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)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Creek is Flowing Again

September 30, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  Work in the afternoon, and when I get home about 3:30, there seems to be a break in the rain we’ve been having since I’m not sure when – at least since I’ve been up.  I put on my walking clothes, but as soon as I get one boot on, the rain starts back up.  I’m waiting for another break – and it looks like one’s coming now.  Mway is waiting for me on the back porch.  I’m not looking forward to getting wet from walking through the weeds, but I’ve managed that before.
State of the Path:   When I put my boots back on I see there’s more cracks in them than I ever realized, and I think to myself I could probably fare just as well walking in my stocking feet.  At the start of the path just beyond the walled garden, I brush back with one of my sticks a clump of goldenrod, managing to do so so neatly that hardly a drop of water snaps onto me, and I congratulate myself on what I’ve done.  But soon, especially past the first line of sumacs, the sagging weeds become such a jumble I can’t parry them back as well – and the rainsoaked weeds begin slapping my pants.  But I’m getting no wetter than I have on past walks.  In my one boot, though, there’s a burr or something jabbing my skin.  I look through the crack in the instep of the boot, but I don’t see anything, and the burr irritates me until finally it must dislodge or something because by the time I get down to the creek I no longer feel anything.  Beyond the first line of sumacs, a breeze blows up, tossing up the lower green leaves of the second line of sumacs and revealing their silvery undersides, above which flutter the red leaves on the uppermost branches.  The same thing is happening with the maples beyond: the wind flipping up the green leaves to expose their silvery bottoms.
State of the Creek:  The aquifer must have filled, for the stream is flowing – too much for Mway to go into the water, and she disappears along the path somewhere and I don’t see her again until the clearing.  The new gray water gushes along the very top of the banks, sweeping grass into its currents.  I can hear it flowing.  The flowerless touch-me-nots and other weeds hang precariously over the rushing water.  Cow piss foam accumulates against leaf and branch debris, especially at the log jam.  The green-sepaled plant stands right at the water’s edge; the leaves are almost all purple now, and so are even some of the sepals.  There’s water flowing down through the swale, and the water in the feed channel reaches all the way to the bushes that obscure my view of the skating pond.
The Fetch:  Mway seems especially energetic.  After who knows how many tosses, when she brings the stick back and drops it at one point, there’s bark dirt streaking across her tongue and a piece of leaf stuck like a third eye on her forehead between her brown eyebrows.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tired After Cleaning Out the Gutters

September 29, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  Work tonight.  Because it’s supposed to rain hard tomorrow, Moi enlists me to clean out the gutters and spouting, or at least what we can reach.  I wear myself out crawling around on top of the back porch roof, then I have to hump some equipment for my work tonight and wear myself out even further.  I’m tired when I call Mway for her walk, about 2.
State of the Path:  Leaves crinkle underfoot.  Pull out a goldenrod or two as I walk along.  When I get down to the maples, start seeing a lot of little brown birds, the hardest to identify.  White butterflies over bug land.  Down at the creek, I do recognize a female cardinal – at least I’ve learned that much this year.   At the swale, an Arum honeysuckle sports its berries next to a bunch of New York or New England asters flashing their flowers, nice contrast of red and lavender. 
State of the Creek:  The pools have turned black, probably from rotting leaves.  They sit there, being what they are – I’m waiting for tomorrow’s rain.
The Fetch:  Toss the stick within the clearing, trying to get Mway to beat down more of the goldenrod.  But she usually returns with the stick down the path she’s already beaten down.  The area we’ve both beaten down forms a kind of dumbbell shape in the middle of the clearing.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Have to Stop, Take off My Gloves

September 28, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  On Sunday I relayed the incident with the hawk to Wade, who, having been raised on a farm, asked me if we ate it.  I told Moi about this, and she said she hadn’t thought about it at the time but supposed that she could have plucked its feathers and put it in the freezer (that night we were going to a job where the one fringe benefit is that we get a meal after we finish our work, so we couldn’t have eaten the chicken that day – and Moi seldom thinks, unlike myself, about meals ahead of time).  Right now a strong rain has just blown over, and the sky has turned blue.  I have work to do during the day.  On my way out I see three hawks sailing over a couple McNeighbor’s houses toward the creek.  I get back about 4:00.  The chickens are milling about the lilac bushes.  Mway is waiting for me in the kitchen.  “Tiny Mway -- ready for a walk?” Moi chirps, as she moves around the stove, fixing a meal on a day I don’t work at night.
State of the Path:  The sun is shining bright through the gaps between dark clouds.  The black walnuts seem to have lost at least half of their leaves.  The line of sumacs nearest the pig pen sticks up mostly leafless, but those sumacs nearest the maples are still bearing red leaves.  I take the side path, where I haven’t walked in a while.  The path is carpeted with leaves, which rustle as I walk over them.  With the leaves coming off the trees, the old orchard looks open, the Boy’s old fort clearly visibile in the center tree.  Some of the goldenrod flowers are getting a brown tinge to them. The two asters that I saw here in the upper field look beat up from the rain, but the asters down by bug land still appear firm and flashy.  Most of the jewelweed in bug land has taken on a pale withering look.  As I walk along the creek, I suddenly realize that I can see birds again.  I hear something going “too-wheet,” then I see some sort of brown bird.  Then a bluejay lands on a locust tree that has lost most of its leaves, and beyond it other birds flit about the branches that are growing bare – including one with a yellow stripe on its wings – I don’t know if this is a goldfinch or what.  I look briefly at the green-sepaled plant, then walk on.  Past the swale, I turn left to check on the feed channel – there’s water in it, and because of this, and the asters that are blocking the view of the footholds, I don’t bother to try to step over it.  I turn around and continue on through the “chokeberries,” some of the bushes of which still hold onto their dry withered berries, until I reenter bug land.  As I’m walking along looking at New York or New England asters sticking up through the weeds along the ridge and at what I think is fleabane growing in the flat area, my eyes suddenly start welling up with tears, and I have to stop and take off my gloves, and wipe the tears out of my eyes, so I can see to continue walking.
State of the Creek:  Mway steps into the water beneath the tree stand and takes a sip of it, but as she walks up the creek bed to come up to the path, I can hear her stepping on dry rocks.  Beneath the tree stand and elsewhere the pools have returned, but the rain from last night and this morning didn’t turn the creek back into a continuous stream.  The pool beneath the now nearly leafless black walnut tree has a bright rusty color to it, probably from the red and brown oak leaves that the water covers, and as I stand looking at it, a frog leaps from in front of my foot into the water.
The Fetch:  Mway greets me at the clearing with her usual smile, ears perked, tongue hanging from her little snout.   The mucous from my cold, worsened by my crying fit, is thick in my nose, and I pitch the birch branch just ten feet or so into the weeds within the clearing.  Mway makes about five or six fetches, then coaxes me to play “Put it down” once.  Then we set off back to the house, Mway running off ahead of me, and me pushing back with my walking stick or my hands the goldenrod and briars that sag into the path along the sumacs.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Some Sort of Mammal Leaps from the Creek

