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)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

See a Snake and Almost Get Hit by Bird Droppings

August 31, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  Moi tells me that Squeak now goes outside every morning, creeping cautiously among the bushes I guess, for as much as 2 hours, or until whenever Moi lets the chickens out of the coop, and this scares her back inside.  She is usually inside when I get up, and looking to hop on my lap when I’m in the office, her purring making a similar sound to the grinding of the computer programs.  She nuzzles her forehead into the crook of my arm and plants it there, often knocking my arm when I’m trying to type or move the mouse.  Usually I toss her off after a few minutes, but even if I don’t, she will hop off of her own accord after about the same time, and seek a more private place to lie – on hot days this might be the bathroom sink, which she inevitably discovers at some point is not so private.  When I think of Squeak I sometimes say “Spook,” for in my mind I so readily hear Jazz calling out the name of her cat, a ghostly all white, veritably psychotic cat that seems to never have grown to adult size, although she’s become grossly overweight.  Spook now lives with Jazz and Matt, but Jazz first got her when she still lived here, having rescued her from a crack house or someplace where heavy drugs were ingested freely; it’s my understanding that the cat may have been given drugs herself.  Spook’s most distinguishing characteristic, other than that she spends most of her day in hiding, frightened of most everything, especially my approaching footsteps, is that she never was litterbox-trained, and shits and pisses anywhere in the house but in a litter box.  I used to try to convince Moi and Jazz to at least put her outside, but they refused, fearing that Spook, unable to get a quite clear sense of her surroundings, would soon get lost and die.  I think their fear was somewhat exaggerated, for I believe if given the opportunity the cat would have learned how to get around outside okay.  Whether I’m right or wrong, one day everyone in the house except me decided to go on an overnight trip, and I was given the task of watching Spook, with explicit instructions not to let her out.  No more than 2 minutes after every one left, Spook snuck out the door and disappeared in the weeds along the house.  I spent two or three hours looking for her, and didn’t find her until the next day, when I saw her perched at the very top of a branch of the fallen hemlock in front of the house.  The hemlock is surrounded by vines (I now know they’re Japanese honeysuckle), which I had to wade through to retrieve her; she squirmed from my grasp but she didn’t jump away when I reached for her.  It’s now about 10:26, and so far I have no work to do today (although I’ll have to go into town sometime to send off my results).  I saw Mway walking around this morning with a little stick in her mouth, which she deposited, to my dislike, in the music room. She’d be ready for a walk any time, but since I have no work tonight, I think I’ll wait till afternoon.  It’s 4:00 when I slip on my boots, Mway at the kitchen table, smiling, then bending forward to stretch.
State of the Path:  Out on the path I immediately start whacking down ragweed and goldenrod with the lilac stick.  I take the initiative this time, and turn left onto the side path.  At the monkey vine portal, I reflect how those kids would have loved to swing on the monkey vines – too bad they live in a nice subdivision.  Through the old orchard, I see a faint trace of a beaten path; perhaps those kids did sneak down at least once and swing on those vines.  Of my many regrets, not the smallest is that I never made time to play paintball with the Boy and his friends when they were playing it in these fields; I might have made the time, except when the Boy first got a gun, I told him not to shoot me, but he did anyway, on the leg, and it hurt like hell.  I whack back the multiflora briars that snagged me yesterday.  When I come back to the main path, I’m struck by how the yellow goldenrod surrounds me; I feel like I’m in a tidal surge and barely able to keep my head above water.  Down by the wigwams, a garter snake (or a black ribbon snake – I’m not going to look it up) slithers past me in the path; perhaps it lives in Moi’s old tumbling down wigwam – it’s an eternal truth that the shelters animals like best are those made by man.  When I turn right at the creek, I hear a boom, like that from an electric bass guitar: it’s a couple birds flying frightened through the trees.  As I’m winding through the big locusts, I see a sheet of white drop through the trees: sure enough when I investigate I find globs of fresh bird shit on the ground, and more dried white shit on the leaves of a weed.  I look up but don’t see any bird (although I’d just seen one fly away from this area).  I decide to take the side path by the skating pond, stepping over the feed channel very carefully (my foot, though much better, is still sensitive when I touch it).  When I look in the feed channel, where Moi’s sweetflag has disappeared, what do I see but a single flower of my “creeping bush clover”; then on my way back I spot in the ditch a single blooming chicory and a single stalk of what I believe to be Pennsylvania smartweed (now when I check quickly in the Audubon, maybe the “chicory” was some kind of aster, because it had a yellow pistil).
State of the Creek:  The creek is again a series of disconnected pools.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, Mway awaits me.  Just once, I think to myself, maybe we could do something else here in the clearing.  It doesn’t seem as hot, though, as it was yesterday.  But I toss the stick a great many times, and Mway fetches it a great many times, and by the time we’re on the last fetches I feel as hot, and even sweatier, than I did yesterday.  Back in the back yard, Moi is painting some window frames and she shouts out that Mway needs some water in her pool.  I see Mway’s head sticking out above the float beneath the maple tree.  I mumble back that Mway has water in her other pool.  Moi, not quite understanding me, retorts: “Come on, you feel you have to jump in the pool after your walk.  So does Mway.”  When I walk by the other pool, though, I see there’s no water in it.  So I take the hose and start filling it up, staring at the cartoon fish, seahorses, and octopi that decorate the lining.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What If I Lost the Stick?

August 30, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  I work this afternoon and don’t get home till about 5:20 (I might have been able to finish up earlier but I was tied up in the morning with some financial concerns and with holding the ladder for Moi.)  Moi’s out in the yard, and she’s in a good mood because a batch of honey bees from our chimney have separated from the hive and clumped up on a branch of a tree by the summer house.  When I’m inside putting on my boots, Moi says “The little dog’s been waiting for you all day.”  “I bet,” I say.  “She thinks you could probably throw the stick by yourself,” Moi jokes, “But what if you lost it?  She needs to be there to bring it back to you.”
State of the Path:  I bring along the lilac stick again, still in good shape, even though (as I forgot to mention) a chip flew off it yesterday.  I whiz in the walled garden, and Mway takes two dumps by the trash pile, which still has the fallen sumac tree lying on top of it.  I hesitate for a moment whether to take the side path, but Mway heads down there, so I follow.  The red jack-in-the-pulpit cobs lie just before the monkey vine portal; the virgin’s bower’s all gone.  The multiflora seems to be going through a last ditch growth spurt, and a couple branches snag me around my shirt collar.  The “chokeberry” bushes continue to redden and wither; some of their berries never turned black or purple, but remain a moonish white-gray.   A monarch (or a viceroy) glides right past my ear.  Bumblebees disappear in the touch-me-nots, and down by the creek, a black swallowtail rejects a boneset flower in favor of several touch-me-nots.  It has to beat its wings quickly to keep its proboscis dipped in the flower.   Beyond the swale, Mway passes me by with a little stick in her mouth (what’s she planning on doing with that, I wonder) and heads through the “chokeberries,” so I don’t bother going by the skating pond (which I don’t really want to anyway.)
State of the Creek:  At the tree stand, Mway jumps over the creek; the jewelweed wiggles as she comes up the other side.  Past the big locusts, on the other side of the creek and surrounded by multiflora is a big oak rising above a giant clod of sod that hangs over the pool of water there (the one by the vinyl siding) – another good place for something or other to live, I reflect.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, Mway no longer has the little stick in her mouth, and she awaits me to throw the bigger one I brought along.  The sun is beating hard, and I’m hot in my walking clothes; Mway fetches the stick again and again; with each toss I hope it’s her last – what happened to the days when she only fetched the stick once, I wonder.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Old Junk Pile

