here, a goldenrod there, whatever is next here or there, brushing them away, so one foot can go before another, one after another, in the usual fashion, as we usually do, on a Sunday.  See the fruit of the jack-in-the-pulpit, white, green gone white, once green gone white, a bony white, see other plants, many other plants, but don’t have names for them, or rather, do have names for them, but just don’t think of their names just now, the names for the many plants, which have names, many of them which I know, but just don’t think about them now.  That is the state of the path.  Enough for that now, and on to the state of the creek.  The pathetic creek, or rather, what should more accurately be called, the pathetic run.  Not to be confused with the manner in which I am moving, for that is definitely a walk, or at least a stumble, not a run, but a run in the sense of something less than a creek, in the category of things having to do with running water, and not of moving humans, water if it is moving usually being said to be running, but not necessarily in a run, for water can run, not just in a run, but also in a creek, or in a river, or in a pipe, or out of a faucet, or down a drain, whenever water is moving it seems that it is running, or at least not ever walking, even if it is just a trickle, even if it is just a drip.  For we never talk about water walking, or at least I never talk about water walking, and I think it’s safe to say, if I never talk about water walking, neither do you, for you and I, we pretty much speak the same language, and use the same words, you and I, whoever you are, whoever you are, if you are reading this, I’m pretty certain we speak the same language, more or less.  And that language, which we both speak, more or less similarly, never, to my knowledge, in all its varieties, and in all its permutations, in the course of all its history, from the first utterance of he who, or she who, first retched up a word that, in the course of history, could be said to be of the same language that you and I speak, more or less, down to the last utterance, or rather most recent, that is the latest utterance, of he, or she, who puked up a word in this said language, which could be considered the same, never, to my knowledge, in all that time, during all that history, for all those utterances, and many utterances there must have been, and a great variety of utterances, dealing with a great many subjects, from a great many perspectives, in a great variety of circumstances, never, to my knowledge, has that language compelled some one who spoke it to say, in reference to water, that it is walking.  Not that some one who speaks this language, either you or I, or some one else, one of our friends, say, or one of our enemies, for that matter, not that some one, be it a friend or enemy, or neither a friend or enemy, may not have said, upon some occasion in the course of the long history of this language, when confronted with say, a trickle of water, or a drip of water, and asked to describe it, may not have said, about the water, that it is walking, rather than running.  For just as one would normally say, when face to face with water moving at a certain pace, or rather rate, that that water, moving at that certain rate, is running, one could conceivably say, when face to face with water moving at a lesser rate, water that, in a word, is not running, that that water is, not running, but rather walking, one could conceivably say this, yes.  But such an utterance, if one were to say it, would not be a normal locution in this language that you and I, and this some one, speak, but would rather be an unusual locution, in the form of a metaphor, and however conceivable, not necessarily a likelihood, let alone an actuality, and more likely it has been, in the course of the long history of utterances of this language that you and I, and other people, speak, more likely it has been that, when faced with water that is not running, you and I, and these other people, have been content to say that it is not running, or that it is merely trickling or dripping, as the case may be.  As to the state of the creek, I am content to say, as I’m sure you are content to hear, as anyone else is probably content to hear, that the water is just lying there, as it has been for some time, in puddles, whether prone or supine, it matters not.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

After the Rain, Come Upon Two Animals

July 10, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:   Last night when I was driving home from work it was storming on the Golden Strip.  There were puddles in the lane when I reached home; a gentle rain was falling around the house.  Moi wakes me this morning to tell me that she’s going to work and that she threw stick with Mway in the back yard and fed her.  I’m curious to find out how the rain has affected the fields and creek, so, since Moi had not turned on my computer, I press the switch on it, put on my walking clothes, and take Mway out for a walk about 8:15.
State of the Path:  The dirt on the path is dark brown.  The stick doesn’t ping when I tap it against it.  A sumac tree has fallen off the barn wall and crashed into the burn pile.  The colors and textures of the plants haven’t changed – leaves are still withered and wilted, stems still brown at the base, the grass lies brown against the soil, ragweed flowers are dry and brown – but the plants are dripping with rainwater and fallen inward into the path.  My pants and boots immediately start getting wet.  I don’t bother taking the side path along the old orchard.   Beneath the maples, where water may have coursed over the ground last night, the ground is dark brown, but I don’t see any water.  At bug land, the red grass is bent over every which way.  I can no longer see where the path is.  As I flounder around trying to find it, something furry stirs about ten feet away from me.  I vaguely see a body containing white spots, hear it thrashing through the grass and shrubs, then it seems to suddenly disappear into thin air.  Mway hears the deer too, but it is gone before she can sniff the air.  As I turn right to follow the path along the creek, a turtle – probably a box turtle – sits in the middle of a brown patch of grass beneath a shrub.  Mway starts to follow her nose toward it, but I yell out to warn her, “Mway, that’s a turtle.”  She quickly shirks away from it.  Along the creek, I try to look to see how the jewelweed has been affected by the rain.  Various plants are bent over and criss-crossing each other -- it’s hard to make out anything.  Though I see some jewelweed along the creek bank, I can’t really tell how it’s doing.  I take a quick look at the feed channel:  there’s no water in it,  the sweetflag is as brown and flopped over as it was yesterday.  I plow through the red willows.  On the other side of the ridge, I can’t see the path until I come to the anthill.  There I comfortably place a foot.  My pants are completely soaked, my workshirt wet.  I continue on to the clearing as quickly as possible.
State of the Creek:   At the tree stand, there’s again a puddle of water nestling against the trunk of the big tree on the far bank.  At the log jam, there’s a splash of water that sits a couple feet from the main puddle.  The puddle has reappeared beneath the black walnut tree, as has the second puddle beyond the big trees.  Between the puddles, there’s still no water flowing, but the rocks are black with moisture.
The Fetch:  On her second fetch, Mway stops and looks at me with the “pro-quality” stick in her mouth, as if to say, “Come on, now.  I’ve just fetched the stick a lot with Moi.  Do I have to go through this again?”   I think to myself, “Of course not,” and I tell her, “Let’s go.”  She dashes off to get to the path along the sumacs before me, and disappears from my sight as we head back to the house.