September 27, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  Work a little in the afternoon.  It’s been drizzling all day, and I’ve been feeling tired, and when I get home I tell Moi, who’s in the kitchen canning pears, that I’m going to take a nap and I’ll take Mway for a walk later.  But Moi tells me it’s supposed to start raining harder later in the day, so I decide to take Mway out right away.
State of the Path:  At the bottom of the porch steps are two bags of trash that Moi has just tossed there.  The birch branch is lying beside them.  I pick it up, then grab my walking stick.  Out on the path, like I did the other day, I parry back the sagging goldenrod as best as I can, a stick in either hand.  The damp leaves make a soft, plushy sound as I step on them.  That sound, and the rain falling on the ground and plopping on my safari helmet, is the main sound today, and maybe just a bird or two, but no cicadas.  At the opening to bug land, the New York or New England asters are wide opened; and as they’ve gotten more flowers so their stalks have lengthened.  Raindrops bejewel the now pale leaves of the touch-me-nots.  I note again that most of the jewelweed flowers are gone, but just as I note this, I come upon a plant or two that still has quite a few left.  I find a fat seed pod to touch, and it bursts between my finger tips.  By the time I finish walking along the creek and come back into bug land, my pants and shirt are soaked, and I start moving as fast as I can, wincing as I push my way through the bent-over briars and goldenrod.
State of the Creek:  The major puddles are back (but I reflect today that the aquifer that’s the proper source of the creek must still be quite low, and I wonder how much rain it will take to restore it).  The puddles at the black walnut tree lie over beds of leaves.  As I’m staring down at them, Mway slips down the creek bank and starts sniffing in the cavities beneath the bank.  Immediately a small bright-brown mammal leaps out of the creek, runs across the path, and slinks for cover in the weeds between the path and bug land.  It looks maybe like a famished rabbit, but I think more likely it might be a muskrat.  Mway doesn’t see it, and while she’s still sniffing around the creek bank, I walk into the weeds to see if I can find it, but it has hidden itself very well.
The Fetch:  As I toss the stick for Mway up at the clearing, my wet sleeves and pantlegs cling coldly against my arms and legs, and Mway fetches the stick more times than I want her too and coaxes me to play “Put it down,” which, however, I only play once.  Back at the house door, where Mway drops the stick, I see a goldenrod stalk on top of the stick, which Mway must have caught between her teeth and carried back with her.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pick Some Asters

September 26, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  Work all day, and when I get home, about 6:30, there’s still just enough light out to take Mway for a quick walk.  Moi’s planning a special meal, venison sauerbrauten, so I double check with her to make sure I should take Mwayla for her walk.   She’s set the table with a vase with some Jerusalem artichoke flowers and lady’s thumb.  “Boy, there’s not a lot of wildflowers out there now,” she says.  “There’s those asters,” I say, “I’ll get you some.” 
State of the Path:  I plan to walk down to the creek and back, but beyond the pig pen, Mway makes a quick right onto the path directly to the clearing, so I think, “what the hell, make this real short.” 
The Fetch:  Mway just fetches the stick about 4 times, and is ready to go back to the house, but I still have to go down and pick some of the asters.  I go in the reverse direction I normally go, so I feel a little disoriented, and it seems like it takes a long time to get down to the ridge where the asters are growing.  I’m disappointed to find that the asters are only half-opened (because of approaching dusk?), but I pick a couple stalks anyway.  When I get back to the clearing, Mway has dropped the stick, and I think “Shit, she wants me to throw it again.”  I throw it one time, and though it looks like she’s rearing to go again, I tell her “That’s enough.”   On the way back to the house, she drops the stick to venture after something in the weeds.  I call her back and tell her to pick up the stick.  She drops the stick again near Moi’s pond to go after something, and I call her back and say “where’s your stick?”  She finds her stick and carries it back to the porch step, where she drops it, and we go into the house, me carrying the asters.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Something Unexpected in the Yard

September 25, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  This afternoon I went out to the garden to get some vegetables for my Ramen noodle stir fry.  On the way back to the house, I suddenly see something in the middle of the yard that’s usually not there.  I freeze.  At first, because the thing, a sort of brown-striped thing, is just sticking up, I think it might me a log or a tree trunk that I just never noticed before or that Moi recently put there for one of her many projects.  But somehow I realize this is not likely.  I stand still, gazing at the object, until I see that it has a white head that is twitching around, keeping a lookout with its beady eyes.  Because of its white head and large size, I think at first it might be an eagle, and then, because its brow seems kind of hooded and the head looks fat, I think it might be an owl.  But as I keep on looking at it – and it amazes me as I’m doing so that it does not fly away – I settle on its being a hawk, probably a red-tailed hawk.  Earlier I had heard the chickens squawking outside, and Moi had commented about them squawking.  So I look around to see if I can see the chickens – and I don’t see or hear them anywhere.  Moi is taking a nap, and I’m thinking I should wake her up to tell her about the hawk.  Every moment I’m looking at it, I’m expecting it to fly away.  It flicks its tongue several times.  I take a few slow steps toward the house.  Still it doesn’t move.  I take a few more careful steps, and the thing rises slightly in the air, carrying up a dead chicken in its talons.  The hawk flies to the perimeter of the yard and stops there.  Feathers lie all over the grass where it had been standing.  I run into the house to get Moi.  As she’s rushing out the bedroom door, Mway leaps up, playing her stupid door game, and pushes the door against Moi’s back.  “Mwayla, you stupid asshole,” Moi yells and frees herself from the door.  Outside, I point out where the hawk is still standing.  “That’s my chicken,” Moi shouts and marches over to the hawk, which now flies away through the trees, abandoning the dead hen on the ground.  Moi finds the bulk of the other chickens hiding in the weeds by the pear tree, and I discover one rooster who’s hidden in the coop.  Moi and both work together tonight, and it’s approaching 3:30, about time to take Mway for a walk.
State of the Path:  As I put on my boots and helmet, Moi looks out the kitchen window.  “Mway’s outside,” she says, “Probably rolling in that dead chicken.”  When I turn around, though, Mway is standing at the door, smiling, her pointy ears perked.  As I gather the birch branch and the walking stick, Mway runs over to the feathers and starts sniffing them.  I walk toward her, and she shuffles away, looking at me guiltily over her shoulder.  The chickens are all in the cage or milling around in the Jerusalem artichokes.  The sky is cloudless, the same blue as the New York or New England asters.  Spindly insects leap up from the yellowing weeds.   The jewelweed flowers seem to be disappearing, their leaves withering.  Down at the creek, I stare at the green-sepaled plant, shaking my head.  Coming up toward the clearing, a monarch (or a viceroy) flies over my shoulder and lands on a goldenrod right in front of me, so I end up bumping into it.  It seems to take a few seconds to think about it before it flies away.
State of the Creek:  Brown crinkly leaves keep piling up between the rocks.  Both puddles at the narrows are now just splotches of mud.  The creek, I believe for the first time this year, is now completely dry.
The Fetch:  Mway fetches the stick only about four times, then heads toward the path back to the house, looking over her shoulder, though, once or twice, as if asking for permission.  “That’s okay, Mway,” I tell her.  “We’re done.   As I approach the walled garden, I hear the chickens squawking.  Mway has run ahead, and I wonder if she’s riling them or if something worse is once again happening.  I find the chickens under the corn crib, a few of them venturing into the weeds.  Maybe they’re squawking, as Moi tells me they sometimes do, because one of the hens has laid an egg.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Black Walnut Tree Leaves All Yellow