August 29, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation.  Work all day today, and when I come home it’s still light out, and unfortunately am still faced with the opportunity of being able to take Mway for a walk.  Shortly after I come into the door, Moi says to me, “There were some kids today playing in the back acre [our more common term for what I’ve been calling the old orchard].”  “Where were they playing?” I ask.  “On the old junk pile.”  I nod.  “What did you do?”  “I kicked them off.  I told them they could get hurt and ought to go home.”  It’s a sad thing (remembering how I used to roam through woods and fields as a kid, or even as an adult when we first moved here), but I think Moi did the right thing.  The kids were probably having the time of their lives, but a kid will usually accept any adverse consequences of freedom; it’s a rare parent who will.  And it seems to me that the type of people who buy a house in a development, with restrictions against clotheslines, raising poultry, and accumulating debris, and regulations concerning the height of the grass of one’s lawn, are just the type of people to turn to the government’s courts of law for monetary assistance if their kid is hurt playing in someone’s woods not their own.
State of the Path:  I bring along the new lilac stick I tossed yesterday.  Mway makes a left turn onto the side path, and I follow, but I don’t take much note of anything, except to look at the Boy’s old tumbling down fort in the biggest tree of the back acre.  I also note how much of the goldenrod is finally flowering, most of it dangling yellow, a lot of it sticking up green, some of it a different kind with smaller leaves and flowers, but mostly I just walk absentmindedly along, pulling up whatever goldenrod I can grab hold of, thinking about what Moi said, and composing in my mind the last few sentences I wrote above.
State of the Creek:  More mud appearing where water once was.
The Fetch:  When she drops the stick after her first fetch, the saliva pours copiously out of Mway’s mouth.  A great many fetches after that.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mway Knows Something Was Around

August 28, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  This morning Moi enlists me in a lot of chores.  First, last night she caught an opossum in the trap cage she set in the garden, and she wants me to carry it down to the creek, where we’ll let it go.  Mway would like to come along, but we leave her in the house.  I’m struck by the pink W.C. Fields snout of the opossum; it’s probably its natural color, but it looks like it could be stained from tomatoes or bloodied from poking through the cage.  It takes us a little while to figure out how to open up the cage to let it out.  Next, Moi wants me to hold the ladder so she can paint the frame of my bedroom window which she can’t get at from inside because of an air conditioner.  Moi is very skittish about ladders: “Why’d the ladder just move?”  “Don’t worry. I just let go for a minute to scratch my face.”  As I’m moving the ladder: “Watch out, you just stepped in dog shit.”  Going into the house to get a cigarette: “You just walked into the house with dog shit on your boots?”  It’s a sunny, bustling Saturday morning:  a lawn tractor or two in the distance; the coo of mourning doves; a McNeighbor shouting at his McChild; the bucking of chickens as they come over to see if we’re dribbling feed; a woman’s voice over a loudspeaker at the tractor pull on O__ C_____ road.  When we’re done, I decide to whack down some of the weeds around the garden, and then, since I already have my walking clothes on, to take Mway for her walk.  It’s about 12:30.  Moi and I both work at separate places tonight. I’m happy to get the walk out of the way.  I select a new fetching stick that I spotted under the lilac bush the other day; it’s long and will double as a walking stick like the old “pro-quality” stick used to do.
State of the Path:  I decide to take the side path along the old orchard, which I haven’t gone on for a while.  Red jack-in-the-pulpit seed cobs brighten their little patch of ground.  I step through the monkey vine portal.  Most of the virgin’s bower is already gone.  I again see a bumblebee disappear inside a touch-me-not.  As we approach the creek, I wonder if we’ll run into the opossum.  Black berries still dangle from the “chokeberry” bushes; their leaves are turning red and shriveling.  Under the deer stand, Mway starts sniffing the ground; she knows there was some kind of creature here.  The bull thistle is all fuzz.  I can’t find any “creeping bush clover” today.  Ironweed and boneset still bloom in bug land.  Heal-all still comes up along the path.  On the other side of the ridge, I’m especially careful how I walk; my foot is getting better, but it’s still sensitive.  Cabbage butterflies, a black swallowtail, flutter ahead of me.  Grasshoppers leap from one goldenrod stem to the next.
State of the Creek:  Near the big locust trees, on the opposite bank of the creek, is a small oak tree, whose bottom of its trunk lies exposed above a cavity in the bank.  Around it is a big clump of sod supported by the trees roots.  I reflect that this is also a good place for something or other to live around.  A monkey vine winds around the trunk of the tree.  Today all of the vinyl siding is sticking out of the water.
The Fetch:  Mway has to get used to the new stick, especially since it has branch notches.  She bites into it especially hard, to get her saliva all over and her teeth marks into it.   A good number of fetches today – Mway likes the stick, as she would any stick.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ankle Still Sensitive, Use Longer Half of Pro-quality Stick

August 27, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  Last evening I ended up mowing the whole lawn.  My foot felt good and I just kept going and going; I only had to move at a slower speed than usual. But when I finished and took my sock off, my ankle had a purple stripe on it, and I was again hobbling a bit around the house.  Last night, after she worked, Moi went down to Jazz’s for the night to be closer for an appointment with a doctor who treats her for her hypothyroid condition, so again I have the morning chores to do.  For some reason I wasn’t able to get to sleep till close to 4 last night, so I don’t wake up until 9, long past the time Moi wakes up to let Mwayla out.  While I’m sitting on the toilet, Mway paces back and forth, wags her little tail, bends forward to stretch her front legs; fortunately I don’t find any poop in the house.  I check my foot again; the purple stripe is still there, and when I press the top of the foot I feel a jab of pain.  Yesterday I hung my walking clothes on the clothesline after the walk; they are still damp when I put them on.
State of the Path:  I look for a new stick to throw: a birch branch on the ground catches my eye, but although Mway has dragged this around the yard and even fetched it there, I consider it to be too big for a fetch in the clearing.  Finally I choose the slightly larger half of the old “pro-quality” stick as the best one readily available.  I decide I need a walking stick too, and I’m happy to find the one I used during the winter still propped against the side of the house.  The chickens are clucking and crowing in the coop; I figure I’ll let them out when I get back.  Out on the path, I’m immediately dealing with wet weeds bent over in the path.  Since I haven’t a stick that’s good for whacking them, I can do nothing but push my way through them.  Faint cobwebs splatter against my face; I brush them away and sputter my lips.  I stop to look at the “creeping bush clover” plant; I note that it seems to be growing through a sumac sapling, something I’d forgotten last night.  Its tiny flowers have not yet opened for the day; I take one quick look at it, and try not to think about it anymore.  It seems to me, as I walk toward the creek, that there aren’t many bees and other insects out yet;  too early for the bugs, too early for the flowers, I reflect, I shouldn’t feel bad that it seems too early for me too.  I hear what sounds like crows in the field beyond the creek – or is it some other type of bird I hear squawking in the trees along the creek.  Despite myself, I cannot help looking for the other “creeping bush clover” plants; I look at them briefly, and I don’t know what else to do.  Along the ground at bug land lie little square meshes of dew-covered cobwebs (the type of thing that might have inspired Jazz to do her “fairy” drawings when she was a teenager).  As I walk toward the clearing and toward more sunlight, I see a bee or two, maybe a grasshopper here and there.  Walking through the high weeds before the strawberry patch, I lose my balance on a dip in the ground, and I feel in my foot a faint replay of the same pain I felt when I fell down the stoop.
State of the Creek:  I stop for a moment before the big locust trees, look across a pool of water at a rotting log that lies along the creek bank beneath some jewelweed, and I think how good a place this is for something or other to live in and around in.  I note how quiet it seems, no sound of water flowing, for instance.  But then I hear cicadas (or whatever they are), and I reflect how not too long ago I would have heard them right away, but now I have to make an effort to hear them.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, the sunlight, which in the summer afternoons beats down so harshly, feels this morning so nice and warm against my damp clothes.  I toss the stick into the wet goldenrod, and soon Mway is fetching the stick more times than I care to throw it, especially when I’ve not had much sleep and before my morning coffee.  When she starts coaxing me to play “Put it down,” I begin to wonder if she’ll ever stop.  Although I want to stop playing it, I start to deliberately shout “put it down” just to see how long she’ll keep up with it.  She outlasts me, and eventually I have to simply turn around and start back to the house.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Am Able to Walk, But Pro-quality Stick Breaks in Half