September 24, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  Late last night I did do a yahoo-search of the strange plant.  I typed in “late summer yellow wildflower with prominent green sepals compound leaves.”  Of course I came up with thousands of entries, with the first several pages only remotely relevant to what I was looking for.  I have to work tonight, and I decide to take Mway for a walk about 2.  I discover the birch branch in the music room, put there by Mway, as she once used to do with my boots, to remind me of our walks.
State of the Path:  Mway, who’s already outside, jumps off the porch when she sees me and starts chasing after one of the hens.  I yell at her to stop.  She stops, and takes off after another one.  But when the second hen swerves away, Mway continues straight and takes a sip out of the chickens’ water dish.  In front of the chicken coop, where we have a stand of Jerusalem artichokes, a number of the tallest ones have come into flower.  I take a left onto the side path; the Arum honeysuckle berries are in thick clusters and seem to be turning slightly orange.  It’s hot out again today (Moi thinks I should go in the pool for one last time, and I would except for my chest cold).  It seems very quiet today, but then I notice the sound of cicadas, the sound of cars on distant highways, the crunching of the leaves under my feet.  Where I spotted a New York or New England aster yesterday, a second one has come up.  Down by the wigwams, the ground seems for the first time this year to be covered with a lot of dry maple leaves, though the maples still have most of their green leaves.  I see, down by the creek, the black walnut trees turning completely yellow.  Down here, the New York or New England asters keep on spreading; at places where they’ve bushed up, there may be as many as a hundred flowers.  I stop to look at the green-sepaled plant.  More of its leaves have turned purple.  Its yellow flowers (or are they the stamen?) still have not opened up, and it seems to me if they are going to they would have done so today, since the sun shines right down on this plant. 
State of the Creek:  The first puddle at the narrows is the size of a footprint; little black bugs swirl around in it.  The second puddle is about the size of a hubcap.
The Fetch:  Mway greets me at the clearing with a smile.  But she only fetches the stick once.  Why – is it because it’s 2:30 in the afternoon, the wrong time for a walk?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Use a Small Stick

September 23, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  This morning I wake up to a bird singing.  I can best transcribe its song as “choogeta-choogeta-choogeta-chooo.”   I’ve heard this song many times, and I wish I knew what kind of bird sings it.  Last night at work I sang “Happy Birthday” to myself.  Sounds odd, but it’s part of the job.  There was a wild downpour at the workplace for a short while, but Moi tells me it hardly rained here, a brief isolated sprinkle.  I have to work today and plan to take Mway for her walk when I get home this afternoon.  I get home shortly after 4.  Mway’s pacing around, and I put on my newly washed walking clothes, which feel stiff and tight.
State of the Path:  I can’t find the birch branch, so I pick up one of the small sticks that Moi has told me she prefers to use for fetch (I could call it, I suppose, an “amateur” stick, in contrast to what Moi deemed the “pro-quality” stick, or, analogously to the products manufactured with gender distinctions in mind, a “ladies’” stick or “girl’s” stick).  I also bring my walking stick.  Out on the side path, a faint musty odor arises from the leaves that have recently fallen.  When I round the bend at the back hedgerow, a single New York or New England aster pokes up from the surrounding weeds, the first time I’ve seen one of these flowers in the upper part of the field (and down farther, these flowers are still continuing to spread).  Walking through the goldenrod back toward the main path, I also smell, again just faintly, the decay of the goldenrod stalks that I cut down some weeks ago.  Here in the sun, on what’s turned out to be a very warm day, I feel hot in my newly washed walking clothes, and I get the longing to take a dip in the pool after the walk (which I would do, except I still have this cold in my chest).  Many of the “chokeberry” bushes have lost their berries; the berries that remain are shriveling up.  Down by the creek, as I’m casually looking at things -- the ladies thumb, the plastic barrel, the fuzzy Canadian thistle I still have to walk carefully around – I suddenly stumble upon another “green-sepaled” plant, on the opposite side of the creek, just before the big locust trees.  I never noticed it before.  This looks exactly like the plant I’ve been seeing at the crest of the skating pond (the green sepals, the paint-brush-like flowers that don’t open), and it looks like it’s been there awhile.  It’s a little bigger than the other plant, it seems to be sitting in more sun, and some of its serrated leaves have turned purple.  I’m excited about seeing this, and maybe tonight or tomorrow morning I can google this plant, although I’m not sure what kind of key words I would use: “green sepals”?  “paint-brush-like flowers that don’t open”?
State of the Creek:  Unbelievably, the two little puddles at the narrows are still there.
The Fetch:  On the way to the clearing, the fleshless leg bone of some small animal lies in the path (actually I first noticed this weeks ago, but I haven’t remembered to mention it until today).  It matters little to Mway that I’m tossing a girl’s stick, except one time when I toss it down into the taller goldenrod, and the little stick gets easily hidden.  I guess it doesn’t even matter then; Mway overshoots it when she runs after it, but she backtracks and finds it within seconds.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bird Flies from the Touch-Me-Nots

September 22, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation.  I work tonight.  Shortly after I get up, while I’m restarting the computer over and over to try to get the wireless connection to work, Moi tells me that she’s concerned about the poison ivy under the pear tree.  The past couple years she’s been canning these pears; last year I clipped the poison ivy down, but since I didn’t pull up any of the roots or runners, it of course came back again this year.  “Okay,” I tell her, “I guess I can go out there this morning and pull it up.”   Since my gardening clothes are the same as my walking clothes, I decide I might as well also take Mway for a walk, even though I believe Moi has just fetched stick with her in the back yard.  I first walk down the lane to mail some bills.  Mway’s already outside, and she follows me down the lane.  I go back in the house to put on my gloves and safari helmet.  I decide to take Mway for a walk before I pull up any poison ivy, because after doing that, I’ll have to immediately take a shower and wash my clothes.  Mway’s lying in the yard, peering at me.  When she sees me grab the birch branch and my walking stick, she gets up and runs over to the chicken coop to bark at the chickens (at 9 o’clock Moi has still not let the chickens out; she’s trying to make sure they lay their eggs in the coop and not hither and thither in the weeds).
State of the Path:  I stick to the main path, down to the creek and back.  There’s a little bit of dew on the plants, and my pants get spotted.  The crack in my boot picks up a briar branch I cut down the other day, and it gets dragged for a few feet before it comes off.  A rough-looking black bird (a starling?) gets spooked as I approach and flies out of the touch-me-nots into the maples.  In the field across the creek going up to the ridge, I see purple flowers and I wonder if it is ironweed; most of our ironweed has turned brown.  I continue to be impressed by the New York or New England asters, which burgeon in the swale, in the feed channel, and along the ridge around bug land, often shooting up through other weeds that were already there.
State of the Creek:  The bowl of water at the log jam has disappeared, but there are still the two little puddles at the narrows.  I can’t yet say the creek is completely dried up; today there’s more water in the creek than in the driveway.
The Fetch:  I toss the stick mostly within the clearing, trying (since my mind’s on pulling up weeds) to get Mway to beat down the goldenrod that’s there, but I make a few tosses into the higher goldenrod down the path.  It seems to me that today there’s an understanding between Mway and me that she’s already just fetched the stick with Moi, so Mway limits her fetches to about five, not even bothering to play “Put it down.”

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

It Must Be Amur Honeysuckle

September 21, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  Work in the afternoon, and get home about 3:30.  Mway greets me in the driveway when I get out of the car.  I go inside to change into my walking clothes but before I step outside I read through a website page I printed off the computer this spring because I have the inkling that the redberried bushes I’ve been seeing near the old dump are some kind of honeysuckle.  Indeed what I read on the printout is that the Morrow’s honeysuckle berries ripen between late June and early August, while those of the Amur honeysuckle ripen from September to November.  When I finally step outside, grabbing the birch branch off the bench, the chickens come running up to me, and I expect to see Mway come running behind them somewhere.  But she’s nowhere to be seen.  I call out to her, and soon start to suspect that she’s getting into trouble somewhere.  I walk back into the house to see if she happens to be in there.  Moi’s vacuuming in the music room, but I don’t see Mway anywhere, so I go outside again.  I call out once more, and this time I even begin to suspect that maybe she’s just ignoring me.  I go back into the house to ask Moi if she knows where Mwayla is.  Moi turns off the vacuum, and pretty soon Mway creeps into the kitchen – she was just hiding from the vacuum cleaner. 
State of the Path:  My cold has pretty much left my nose and settled deep into my chest, so it feels good to be out in the air.  I head back on the side path to check on the bushes, reminding myself that all these bushes must have had honeysuckle flowers on them this past spring, so they must be Arum honeysuckles.  I notice that some of the bushes don’t have berries; these I reason must be the Morrow’s.  I have nothing to go on, except the vague memory of flowers, and the shape of the leaves.  The printout tells me that the Amur leaves are “ovate, about 2 -3 inches long with a long tapering tip.”  This is exactly what I see.  That problem solved, I stare through the bushes for a while at a TV that the Boy had dragged out here when he and his friends were playing paintball, its insides spilling out onto the ground.   Then I start looking to see if the jack-in-the-pulpit fruit has dissolved into the ground; it takes me a while, but I find the fruit still lying on top of the ground, shriveling up.  When I enter back on the main path, I see Mway standing up aways in the middle of the path, just staring at me; since usually she’s always moving around, I wonder if she doesn’t want to go down to the creek for some reason.  After I stare back at her for awhile, I turn right and start heading down to the creek; pretty soon, Mway follows, and eventually I lose track of her as I walk along looking at the same wildflowers I’ve been looking at the past week or so.  I head over to the crest of the skating pond to check on the strange green-sepaled plant, careful on the way to avoid the sticky seeds of the tall meadow rue.   Again I step into the dry creek bed to look at the plant closely, noting its heavily serrated leaves-of-three and touching what seems to be its flowers, all of which are still unopened and some of which are turning brownish-green.  I still can’t tell if these are petals that haven’t opened or if they’re stamen and pistil.  I leaf pretty carefully through both the green-flower and yellow-flower sections of the Audubon, thinking there must be a photo in there somewhere of this plant, but again I find nothing.
State of the Creek:  The puddle at the log jam is about the size of a small cereal bowl.  The little puddle at the big oak is gone.  Only two other puddles remain, those at the narrows.
The Fetch:  Mway greets me at the clearing.  I stand in the short goldenrod and start throwing the stick within the clearing, where I’ve been throwing it to help beat down the weeds, but then I remember that yesterday the Boy was throwing the stick as far as he could, and I think, what the hell, I’m going to start doing the same.  So I alternate throws between the goldenrod in front of the sumacs and the goldenrod along the path beyond the clearing, so that Mway really has to dig her way through the weeds to find the stick.   On one of the last fetches, as Mway’s barking and spinning around at my feet, I catch sight of a grasshopper, clinging desperately to a goldenrod leaf close to the ground, managing to weather the storm of motion around it and not get stepped on.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

On My Own

September 20, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  Work in the afternoon, get home about 3.  Moi’s in the back yard working on a window.  Mway greets me when I get out of the car.  While I’m upstairs changing into my walking clothes, the Boy, on his way back to NYC after visiting with Jennifer, pulls into the driveway.  Even as I’m putting on my boots, I can hear Mway barking outside, and I know that the Boy has started throwing the stick for Mway.  When I get outside, I find the birch branch and my walking stick and walk over to say hello to the Boy.  “I’m already throwing the stick for Mway,” he grins, “as you can see.”  “Well, Mway can still go for a walk,” Moi says, and she heads indoors with one of her windows.  Mway begins prancing around the yard with the stick in her mouth.  The stick has a limb fragment which juts up beside her nose. The Boy says he’s going to go inside to look at the new refrigerator.  “Yes,” I tell him, “it’s nice to have a refrigerator with a light that comes on when you open the door, and you can see the food.”  I tell Mway to come on.  She follows me as far as the apple tree, then continues in a circle around the yard with the stick in her mouth.  “Okay,” I say to myself, “I can still go for a walk; it doesn’t have to be with you,” thinking also that perhaps in a little while she’ll start to follow.
State of the Path:  A new line of goldenrod along the path is already starting to sag into the path a little.  I walk with both sticks down as far as the wigwams, when I realize that Mway is probably not going to come, so I double back and take the side path, where I haven’t walked in a while.  Across the floor of the old orchard, the giant Virginia creeper – or whatever it really is – is turning red.  Once again I face the bushes with red berries near the old dump, not knowing what they are, and I begin to wonder if they might be honeysuckles which my poor memory no longer recognizes.  As I wind back down to the main path, I look across the goldenrod to the line of bright berried sumacs and take note that they have lost much of their leaves and what remains has turned red.  Below the wigwams, I see, among the touch-me-nots, the strong crop of New York or New England asters, and I realize that these flowers are burgeoning wherever they’ve come up, at the swale, in the feed channel, and on the other side of the break in the ridge.  I stop to pick a touch-me-not seed pod to touch.  Along the creek, I look at the plant I’ve tentatively deemed tickseed sunflower – the other day Moi questioned my calling it such, because the 2-pronged tickseeds that get on your clothing in the fall seem to be more prevalent than this one plant.  I then go over to the crest of the skating pond to look at the other yellow wildflower, with the prominent green sepals, and which I now realize, from the difference in leaves, is not the same plant as whatever the other plant is.  I walk into the dry creek bed, to take a close look:  the paint-brush-like flowers still have not bloomed, and I wonder what’s up with this plant.  While I’m there I start to feel real itchy, and I realize I have some green sticky seeds on my shirt, and I wonder if they’re from the tall meadow rue I just brushed past.  Along the ridge along bug land, I look again at the new fleabane, which I only saw dimly yesterday evening, although it seemed more impressive then.
State of the Creek:  Puddle still at the log jam, two puddles at the narrows, but the puddle going back to the swale has disappeared, and amazingly enough there’s a puddle at the base of a big oak, another tree with exposed roots, which I don’t see until I go down to look at the green-sepaled plant.
The Fetch:  As I walk through the clearing, the grasshoppers hop up and fly out ahead of me, their temporarily opened wings carrying them for a foot or two to a new resting place out of reach of my boots.  With both sticks, I walk through the path along the sumacs, heavily walled in by briars, and when I reach the yard, there sits Mway, gnawing on the stick she fetched with the Boy.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Path Opens Up Before Me, As If Waiting all Day