August 26, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  I have work to do today.  My foot is better, and I’ll definitely be able to take Mway for a walk this afternoon.  I don’t know about mowing the lawn; maybe I can do a little bit of it.  Last night I managed to carry the heavy equipment all right, although it would’ve been nice to have had some help.  My day work doesn’t require any heavy lifting.  Moi mentioned that she took Mway down to the creek last night, but all she said about the walk was that she saw some jack-in-the-pulpit seeds, turning red, down by the creek.  Before I leave for work, I break a metal bracket on the handrail along the stairs, from putting too much pressure on it, and Moi has to fix it, or rather, she moves a good bracket from the middle to the end where it broke.  I get home from work about 4:45.  Moi tells me she fed Mway but didn’t take her for a walk.  Mway watches me as I put on my walking clothes in my bedroom, and she runs around the kitchen table while I put on my helmet, boots, and gloves downstairs.
State of the Path:  Mway takes a dump in front of the garden pond, then while I’m taking a whiz in the walled garden, she takes another dump by the trash pile.  I think about taking a walking stick with me to help support myself, but the “pro-quality” stick, even with the crack in it, works fine as one – and indeed my foot feels good wrapped in the heavy athletic sock and supported by the boot and I feel I have no trouble walking.  Mway stays straight on the path, so I don’t take the side path, and no sooner do I get to the sumacs when I’m astonished to see two new plants of my creeping bush clover.  These have several of the same pea-like pink flowers like I’ve been seeing, with buds in clusters that look like any day they could bloom, but the plants are in long stalks, although the stalks are flopped on the ground.  I’m confused now because Audubon describes creeping bush clover as a creeper, and this plant doesn’t look like it creeps.  I take off my gloves to touch the plant, when suddenly I’m alarmed to think that the leaves, in groups of three, and which are bigger than the ones I’ve seen before, could be poison ivy (though I’ve never seen poison ivy look like this).  I let go of the plant, put back on my gloves – not however until after absent-mindedly scratching my nose – and resolve to wash my face and hands when I get back to the house.  In bug land and down by the creek, the jewelweed flowers are big and bright, big enough for a bumble bee to disappear inside, as I see one do.  I’m disappointed I still don’t see any flowers blooming on what I think are dayflower plants.  I walk across the board over the swale and as I’m negotiating the little gulleys there, the “pro-quality” stick breaks in half – it’s no longer a “pro-quality” stick, and broken in half, neither piece is as long a stick as I like to throw.  Just past the “chokeberries” I see yet another creeping bush clover, this one with a long stalk too and even more flowers on it, and I’m happy to see that, even though I don’t quite know what this plant is, it looks like it’s more prevalent than I first thought.  Coming up through the goldenrod on the way to the clearing, grasshoppers hop from stalk to stalk.
State of the Creek:  The pools are still swelled with water, and there’s water among much of the rocks, but some of the creek bed is starting to dry up again.  The tip of the vinyl siding is out of the water, and the creek bed, for example, is dry just beyond it, where it’s filled with rocks and rises a little bit just before the swale.
The Fetch:  Holding the slightly smaller half of the “pro-quality” stick in one hand, I toss the slightly larger other half for Mway.  She fetches it for a long time, and then coaxes me to play “Put it down” for a long time.  When Mway decides we’re done with fetching, she runs ahead of me back to the porch.  As I approach the porch, I see drops of water on the stoop from the tiny pool and the larger half of the no longer “pro-quality” stick lying where Mway dropped it in front of the door.  Mway has become accustomed from her walks with Moi to bringing the stick inside (as Moi lets her do), and when I reach down to pick up the stick and throw it on the bench, Mway fights me for it.  I manage to whip it out of her way, and throw it on the bench, where there are now other sticks that are longer, one of which I’ll probably use tomorrow.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Still Can't Walk

August 25, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  I just woke up, and my foot seems a little better, but it’s still difficult to walk on it.  A bump has developed below the instep, and the ankle is swollen; the foot just won’t flex well.  I definitely would not be able to walk behind a lawnmower.  If my life depended on it I could probably make it very slowly down to the creek and back; but since my life doesn’t depend on it, I’m not going to try to take Mway for a walk today.  I have to work tonight, and part of my job involves carrying heavy equipment.  I don’t know how I’m going to do with that; perhaps I can enlist some help; certainly when people see me struggling, someone might lend me a hand.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Can't Walk Because of Twisted Ankle

August 24, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  This morning I was leafing through the Audubon while my computer connection was down because Moi was on the phone, and I noticed that above the photo for the spurred butterfly pea is a photo of some wildflowers that more closely resemble what I’ve been tentatively calling spurred butterfly peas.  This is a photo of creeping bush clover.  The description seems to fit the bill: “a trailing plant with stems bearing loose clusters of pink to purple, pea-like flowers (1/4 inch long) and clover-like leaves.”  My plants don’t have as copious clusters of flowers as what’s shown in the photo and they don’t trail that much, but I think they’re just not doing as well, maybe because of dry weather and competition from poison ivy.  Anyway, I’m going to consider these plants to be creeping bush clover for now.  So far today it looks like I have no work to do; I’ll recheck my emails a little later this morning.  Just before noon, I recheck my emails, and it looks like I have no work coming in today, so I have a free day and can take Mwayla for her walk at any time I want.  However, I also need to mow the lawn, so I want to do everything together while I have my walking clothes, which are also my lawnmowing clothes, on.  I just went outside to check the lawn to see if the grass was dry yet; I fell down the stoop stairs and twisted my ankle (result of wearing bifocals and loose slippers), but I seem to be okay.  I have to wait a little longer for the grass to dry; I also have to be mindful that Moi and Mway are going to take a nap some time this afternoon.  Right now I might as well make myself breakfast: a grilled potato from our cook-out with the Boy last night, a tomato or two from our garden, and eggs from our chickens (mixed maybe with turnip greens from the garden), all fried with bacon of course.
State of the Path:  Well, there’ll be no checking on the state of the path today, nor the creek, nor any fetch, for, as it turns out, it’s now about 3:04 pm and my ankle is swelling, and I can barely walk on it.  When Moi and Mway went up to take a nap, I retired to my bedroom also, read a little bit, and fell asleep for a time.  I’d hoped about this time to have marched down to the creek and back with Mway and to be now zooming around the yard behind my self-propelled mower; but it was very slowly that I descended the stairs, very slowly I walked over to the coffee maker, very slowly I ascended back up the stairs.  Moi took a look at my ankle, has advised me to keep it elevated.  It only hurts a little bit when I’m not stepping on it; but it hurts to walk on it and it just doesn’t work well, and I need it to work well to do the things I’d planned to do.  Moi never mows the lawn: so all I can do about that is sit and contemplate it growing higher.  But she will take Mway for a walk, and she has done just that, returning now to file a report.  First she says that she’s seen a new purple wildflower.  “I think they might be what are called Michaelmas daises or wild asters.  Look it up,” she says.  I look for the names in the Audubon index, but find nothing.  When I point to a photo of ironweed, she concedes that that might be what she saw.  “Do you want to know more?” she asks.  “Yeah,” I say, “tell me what happened.”  “Well, down by the creek,” she continues,” Mway and I saw something in the weeds, and then it ran along the creek, but we couldn’t tell what it was.”  “Okay,” I say.  “Then we saw a frog leap.”  “All right.”  “Then up beyond the ridge, Mway slinked down and pointed her nose like she saw something, and I said ‘What is it, Mway?’ and pretty soon a rabbit ran out, but Mway didn’t chase it because--,” Moi shrugs and makes a grimace.  “Okay.”  “Then up at the clearing, I saw where Mway has been beating down the weeds, but I didn’t have a stick with me, so we had to fetch stick in the yard.  Mway made me throw one of those big birch branches.  Good enough?” she asks.  “That’s good,” I say.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Two-Days-In-One: Pro-quality Stick Cracks

August 22, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  Work all day today, and when I get home Jazz and Matt and the Boy and Jennifer are here for a cook-out to celebrate Moi’s and my 30th wedding anniversary.  (At one point I ask Jazz how her job is going.  She says it’s going okay, and she asks me how mine is going.  Then she looks at me square in the face and says, “I’m not really sure what it is you do.”)  No opportunity for me to take Mway for a walk today.  However, while the Boy and I are out firing up the grill, we end up throwing the stick for Mway in the back yard, with Atlas trying to join in.  What happens is that I throw the stick for Mway, and both she and Altas run after it and end up playing tug-of-war with it.  Mway eventually drops her end of the stick, and I end up playing tug-of-war with Atlas to try to get the stick out of his mouth.  The Boy then takes the sides of the stick from me and starts trying to spin the big dog around in circles.  Atlas finally lets go, and as I hold Atlas by his leash, the Boy throws the stick for Mway.  He throws it high in the air, and when it lands, I hear the “pro-quality” stick (which lately has been showing signs of stress) crack.  I tell the Boy I’m trying to preserve the stick for as long as I can, so I give him Atlas to hold and take over throwing the stick, more delicately, for Mway, until she finally tires of it.

August 23, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  Work late morning, early afternoon.  When I get home, Mway is waiting anxiously for a walk. When the Boy and I go out on a shopping errand (to buy a new car stereo I’ve been thinking about buying for a year), she runs along beside us to the car, picks up a stick she finds by the house.  I have to tell her that we’re not taking her for a walk.  When we get home, though, that’s the first thing I do.  It’s about 3:30.
State of the Path:  It’s been drizzling on and off all day, and I check the grass in the yard to see if would be dry enough to mow.  Out on the path, there are raindrops on the weeds, which are bent over and flopped down in the path, and by the time I’m wading through the grass in bug land, my boots and pants are getting a little wet, and I feel a thorn sticking in me at the upper part of my boot.  Near the beginning of the walk, as I squirm around a briar, I use the “pro-quality” stick to support myself, and it gives way a little.  When I look at it, I see it’s cracked half way through at its midpoint – I curse Atlas, whom I blame for putting too much stress on the stick.  As I approach the creek bank, I hope I see some dayflowers blooming, but all the plants that I think are dayflowers are still flowerless – perhaps it’s too shady here under the trees.  But as I’m looking over the green plants I suddenly see a spot of pink, and I realize I’m looking at the same damn plant that I’ve seen by the “chokeberries” and which I would like to believe is some sort of butterfly pea.  The leaves on this plant are bug-eaten, the flowers just as tiny, and they still do not look quite like the photo of spurred butterfly pea in the Audubon.  But seeing this plant gives me hope that I might see more of this plant, and that it might not be so insignificant, although when I look for the other plants by the “chokeberries” I don’t see them today.  Walking along the creek, I again trip over the same root I did the other day – I think it’s a root, at least it looks more like a root to me than a vine, although I can’t tell what it’s a root to.
State of the Creek:  I had forgotten how much it rained late Saturday night into Sunday morning, and I’m delighted and surprised to see the pools higher and water sitting among the rocks all along the creek, even faintly trickling here and there.  The vinyl siding is entirely submerged.  There’s even water winding its way through the wide rocky creek bed at the car tire.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, I stand in the middle and toss the stick gently into the higher goldenrod, aiming it so it will land cushioned by the weeds and maybe not break into two today.  After each fetch, I wait anxiously to see if Mway brings it back still in one piece, and I rejoin the cracked part to keep it from sagging too much.  Mway fetches it more times that I care to count; she treats the stick no more gingerly than she would any other time, growling at it and shaking it while it’s in her mouth, sometimes stepping on it as she’s spinning around and I’m trying to pick it up, and I’m amazed that, at least for today, the stick still stays together.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What to Make of All These Vines