September 19, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  Last night I had a dream, which I only recount here because the dream was about remembering something that I had forgotten to put in this journal.  The last thing that occurred in the dream was me thinking “I have to put this in the journal.”  Upon awakening, though, whatever it was I was remembering, although it seemed strikingly clear in the dream, suddenly became vague and nonsensical, and oddly enough it had little, if anything, to do with taking Mway for a walk.  It had something to do with overhead light fixtures breaking and insects crawling out of the ceiling, a series of mishaps that occurred to me and some other people, so coincidentally that they seemed like they couldn’t have happened by accident.  The only connection to taking Mway for a walk, I can see, was that in the dream I kept thinking “it was the sepal.  I have to remember that.  It was the sepal.”  Work all day today.  When I leave work, it’s suddenly raining very hard, and I think to myself, “Good. I won’t have to take Mway for a walk when I get home.”  But when I get to L_______, the windshield clears up, the road is dry, there are gray clouds in the sky but bright spots in the horizon.  As I’m pulling into the driveway, the walnut trees are shedding leaves.  When I get out of the car, it’s windy and seems dark, dusk is descending, the sky still gray, but it’s still not raining, and it’s still light enough to go for a quick walk.  When I get in the house, Moi has painted the kitchen cupboards an orange-brown.  The paint smells: the backdrop to nearly a quarter century of eating has disappeared.  Moi tells me she took Mway for a ride in the car today.  “She didn’t like it at first, thought she was going to the vet, but she calmed down after a while.  I think she could get used to it,” she says.  I ask Moi if she thinks there’s a storm coming.  She checks the radar on the computer, and tells me the weather maps are clear at least for the next half hour.  It’s 6:30.
State of the Path:  After I change quickly into my walking clothes, I find the birch branch in the music room, where I thought I’d seen it this morning, and I grab my walking stick from its resting spot on the side of the house.  The chickens have already gone into their coop (they retire now about 6 o’clock).  The sky is filled with gray clouds with peepholes of light and patches of light in the distance.  I don’t see any walnut leaves falling, and I realize it’s suddenly not windy.  On the far ridge, I see yellow trees, which I think must be walnut trees.  As I start down the path from the walled garden, it seems that the path opens up quietly before me, as if it’s been waiting for me all day.  Where I clipped the weeds yesterday, there’s no new line of weeds sagging down in their place; there’s a feeling of suspense and urgency, as if the sun and clouds are just going to hold their place for a while until I finish my walk.  Mway doesn’t wander off anywhere; she keeps step behind me, and I can hear her steady panting.  The cicadas are droning, a few crickets chirping.  Down by the creek, the wind picks up for a moment and blows a few black walnut leaves in my face, but then suddenly it dies down again.  Along the way I see all the wildflowers I’ve been seeing, but I’m seeing them now as the light is disappearing, and their colors are not as bright as in the middle of day.  The New York or New England asters have spread out even more than they were yesterday, and I come to grips with the fact that I’ve been seeing yet another new wildflower, which I haven’t mentioned before, but which I think is an altogether new blooming of fleabane.  As I walk along, I’m amazed at how much new fleabane is blooming, and when I walk along the ridge around bug land I suddenly see them blooming all over the place, but with evening approaching, I see them vaguely, as if I’m looking at them through murky water.
State of the Creek:  The puddles lie contentedly.  If it rains, they’ll fill up; if not, they’ll just sit there another night.
The Fetch:  Somewhere or other, Mway passes me (perhaps it was in bug land), and she reaches the clearing before me.  When I get there, I’m amazed that’s it’s not yet raining and that it’s still quite light out.  I throw the stick once from the bare spot, then I shuffle over quickly to the low goldenrod, and when Mway brings the stick back, drops it at my feet, and starts barking loudly for me to throw it again, I wince and just start throwing the stick to get it over with as quickly as possible.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Chop down Pokeweed, Cut back Briars and Goldenrod