August 21, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  Yesterday while I was leafing through the Audubon, trying to identify the little pink flowers, I came upon an entry for kudzu vine, and the name rang a bell.  I think this is the name Moi once called all the vines I’ve been calling, rather informally, grape vines; and indeed the leaves in the photo look a lot like what I see growing all around, climbing up trees, clambering over bushes, and sprawling into the goldenrod.  So far this year I’ve yet to see any flowers on this vine, but Audubon says this vine “rarely flowers north of Virginia,” which is encouraging evidence.  By the way Audubon describes the flower of the kudzu vine as “pea-like” and ovoid, and I think this kind of describes the little pink flower I was looking at yesterday: I bet it’s some kind of pea, but I hesitate yet to select any of the examples I see in the book.   Forget what I’ve been saying.  I just asked Moi if she once called those vines kudzu vines; “No, no,” she replied, “I know what kudzu vines are.  We don’t have any.”  “What do you call those vines out there?” I ask.  “Monkey vines,” she says, “Look it up on the computer, if that’s what you call them somebody else will call them that.  Monkey vine, or wild grape vine.”   After awhile, Moi takes me out to the chicken coop where she thinks there might be a kudzu vine growing.  It turns out to be, as even Moi realizes, just a young pokeweed.  But out there we discover another new blue wildflower growing along the coop, with spiked, enfolded leaves.  I’m excited about it because it reminds me of the plants I’ve seen growing along the creek since spring, albeit without flowers (and which I thought might be some kind of grass), and I’m thinking this might be the same thing.  I manage to find a photo in Audubon that looks like what we’re looking at: Asiatic dayflower; and I think this is that or some sort of related dayflower, like the slender dayflower (no photo of that).  These flowers, like the name indicates, only bloom for a day, and I’m anxious to go down to the creek to see what I may find. Moi and I go to the side of the house, where there happens to be a wild grape vine; Moi has said that we seldom see grapes on these vines, but as we’re looking at this one, we see one grape-like berry hanging.  Right now, Moi and Mway have gone to the bedroom to take a nap.  Moi has asked me to chop down some weeds along the house so she can put up a ladder to paint; that’s going to take a lot of work, and then I’ll want to take Mway for a walk afterward (taking the Audubon with me).  So I’m waiting for them to get up from their naps, then I’ll do all that, before going to work with Moi tonight.
State of the Path:  By the time I get done cutting down what is mostly vines (including some poison ivy climbing up the foundation), it’s 3:30, and Mway and I set off on the path.  We have wild grape vines all over the place, but they are most predominant along the old orchard.  Indeed today I note a wild grape vine covering a small black walnut that has leaves the size of dinner plates.  Past the two anthills and just before the boxelders, there are a number of swingable monkey vines; if I haven’t mentioned this before, the path cuts through two monkey vines that form a kind of portal that you have to step through every time you come this way.  If I haven’t mentioned this before, I’m amazed by that, because this is one of my favorite things along the path.  Down by the creek, my hopes build as I approach the stream bank looking for dayflowers, but although I see a lot of the plants that I think are dayflowers (some of it scraggly from the heat), I don’t see one flower. I do see a mushroom, and I wish I knew what kind it was because I’d love to eat it.  Coming up from the swale through the “chokeberries,” my eye falls on the little pink flower.  I try not to think about it, when a couple feet beyond, I spot a second plant of the same thing.  So I whip off my gloves and open up the Audubon, and turn over the tiny little pink flowers, careful not to touch the poison ivy around it.  I really would like to say that these are spurred butterfly peas (the leaves look like the leaves in the photo for just plain butterfly peas).  The flowers look like they’re turned upside down like they’re supposed to be – at least I can’t tell which way is up and which way is down, but the flowers are so tiny, only maybe ¼ inch compared to the ¾ to 1 and ½ inches stated by Audubon.
State of the Creek:  The puddle under the black walnut tree is gone.  Vinyl siding about three feet away from the edge of the water.
The Fetch:  I really don’t feel like tossing the stick today, and I’m relieved when Mway makes only about four fetches.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Attempt to Distinguish Goldenrod Types

August 20, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  This morning I wake up to the great racket of Mway barking on and on.  I know she’s getting excited as Moi is getting ready to take her out.  “Take her out, already,” I think to myself.  Later on I ask Moi if she took Mway for a full walk or just fetching.  “Just fetching,” Moi says, “and she only fetched the stick once.”  “All that barking,” I think to myself, “and just one fetch.”  “Mway was being lazy,” Moi says with affectionate overemphasis.  “Lazy.  Lazy.  Lazy.”   I have to work tonight, and I think I’ll do some other work before that, so I decide to take Mway out earlier than I did yesterday; and since she didn’t do much this morning, either in the way of a walk or fetching, she might be ripe for both now.  It’s 12:01.
State of the Path:  I bring along the Audubon.  After rounding the bend on the side path at the hedgerow, passing the virgin’s bower and the giant pokeweed, I decide to try my luck at distinguishing the different types of goldenrod again.  With a briar on either side of me jagging my shoulders, I open the book and look at the yellow flowering patch before me.  It looks to me that what I see is tall goldenrod, although the flowers are not quite as full as the photo in the book.  Reading about lance-leaved goldenrod, I see that the book says it is characterized by “each branch bearing a flat-topped cluster of small yellow flower heads.”  I’ve seen a goldenrod-type plant that has a green cluster on each stem, but I have yet to see any of these burst into flower; and I see a few of these as I walk further along.  Down near the wigwams, then, I see some goldenrod that has toothed leaves.  I look again in the book, and my best guess is that this is rough-stemmed goldenrod, although I’m troubled by the description that the leaves are very hairy and wrinkled, which mine don’t seem to be.  I take the side path along the skating pond, whack down the briar that thrust itself before me the other day.  On my way back across the feed channel, my foot slides backward down the ditch, and I can almost feel my neck muscles twist, but I appear okay.  Among the “chokeberry” bushes I look again at the little purple flower, which I decide today looks more pink than purple.  When I set down my stick to open the book, I realize I’m setting it down in some poison ivy, so I move it to the other side of me against a “chokeberry.” I touch the flowers of the little plant, careful not to touch any of the poison ivy surrounding it.  The tiny flowers seem odd to me, with a kind of double petal on one side and a narrower petal on the other side.  I don’t see anything in the book that looks like them, and I think to myself that these flowers are so tiny and insignificant I wish I had never seen them.
State of the Creek:  Mway wades into the creek at her old spot, the pool under the big maple, and meets me again on the path, coming up on the other side of the honeysuckles.  Vinyl siding a foot or so from the edge of the water.
The Fetch:  Mway launches into a good bout of fetching, spinning and barking, and now and then I throw the stick into the taller goldenrod to give her a special challenge.  Coming back into the walled garden, I hear what sounds like a little child (a McChild?) saying hi.  I hear the sound again, and I realize it’s one of the hens.  Then Moi, up on top of the walled garden, calls out to me, do I see the hen?  She’s out looking to see where some of the hens have been hiding their eggs.  I don’t see the hen anywhere.  In the yard, I see Mwayla’s dropped the stick near the apple tree, and she’s up at the driveway barking.  I think maybe she’s barking at the chickens, but then Moi tells me Mway’s found a woodchuck.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Hurry to the Creek and Back

August 19, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  I have to work tonight.  Moi, I assume, took Mwayla out to fetch stick early in the morning (but no walk), then went off to work.  Several times this morning Mway has looked up at me with sad, longing eyes, as if to say “Is it time for a walk now?  Huh, time for a walk now?”  Moi has come back from work, announcing that she has completed her (temporary) job.  Now she and Mway are in their bedroom taking a nap (“I’m looking forward to a nap,” Moi says, “I haven’t had one in – let’s see, since, mmm.”  With Moi finished with her job, I now have to take in account her naps when deciding when it’s most convenient for me to take Mway for a walk.  Ideally today I could take her for a walk at 2, which gives me a ½ hour for the walk, ½ hour to write it up, and ½  hour for a swim or a shower before going to work.  But already it’s 1:41 pm.
State of the Path:  It’s 2:35 by the time I let Mway out of the bedroom (she’s standing, waiting for me) and set out on the path.  Dawdle for a moment to pee at walled garden; Mway rolls in something. Then it’s hurry down to the creek and back.  Walk as fast as possible, give me less to write about, enough time for a swim.  Brush past goldenrod, briars, giant ragweed, a black swallowtail butterfly.  Trip through brown grass at bug land.  Mway keeps pace with me. Little purple flowers still beckon to be named.
State of the Creek:  Hardly look at the creek.  Probably no change anyway.
The Fetch:  Toss stick as fast as I can.  Mway keeps going and going.  I throw stick toward “chokeberry,” Mway has trouble gathering, stick probably caught in bindweed, some sort of weeds in her mouth when she brings stick back.  Hurry up, I think.  End up playing “Put it down.”  Finally I just turn around and head back to the house, Mway passes me on path.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Look Again at Virgin's Bower and Other Plants

August 18, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  I have to work tonight.  After Moi takes Mway out in the morning (just to fetch stick I assume), Mway waits the rest of the day for me to take her for a walk.  First, while I’m in the office on the computer, she waits for me against my bedroom door.  Then, when I go downstairs, she waits for me under the piano bench.  When I go into the music room, she waits for me in the corner of the music room.  Finally, around 2 pm, I decide to take her out (it’s cloudy and looks like it could rain soon).  While I’m putting my walking clothes on in the bedroom, she stands waiting for me in the doorway.  When I go downstairs to put on my boots, helmet, and gloves, she stands waiting for me by the kitchen table.
State of the Path:  I bring along the Audubon, and look again at the virgin’s bower.  Its petals, the book says, are actually its sepals.  The vine throws white flowers over those plants that this spring had white flowers of its own: multiflora, blackberries, honeysuckles.  Down by the creek, I try to see if the flowering vine growing over the plants down there is common moonseed.  I don’t see anything that looks like a moonseed leaf – in fact, I can’t find any leaves for this vine.  It seems to twine around the stem, say, of a goldenrod, and looks more like coral than a flower.  Near the “chokeberries” beyond the swale, I again see one of the little purple plants I saw yesterday.  Because it’s growing up beside some poison ivy, I think for a moment that it might be poison ivy too, but then I see its leaves are different.  It looks too small to try to identify, and I don’t bother to open the Audubon.  Behind me a starling or a cowbird squawks at me in a maple tree.
State of the Creek:  I don’t bother to look too closely at the creek.  It looks pretty much the same as it did yesterday.
The Fetch:  I toss the stick, and after about five fetches, Mway starts coaxing me to play “Put it down.”  After playing “Put it down” about four or five times, she stands there and doesn’t drop the stick, so I say “Good enough.”  But she doesn’t move, so I say “Put it down.”  But she doesn’t drop the stick, so I say “Good enough” again.  She doesn’t move, and I say “Put it down” again.  Finally, I just turn around and start heading back to the house, and Mway follows.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

It Doesn't Matter It's Our 30th Wedding Anniversary

August 17, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  Yesterday afternoon, after mowing the lawn, I hopped into the pool.  The filter hadn’t been on during the recent rainy spells, and the water was covered with fruit flies.  A fruit fly is what I believe I had seen on my shirt.  Last night Moi reminded me that today is our wedding anniversary, and this morning she reminds me that it’s our 30th anniversary.  I work for a while in the afternoon, and when I come back about 4, Moi is still at work herself, and Mway is waiting for me under the piano bench.  I hung my walking clothes on the line yesterday, so I have to go out and get them, before I take Mway on her walk.
State of the Path:  I feed the chickens on my way out to get my clothes, so I don’t have to deal with Mway trying to corral them.  I throw the feed in some high grass I missed mowing, so the chickens will tear it up.  When I sit down to put on my socks, I feel the prick of a bur under my ass, which I have to pull off of the seat of my pants.  My strategy working, Mway ignores the chickens and heads to the path.  McNeighbor kids are screaming in one of the big McNeighborPools. I decide to take the side path, but I miss it and have to back track, the goldenrod hems in the path so much.  My foot gets wrapped up in a grape vine.  Some of the jack-in-the-pulpit seeds have turned red.  By the hedgerow, there’s a new flowering vine, covering many of the plants, with a bumblebee and butterflies feasting on it.  Flowers in clusters, with 4 petals, spidery anthers, lobed leaves; I’m shocked I find it so easily in Audubon: it’s virgin’s bower.  A giant pokeweed has come up in front of the maple tree.  Down by the creek, still wonder what the flowering vine is down there (could it be common moonseed?).  Among them, I see a little purple flower, and later by the ridge, another purple flower.  I pretend not to notice them.
State of the Creek:  Some kind of dragonfly hovers over the log jam, then perches on a grass stem and stares at me with Day-glo green eyes.  It follows me along the creek for a while.  Creamy new mud under the big locusts where yesterday there was still a puddle of water.   Mway doesn’t go into the water until the pool at the crest of the skating pond.
The Fetch:  I find my mind wandering as I’m tossing the stick; in fact, I find myself composing this very sentence in my head.  Finally I toss the stick over by the “chokeberry” bush, and Mway has to lunge several times into the weeds before she gets a grip on the stick, and this spurs her to stop fetching and start heading back to the house.   In the back yard, I see her go by the pool float again under the maple tree; apparently there is water in there, and she has a choice of dirty pools to cool off in.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Vegetation Heat Surrounds Me

August 16, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  This morning Moi tells me I shouldn’t have hung my clothes over her clothes in the laundry room.  She says that, since it’s tick season, I should put them in the dryer after my walk.  Duly noted.  I work for a few hours around noon time, and I’ve been waiting till late afternoon to take Mwayla for her walk.  She’s been waiting patiently herself in the music room (Moi is out working), but now she’s starting to stir and pace about.  4:49 pm.  I’d hoped I might be able to mow the lawn, but it rained a little bit this afternoon, and I think the grass is too wet.  I don’t think the temperature’s in the 90’s, but it’s hellish humid.
State of the Path:  As I’m trying to feed the chickens, Mway barks at them and tries to corral them together, and I have to yell at her to stop it.  I check the lawn grass; it’s perhaps not too wet to mow after all.  Out on the path, I feel vegetation heat surrounding me, or perhaps it’s just the sun beating down on me.  The moth mullein, though flopped over onto the ground, has a couple new flowers on it.  Jewelweed in bug land and along the creek seems newly refreshed.  I spot two ripe blackberries on a lone briar – haven’t seen any blackberries lately; these might be the last – and scarf them up.  Here and there, still some fleabane, though the plants are also flopped over.  More moonish berries on the “chokeberries.”  I keep an eye out for, and avoid, tripping over the root or vine I tripped over the other day.  Heal-all still flowering, as well as boneset and ironweed.  Lots of little butterflies, white, orange, one lavender one.  A bumblebee zooms at me as I’m ducking under the honeysuckle while going through the break in the ridge.  Near the strawberry patch, I see a grasshopper hop onto a leaf of a “chokeberry” bush and just sit there while I look at it.  This is the only grasshopper I see, though.  More goldenrod has yellow flowers, and it seems all the rest of them have at least green flowers.
State of the Creek:  Mway wades, as she used to do, into the pool below the tree stand, then heads up the creek bed past the multiflora bush.  I hear water splashing and rocks clacking; when I peer through the jewelweed I see there’s a little water among the rocks.  Further downstream, though, the rock beds are still dry between the pools.  A few frogs leaping.  Vinyl siding no closer to the water.
The Fetch:  I toss the stick, and with each toss, hope that Mway will decide that it’s her last, but she keeps going.  Several times between tosses, I have to remove my glove to wipe sweat off my face.  We play “Put it down,” and finally Mway makes a move for the path, and I stop saying “Put it down.”  Walking through the back yard, I notice some tiny bugs clinging to my shirt.  I don’t think they’re ticks, but still I take off my clothes and put them in the drier, even though I want to go right out and try to mow at least some of the lawn (I’m writing this in my underwear).  While still in the yard, Mway checks out an abandoned pool float under the maple tree.  I believe she mistakes this for her wading pool, for that’s where she heads to next, leaps in, dropping the “pro-quality” stick on the rim.