September 18, 2010.   Saturday.
Situation:  This morning while in bed I heard the sound of barking.  It was a rougher tone than Mway’s bark, and I think it must have been Sebastian, our black-walnut-loathing McNeighbor’s Irish setter.  Sebastian used to every once in while break free from his master’s McYard and wander over to our property; at least one time he even came on a walk with me and Mway.  But I haven’t seen him in sometime, certainly not this past year.  We finally heard from the Boy.  He reports that he was walking from a subway stop about ten blocks to his apartment and managed to get home just as the skies were breaking open with a torrent of rain.  Last night I bought a nasal decongestant and suffered through my job performance well enough.  Moi, drawing from her doctor’s expertise, tells me I’m not getting enough sunshine to produce vitamin D: she criticizes all the protective covering I wear on my walks.  Of course the long clothes and safari helmet are meant to protect me from Lyme-carrying ticks and skin-piercing briars; I don’t know how I could take a walk without them.   Moi and I both work together tonight.  To get more air and sunshine today I think I’m going to go out and cut down some weeds.  Moi tells me she wants me to chop down the poke berries under the hemlock.  First I have to check my email and put some socks and underwear in the washing machine.  If I go out on the path to cut down some weeds, I guess I’ll bring Mway along, and that will constitute our walk.
State of the Path:  Mway has been waiting for me in the hall, and she’s right at the door when I’m ready to go out.  Outside she runs to the outbuilding, only to be disappointed when I hang behind to chop down the pokeweed under the hemlock.  Soon enough, though, I’m on the path, cutting back the next line of goldenrod and briars that has sagged into the pathway.  My main focus is on the area between the sumacs and wigwams, where the path is particularly clogged.  The sun is mellow.  The spikes of goldenrod look like shards of the sun that have fallen to the earth.  A bird sings out as I bear down with my clippers, whatever kind of bird it is that goes “too-wheet, too-wheet, too-wheet, too-wheet.”  As I walk back down the path to look for the birch branch I had laid down, a piece of newly-chopped briar attaches itself to my pant leg -- why I wear long pants.  I continue on and find that nothing much more than a multiflora stem here and there deperately needs to be cut, except along the crest of the skating pond, where I eventually venture and where I get lazy anyway and let most of the weeds stand.  Below the wigwams, I again touch one of the seed pods of the touch-me-nots, feel its tingle between my fingertips.  Along the creek, I look again at the yellow daisy-like wildflower, realizing how much wrong information about it I had burned into my brain yesterday.  Its pistils are actually about the same color as its petals, and the flowers have at least eight petals.  It looks an awful lot like the photo of tickseed sunflower in the Audubon, although I’m not quite happy with the length of the leaves in the picture.  I’ll have to bring along the Audubon sometime with me soon, and also keep a look out for the “fruits of this plant [that] are the very common, 2-pronged stickers that cling to one’s clothing during autumn walks.”  Along the crest of the skating pond, I forget to look at the wildflower there on the other side of creek, to see if its flowers have opened up yet, so distracted I am plowing through the weeds I’m not bothering to cut down.
State of the Creek:  Leaves are filling up the cracks between the rocks in the dry rock beds, at places almost covering them to the top.  The puddles seem to be content to be just puddles.
The Fetch:  As I push my way through the goldenrod and set foot in the clearing, grasshoppers leap out of the way, fleeing the stems my legs have touched and clinging to any stem ahead that my boots have not yet reached.  I stand away from the area of bare dirt to throw the stick; I guess it’s on top of some goldenrod plants that, because of Mway trampling over them, never got very high.  Because of where I’m standing, I can’t throw the stick very far, but this doesn’t matter much to Mway.  If I only threw it two feet in front of me she’d still lunge after it and feel she accomplished whatever it is everyday she feels she’s accomplishing.  And it doesn’t seem to matter that she just fetched stick with Moi earlier this morning; she goes after the stick more times than I care to count, and she’d go after it more, if I didn’t suddenly just turn around and say “Good enough.”

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Touch-Me-Not Pods Finally Exploding

September 17, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  When I wake up this morning Moi tells me there was a tornado (or at least very high winds) in Queens; we’re still waiting to hear from the Boy.  Last night when I came home it was with a stuffed nose and much sneezing – I could tell this cold was coming.  I have to work tonight, and the cold will undoubtedly affect my job performance, but there’s nothing I can do about that.  I have to leave about 4:00.   Fortunately I finished up my rush job yesterday, and have no outside work to do during the day, so I should be able to take Mway for a walk sometime today.  Indeed I just talked to Moi – she hasn’t yet taken Mway for a morning walk (in fact I don’t think she’s been taking Mway for a morning walk for months now), so I’m going to take Mway out now – it’s 9:20 – and get the walk out of the way.
State of the Path:  I stuff my workshirt pocket with some toilet paper, grab both the birch branch and my old walking stick.  A breeze blows some yellow leaves from the black walnuts.  There’s drops of rain on the weeds, but my socks only get damp, my pants only spotted with water.  The main path is quite clogged with briars and goldenrod, and with the birch branch in one hand, the walking stick in the other, I parry back the weeds on either side of me.  My eyes fall helplessly on the stubbornly rounded flowers of Moi’s “smartweed.”  I hear crows in the field across the creek.  Along the creek I hear another bird whose call I’ve heard many times before – man, I should know what it is, but I can’t even remember it now well enough to transcribe the sound.  I see two birds flying through the locust trees – God, I should know what these are too: they’re the birds I always want to call mourning doves, but I’m not sure that’s what they are.  I find the yellow daisy-like wildflower on the opposite bank of the creek and stare at it for a long time to try to burn its image into my brain, its six-petaled flowers with darker pistils, its long lanceolate, toothed leaves – but I don’t find anything right now in the Audubon that quite looks like it.  The ironweed flowers have now crinkled up brown; most of the boneset is turning gray.  On the other side of the ridge, the New York or New England asters have spread quite a bit, and there I notice for the first time this year some seed pods on the touch-me-nots, and, at last, when I touch them they explode between my fingertips
State of the Creek:  The rain basically has just kept the last of the puddles from drying up.  The vinyl siding is about a yard from the puddle that’s next to it.  The driveway still contains more water than the creek.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, I notice that, where I’m standing to throw the stick, the ground is pretty much worn away to dirt, so I stand more in the weeds, near some ragweed, so that Mway when spinning around will wear down a new area..  She fetches the stick more times than I bother to count, and after we play “Put it down” once or twice, I’m sure she would fetch it many more times, but I turn around, telling her “Good enough.”

Friday, September 16, 2011

"It was raining"

September 16, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  This morning I receive an email for a rush job, so in addition to my work already scheduled for tonight, I have work to do during the day.  I heard Mway barking this morning about the time I was getting up, assumed it was Moi tossing stick for her in the back yard.  I suppose I could have taken her for a walk before I left, but it didn’t make much sense if just a couple hours earlier she was already out, and besides I didn’t have the ½ hour, plus the additional ½ hour to write about it, to spare.  So I tell Moi I won’t be able to take Mway for a walk today.  She tells me she’ll take her for an afternoon walk.  When I get home at 10:30 at night, I ask Moi how her walk went and what she might have to report.   “Oh, I didn’t take Mway for a walk,” she says, “It was raining.”

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Look Again at Flower with Long Green Sepals

September 15, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  The last couple days I’ve gone into the pool after our walks, even though it’s numbing cold.  I used to hate swimming in cold water, but the last few years I’ve come to find it very exhilarating.  I haven’t been doing my usual twenty laps; basically I just go in, scoop up the dead bugs and leaves, and swim a couple times around; I’m going to hate giving up the pool for the season (although afterwards in the house I shivered for about an hour).  I never know what day work might be emailed to me.  Today it turns out I have some that I should do within the next couple days, plus I have night work for the next three days.  I think I’m going to spend a couple hours today on the day work, just before my night job begins – both jobs are just a couple blocks away from each other.  That means, if I’m going to take Mway for a walk, I should do it about now; it’s 11:17 in the morning.  Right now Mway’s sleeping in front of my bedroom door.  Since Moi probably already at least threw stick with her this morning, it’d make more sense to take her out later in the afternoon, but I don’t think Mway ultimately cares.
State of the Path:  At first I think I’m going to have to find a new good stick, but then I decide to just use what’s left of the birch branch, and take my old walking stick along with – I need the walking stick today, not just to brush away weeds, but lately my arch muscles on my right foot have been sore, and I can use the support.  I need to take a whiz, but I don’t think about it till I get down to the wigwams.  I have to lean both sticks against a maple and remove my gloves before I take it.  I hate to admit it but I still have hopes that Moi’s “smartweed” will any day now suddenly appear with elongated flowers; but of course again I’m disappointed.
State of the Creek:   In the dry creek bed, in front of the oak tree with the exposed roots, a green ground plant has started spreading.  Then just down from this, I spot a yellow daisy-like wildflower fully in bloom.  This looks to me like the plant with the green sepals, so I go to the crest of the skating pond to find that plant.  At first I can’t find it, but when I do, it looks the same as when I last viewed it, the green sepals looking like petals and the paint-brush flowers looking like pistils.  I don’t know if these are the same plants or what; I hope in the next few days I’ll have time to bring the Audubon along with me.  
The Fetch:  Mway fetches the stick like she hadn’t fetched the stick with Moi just a couple hours ago – and when I hear her barking, I remember that this is what awoke me this morning: Mway barking while Moi threw the stick for her in the yard.  After a number of fetches Mway plays this game where she gobbles at the stick in her mouth, letting it slip loosely between her jaws while she growls.  This is the little prelude to where I’m then supposed to yell at her to “Put it down!”  I guess I’ve described all this already before, but her gobbling seems especially emphatic today.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Berries, Flowers, Birds: None of Which I Identify Properly