Monday, August 15, 2011

She Interprets "Good Enough" to Mean "Put It Down"

August 15, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  Work all day today, and when I get home it’s about 7 pm, a long work day, with travel time calculated in, about an 11-hour day.  When I get home, Moi’s not around either.  She’s told me that she has to work about 8 hours today, so I have to assume that she’s done none of the evening chores that she usually does: feed Mway, throw feed to the chickens, take the garbage down. Of course, I’m already mentally prepared to take Mway for a walk.
State of the Path:  It’s been raining all day today, so I’m expecting to get wet.  When I look at the lawn, I’m shocked at how high the grass is, although I have to tell myself that this is relative to the many bare spots in the yard and to what it’s been the last few weeks.  Out on the path, Mway turns right to head immediately to the clearing; I realize that this is all the farther I’d have to go to satisfy her needs, just to the clearing to fetch stick – indeed I’m sure Mway would be satisfied just to go to the back yard to fetch stick – but I decide that since I’m already wet (and whacking at goldenrod with the “pro-quality” stick) I might as well go all the way down to the creek to check it out after the rain.  I move quickly, though, and don’t really notice much except how wet I’m getting.  Past the swale, through the “chokeberries,” and just before the Russian olive, I see a hummingbird.  I’ve seen hummingbirds this year out the kitchen window sipping at the trumpet vine, but this is the first one I’ve seen on a walk.  I don’t know what kind it is: I’m happy enough to say I see a hummingbird.
State of the Creek:  Mway ventures into the creek bed where she’s been doing so lately; I can’t tell when she steps if she’s splashing water or causing rocks to clack together.  But as I walk farther along the creek I soon realize that, despite the rain today, the creek still is far from being a continuous stream.  The pools are higher, that’s all.  At the narrows the vinyl siding is about a foot from the edge of the water.
The Fetch:   By the time I get to the clearing, my pant legs are soaked up to the pockets.  I toss the stick, and when Mway brings it back, she holds the stick in her mouth and back steps.  I interpret this to mean that she only wants to fetch the stick once, so I tell her “Good.  Good enough.”  But then she interprets my words to mean “Put it down,” and she drops the stick.  We play “Put it down” more times than I care to; several times I say “Good.  Good enough,” but she keeps on interpreting this as “Put it down.”  Finally, I just turn around and start heading back to the house, and Mway follows.  I go into the house to feed her, but then I have to go back outside, and though I’m anxious to get out of my wet clothes and take a shower (too cold today to go into the pool), I still have to take the garbage down and check for eggs.  I take the garbage down, but when I go to check for eggs, the chickens, all except for one hen still roaming the yard, are all inside the coop for the evening.  So I don’t bother them, and head back indoors, wondering if I should put my clothes in the dryer, hang them up in the laundry room, or just toss them down at the end of my bed as I usually do.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Go Back to Wearing Socks

August 14, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  I have to work tonight, and Moi has to work at another job from noon into evening.  She has already taken Mway out to throw stick, but by the time I get around to taking her for a walk it’s 11:30.  I plan for it to be the only walk I take her for today.  Since it’s dry and sunny, I decide to go back to wearing my athletic socks.  All my walking clothes are damp, stinky, and dirty, but after I have them on and am out walking I don’t mind wearing them for what, after all, is a stinky and dirty chore.  Last night I noticed what looked like a poison ivy rash on one of my fingers; I don’t know how I got it on my finger; but today it is gone.
State of the Path:  I look at the lawn and decide I can postpone mowing until next week.  Another branch has fallen down from our dying birch tree.  Out on the path, the weeds are not wet or dewy, so I take the side path along the old orchard, pleased enough with the clipping I did on it the other day.  I note that one of the multiflora bushes that looked dead this winter is still dead, with a few new green branches growing up on one side.  I pull at weeds as I walk along.  More and more goldenrod is flowering, but it’s not in flower as much as I suspect it will be in the coming weeks.  Along the creek, I trip on a root or vine – it’s not the loopy vine, but another one.  I take the side path along the skating pond, and meet up with a particularly ferocious looking briar, which I’m unable to tear apart as I pull it to one side.   Along the ridge, I pull at some grasses and then hear a loud rustle which I think might be an animal, but then I realize it’s just the brown grasses rustling.  Coming up to the strawberry patch, I hear a bird or two scolding at me and Mway in the honeysuckles, then I see in a maple tree that one of the scolding birds is what looks to me like a catbird, and there’s another one on the branch behind it.  After I watch it squawking for a while, I see on another branch at the opposite end of the tree some sort of yellow oriole.  I’m not going to bother to look into Audubon today to see if my identifications are correct or not.
State of the Creek:  At the deer stand, Mway ventures into the creek bed.  For a time she was regularly going into the pool below the big maple, but lately she has been entering the dry creek just a little above that, on the other side of the multiflora bush – I guess she likes a little variety in her life as much as I do.  I note a lot of newly fallen yellow locust leaves, or rather what I realize are probably black walnut leaves, lying on the ground and in the pools of water.
The Fetch:  Mway makes one fetch then starts running past me, and I say “Good.  Good enough.”  But no sooner do I say that than she drops the stick and starts, to my surprise, on a round of fetches that’s more than she’s made with me in some time, probably at least twenty, with plenty of those being part of the “Put it down” game.  She seems to pant and growl especially loudly today, and on one fetch she really shakes the stick as she’s picking it up, jiggling the weeds around her, including a number of Queen’s Anne’s lace that have come up more in abundance here in the clearing.  Back in the yard, after she drops the stick at the back door, she hops into her little wading pool, spinning around in that like she’s still wound up after fetching the stick.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Think I Hear a Bullfrog