September 14, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  Moi has to drive down to her doctor  for her periodic treatment for hypothryroid and chronic Lyme.  I have piddling work to do in the early afternoon.  Lou the security man, back at the metal detector after a stroke, has a whopper of a cough; usually he doesn’t do it, so why today does he finger though my keys, coins, and cigarette lighter I lay out in the tray?  Big Joe Duskin, which somebody gave to me, plays on the new car CD player.  Back home I take advantage of Moi’s absence.  Mway slams the door on herself.  Walk at 4:47, going to open the door now.
State of the Path:  I don’t bring the Audubon with me today, but I wish I had:  I still don’t know what the bushes with the red berries are.  Pull out goldenrod here and there as I walk along, but when I see a honey bee on a stalk, I wait for it to leave first.  I don’t hold out much more hope that Moi’s smartweed flowers will get any longer, and that they will soon look like the photo in the book.  At the creek, hear what sounds like a crow, then a piercingly clear call.  See a bird in the trees; let’s call it a catbird, though I really have no idea what it is.  At the swale, the New York or New England asters are really starting to spread out; I see them even under a “chokerberry” bush.  Under the same bush, there’s a stalk of something or other.  At first I think it’s part of the “chokeberry,” because it has blue berries.  But these berries are bluer than what I’ve been seeing on the “chokeberries,” and the leaves are toothed, not like the ones on the “chokeberry,” and the stalk has thorns.  Now what the hell could this be?
State of the Creek:  At the log jam, I see a new wildflower on the opposite bank, and I think, god damn, not yet another wildflower to try to identify.  But then I see the large green sepals and I recognize the same plant that I saw the other day by the crest of the skating pond; its yellow flowers still have not opened up:  they look like little paint brushes.  I recall that this is how the ironweed looked for weeks, before they started to open up.  I’m happy to see a second one of this type of plant, but, god damn, I still don’t know what it is.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, I hear the be-bop call of the jazz bird; haven’t heard this bird much this summer, and still haven’t established what it is exactly – is it a chickadee?  (I should clarify that I haven’t been paying much attention to birds at all this summer, because they’re so hard to see with leaves on the trees.)  Hear the birch branch crack on the first throw.  When Mway brings it back, it’s still intact, but after the next throw, it breaks apart, the one piece dangling like a bolo on a couple tosses, until it finally falls off.  Mway’s teeth look so sharp when she carries the stick back and barks at me to throw it, but if I hide the stick behind my back, she squats and smiles, and the teeth disappear beneath the pink ribbon of tongue which drapes over them.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Various Asters Maybe, But Definitely Not Dodder

September 13, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  Moi left early with Ezra for NYC, took Mway out and fed her long before I got up.  The little work I can do today I can postpone till tomorrow, so I spent most of the morning on preparatory work for my night and weekend job, taking advantage of Moi being out of the house to work as uninhibitably as I pleased – I almost forgot to let the chickens out as Moi said I would need to do.  Mway spent much of the morning on the front porch, looking around I guess.  Yesterday morning Moi pointed out the window to me Squeak and Mway outside hunting together along the perimeter of the yard, Squeak highstepping cautiously in the weeds, Mway following right behind, whether motherly, opportunistically, or otherwise I don’t know.  Mway has come inside and is napping in Moi’s room, following Moi’s custom even without her around.  I’ve just come back from doing some errands.  Moi, expected back today, hasn’t come home yet, and I think I might as well go and read and perhaps nap too.  As so often happens when I read these days my eyes saccade for a page or two, then on the third page, begin to grow heavy.  I strain to follow the words of the next sentence “There can be no very black melancholy to him who lives in the midst of –,” when suddenly, without me quite knowing how or when, I’m gone, lost in the land of No Sense.  I wake up suddenly, my book flopped on my chest, its pages squished together.  I flip through them to find my place, resume for another paragraph or two, battling against the growing gravity under my lids to make it as far as “I was suddenly sensible of such sweet and beneficent society in --,” when again I go unconscious.  But then when I put a marker in the book, lay it down at my side, and flip over on my other side to actually try to sleep, so often the blackness under my lids blooms into brightness and I just lie there thinking until I’m thinking about nothing except that I’m lying there thinking.  I’m back up now, Moi’s still not home, it’s 4:51 and seems like a good time to take Mway for a walk.
State of the Path:  During brunch, while leafing through Audubon, I come upon dodder, a “parasitic vine,” which I get in my head might be what the weird coral-like vine down by the creek is, so my focus is to look at that.  The weather couldn’t be finer, below room temperature with a slight breeze (usually I hate September weather, when summer resists leaving, but this September so far has been crisp and clear), the cicadas going at a soft hum.  On the side path, I come upon a white wildflower vine growing over some goldenrod that I think for a moment might be the same vine I’m thinking is dodder down by the creek.  But I reread about dodder, see that it has bell-shaped flowers, and this has rounded clusters something like the white “smartweed” in bug land.  When I step into the mass of goldenrod, where the sun’s shining down hard, I suddenly see the honey bees again; their low drone reminds me of the moans in an Alzheimer’s ward.  Moi’s smartweed flowers haven’t gotten any longer, but their stems are still hairy and their leaves still form sheathes around the petioles.  Along the creek, I see what might be, I decide after leafing through Auduon, either small-flowered white aster or calico aster – take your pick.  The lavender aster at the swale and in the feed channel, where it’s really moving along well now, I decide, for the time being, is either New York aster or New England aster.  I run into some of the weird coral-like vine down in the swale, which has what looks like greenish white berries on it and which, although definitely parasitic, is just as definitely not dodder.  When I brush past the Russian olives (and I can’t remember now – is this what I finally determined what these bushes are?), I’m startled to see they have red berries.  Past the ridge, in the weedy area below the strawberry patch, the cicadas suddenly grow louder and pretty soon I realize I’m sputtering my lips at bugs flying in my face.
State of the Creek:  Pretty much the same as yesterday, but I forget to look closely at it, as I’m looking for the dodder that never materializes.  I do take notice that the leaves in the rock bed, which were damp yesterday, look crinkly and dry again; and coming back from my errands earlier, and driving through several puddles, I thought to myself there’s probably more water in the driveway than in the creek these days.
The Fetch:  I don’t know what it is but again Mway’s barking sounds so loud and her spinning’s so intense that at one point when I’m leaning over to pick up the stick I move my head away and mutter “Jesus Christ, Mwayla.”