August 13, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  I have to work tonight and probably should work a little also this afternoon, so I might as well take Mway for a walk this morning.  Moi has already taken her out to throw stick.  She tells me that the path is wet, since it’s been raining, I guess, all night – but a wet path is, of course, no obstacle to me.  I’ll go barefooted in my boots again.  It’s 9:41.
State of the Path:  My walking clothes are damp when I put them on.  Mway is relaxing on the porch after throwing stick with Moi, and looks up at me bug-eyed, surprised to see me.  But she’s soon smiling as she runs and circles the yard, heading to meet me at the path.  I admit I feel a little uncomfortable in my damp clothes, and when I reach the path beyond the walled garden, the idea of walking through wet weeds seems unpleasant to me, so I start whacking at the goldenrod, briars, and giant ragweed with the “pro-quality” stick.  It’s a half-assed job, but it makes me feel like I might stay a little drier than I otherwise would.  Down at the grasses in bug land, I can feel my bare feet sloshing around in my boots.  As I approach the creek, I think I hear a bullfrog, but after a few steps, I realize it’s my feet making a burping sound against the wet rubber of my boots.  I think I hear the whine of another mosquito.  Along the creek, I look at the plant that’s winding around the jewelweed and see that it’s also winding around some goldenrod that I’ve started whacking at.  I wonder if the plant’s some kind of bindweed.  Its little white flowers, or maybe they’re just white buds, grow all along its stringy, winding stem – and they look almost like fungus or coral.
State of the Creek:  Beneath the tree stand, Mway ventures into the creek bed – I hear the clacking of rocks.  Whatever rain we had last night must be soaking into the ground; it hasn’t raised the level of the creek much.  The creek is still a series of disconnected pools, with muddy opaque water in them.  The pool at the narrows has crept closer to the vinyl siding.  I walk over to the feed channel to the skating pond and see there’s no water in it.  Mway meets up with me as I’m stepping through the poison ivy beneath the “chokeberries.”
The Fetch:  She runs ahead of me and is there to greet me at the clearing.  I suspect she will only make one fetch, but it’s hard to tell: she prances about and looks up at me with an eager smile.  I toss the stick – will she bring it back and drop it at my feet?  No, she goes running toward the path along the sumacs and heads back to the house, having to adjust the stick in her mouth once or twice after it gets knocked cock-eyed by the weeds along the path.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Decide to Go Without Socks

August 12, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  I don’t work tonight, but I do work for a short while in the afternoon.  When I come home, Moi is out working, and when she comes home, I decide to take Mway for her walk, about 4:45.  It’s no longer raining – it’s been raining lightly on and off all day.  I know I’ll get wet on the walk, so I decide to wear my boots just over my bare feet, rather than wear socks – prefer to feel the wet directly on my feet, rather than have my feet enclosed in dirty, soggy socks.  Whatever repair Moi did to my boots this spring has become undone, and I can see the pink flesh of my feet through the cracks in the black boots.
State of the Path:  The ground is again brown, and soon I’m getting wet from the weeds bent down across the path by the rain.  Just down to the creek and back.  Near the wigwams, I hear a slight roar, and I think for a moment that it might be water gushing down the creek, but then I see wind blowing through the locusts.  Under the pin oaks, a mosquito whines in my ear, perhaps the first one I’ve heard this year.  I don’t expect to see any new wildflowers out on this gray cloudy day, and I’m surprised when I see down by the creek a few purple flowers sticking out from a bunch of jewelweed, a five-petaled flower and heart-shaped leaves with two little tear-shaped leaves above each one.  A quick perusal of Audubon comes up with nothing like what I see.  The wind blows down yellow locust leaves.  By the time I’m walking up from the ridge around bug land, my pants and shirt-sleaves are wet.  Walking through the poison ivy, I worry a little that my skin might be exposed to it through the cracks in the boots.
State of the Creek:  I stop to look at the creek beneath the tree stand.  I see more water in the pool beneath the big maple, but when Mway ventures down into the creek bed just above it I can hear dry rocks clacking.  There are now pools everywhere pools form, but the creek is still disconnected.  The pool near the vinyl siding is much bigger, although the siding doesn’t seem much closer to the edge of the water (the pool has grown in the opposite direction).  There’s a streak of water on the vinyl.
The Fetch:  Mway gives me more fetches than she did yesterday.  After a few bouts of “Put it down,” Mway looks like she wants to head on down the path, and I gesture, “Go.  Good enough.”

Thursday, August 11, 2011

First Walk After We Get Back

August 11, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  Moi and I got home last night at midnight.   It’s now 9:46, and I hear Moi saying “Poor tiny Mway.”  “Why poor tiny Mway?” I ask.  “Because I haven’t yet taken her for a walk,” she says.  “This morning,” she continues, “I let Squeak out.  But she was immediately surrounded by chickens, and came running back in.”  Last night Mway was certainly happy to see us, but it was not such that she could not contain her excitement.   After all she had probably been asleep, and Monday night through Tuesday evening Barb had been around to maintain her routine of walks, fetching, and eating .  This is the third time this year Moi and I have been out of town overnight; prior to that, since we’ve gotten Mway, I don’t think we were ever away together.   But unlike our previous blue healer, Spot (who used to chew window casements and claw doors if we were both out only for hours), Mway is good staying home alone, and, for overnight, we’ve discovered it works well with some one like Barb who can house sit and take her for a walk.  I just told Moi I’d take Mway out for a walk (I have to work tonight, and maybe I won’t take her for a walk later).  It’s now 10:07.  Mway’s been smiling since I’ve started moving to put on my walking clothes.
State of the Path:   I find the “pro-quality” stick under the bench where I’d hidden it.  Terribly muggy, but hardly a drop of dew on the plants.  Ground looking even drier.  Sound of cicadas, katydids, or whatever.  A briar or two I haven’t clipped back snags me here and there.  Orange jack-in-the-pulpit seeds now lying on the ground. I walk by the big “chokeberry,” forgetting to look at it, but when I glance back, see its purple black berries.  After I take a quick look at the creek bed beneath the tree stand, I lose my footing on some dry loose ground and fall back into the multiflora bush.   A lot of little, fritillary-like butterflies flitting here and there.
State of the Creek:  The creek is now reduced to three puddles and a pool.  A puddle at the log jam, another at the bend before the narrows, and there’s still a puddle about 4 feet away from the vinyl siding, but with only about an inch of water in it and little bugs in it.  Along the crest of the skating pond, a pool extends back toward the swale from bug land – maybe more than 15 feet, but I can’t tell because I lose sight of it behind the honeysuckles and other bushes.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, I don’t see any grasshoppers, which I only saw one day a week or so back.  Usually this time of the year is when you start to see young grasshoppers hopping from one goldenrod stem to the next, and larger grasshoppers flying with their black wings along the ground.  Only one fetch from Mway – that’s alright with me, but still I think: so this is the grand welcome home?  Sweat’s dropping off my forehead as I’m writing this – time to go into the pool.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Good Walk Before We Leave for a Couple Days

August 9, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  Moi wakes me at 7.  Soon learn she expects me to take Mway for good walk. Computer’s been on, so might as well make this entry quickly.  Have to bend down to retrieve my stick under the bench.
State of the Path:  Down to creek and back.  Not too dewy.  But main path could use some more clipping.  Not until grasses at bug land do I feel dew spritzing on my pants.  Morning sun over ironweed, boneset, and few plants of goldenrod in bug land.  Purple, white, yellow against brown grass.
State of the Creek:  Tomorrow I bet the puddle by the vinyl siding will be gone.
The Fetch:  Start tossing in center of clearing.  Dew thrown off goldenrod into sunlight as Mway runs through it.  After a few fetches, Mway starts to head back toward the house, but changes her mind, turns around.  I move to end of clearing, and we end up playing “Put it down” it must be twenty times. Back at house, Mway drops stick in yard.  I put it back under the bench.