Monday, September 12, 2011

An Ever Earlier Nightfall

September 12, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  Work all day (all told from 10 – 6, a solid eight hours) and when I get home, although evening is clearly here, it’s still light out enough to take Mway for a walk.
State of the Path:  When I put on my boots, I have to remove from the crack in the instep of the one a stem and bunch of leaves I must have picked up in my walk yesterday; I’m really soon going to have to go out and get a new pair of boots.  It rained last night, so I’m expecting to get a little wet today, but also curious to see how much water has been restored to the creek.  Yesterday Mway lay the birch branch athwart the rim of her wading pool, and that’s where I find it.  Walking through the yard, I hear the distant sound of sirens on S_____ Road (on my way back home a man was setting up cones in the road, and I had to take a detour back to the house – Moi doesn’t know what may have happened down there). The goldenrod and other weeds are especially clogging the path today; it does no good to sweep them back with the birch branch; can do nothing more than just push my way through them. I look at the pink spikes of the lady’s thumbs, then bend down more closely to see the thumb marks on every leaf. I can’t believe that I’ve thought of this plant for over twenty years, since Moi once called it such, as Pennsylvania smartweed. The name still wants to stick to it when I look at it, though the name lady’s thumb is so much more appropriate. I’m full of hope, but ultimately disappointed, that the real Pennsylvania smartweed flowers may have elongated a little from the rain. I still find it hard to think of this plant as Pennsylvania smartweed (and I’m not yet, because of the so far insistent round shape of the flower, a hundred percent sure it is). No honey bees today; bugs maybe like gnats hop up from the rain-dappled leaves; still a bumble bee or two in the touch-me-nots. At the pin oaks I walk smack into a bunch of more gloriously orange leaves. Beyond the ridge around bug land, the sound of the cicadas picks up, and above its incessant drone creak the lonesome chirps of some crickets.  
State of the Creek:  Down at the creek I get my answer to what the rain has wrought.  The usual pools are back, the one at the tree stand, the second at the log jam, the third beneath the black walnut, and two more at the narrows, the second of which, though about five feet long, is still a yard or more away from the vinyl siding, which has a streak of water lying on top of it; and I’m sure if I stepped over the feed channel and walked along the crest of the skating pond I’d find that the pool below the swale has swelled to a much greater size than it was yesterday.  Between the pools there’s still no water flowing, but the leaves fallen among the rocks, which were dry and crinkly yesterday, are now damp, and there’s no sound of crunching leaves, just the thud of my boots, as I wind my way through the bushes and trees along the curving banks.
The Fetch:  The overcast sky, the approach of an ever earlier nightfall, the blooming of the last summer flowers, the first falling leaves, gives to the walk a melancholy air, a mood of pensive reflection utterly spoiled, up at the clearing, by Mway’s strident barking and maniacal spinning as, over and over, I cock my arm to toss her all-important stick.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

It Doesn't Matter It's 9/11

September 11, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  Moi tells me this morning that she checked the mattress she’s going to give to the Boy (apparently it’s the mattress from the guest room and not one that was being stored in the corn crib).  “I hate to say this,” she says, “but it has a pee stain on it.  Probably from Spook many years ago.  I don’t want to haul a mattress with a pee stain all the way to New York.”  So she says she’s going to give the Boy my mattress instead, and I can use the pee-stained mattress.  “That would be okay for me to use?” I ask.  “Oh yes.  That’s what you have a bed sheet for.  I can put a rubber covering around it if you want.”  “It doesn’t stink or anything?” I pursue the matter.  “No.  No,” she eases my concerns, “it’s probably been there for ten years.”  Moi goes into town for something or other, and when she comes back, she enlists me in holding the ladder so she can paint a patch of the house, or least as far up as she’s not afraid to go.  It’s not a pleasant task because the sun is rounding the corner of the house and shining in my face.  At one point Moi says something or other about what she’s doing and I step to the side of the ladder to see what she’s talking about, after which she yells at me because I’m no longer standing square in the middle of the ladder and holding it with both hands.  I notice that Moi has tacked two gold numerals to the trim of the house to indicate our postal address, something she’s done since working on her temporary job this summer, where she learned to appreciate a house having its number marked somewhere on its fa├žade.  I note, though, that the numerals she put up are obscured from the driveway by a bush in front of them – I don’t know what type of bush it is, sad to say.  It’s a pleasant day, and I’m happy to be outside, even with the sun shining in my face.  The chickens are milling around the pallets under the hemlock where we store bags of wood pellets for the winter, and Mway is hanging around outside, for the most part behaving herself, barking once when a McNeighbor pulls into his driveway and venturing up into our driveway to roll around in something or other, which I don’t make mention of to Moi.  When Moi and I walk over to the corn crib to pull out the box spring we’re going to give to the Boy, Mway follows, leaping across the lawn with a big smile on her face, fully expecting that we’re going to take her for a walk and throw stick. Of course, we disappoint her when we drag out the box spring instead.  Moi and I both work tonight, together at the same place.  Sometime before then I’ll take Mway for her walk.  It’s now 3:35, and I’m waiting for Moi and Mway to wake up from their naps; if they don’t wake up by the time I put on my walking clothes, I’ll pop open the door.
State of the Path:  Moi opens the door while I’m typing the period of the last sentence, then opens my office door, and Mway walks in, then walks out, and is now pacing the hallway.  Outside I survey the lawn – no way it needs mowing.  Just beyond the walled garden I see some white daisy-like flowers.  I open the Audubon I brought with me and quickly posit that they are pinnacled asters – nothing in the description tells me they’re not.  As soon as I step into the great mass of the goldenrod – it looks like every stem has a yellow spike – I see honey bees all around, probably one for every five flowers – and probably these are the honey bees from our chimney.  When I brush away the goldenrod that droops into the path, I’m careful to try not to disturb any of the bees.  Past the wigwams, I check on Moi’s “Pennsylvania smartweed” – the flowers haven’t gotten any longer.  More honey bees in the touch-me-nots, and bumblebees as well.  Down along the creek, I see some more white daisy-like flowers, a little bedraggled.  I think, for what reason I don’t know, that these might be something other than pinnacled asters, and I check to see if they might be meadow rue or virgin’s bower, getting irritated with myself when I come upon the photos of these flowers that I’ve forgotten so quickly what they look like – the flowers here look nothing like those plants, and maybe they’re pinnacled asters as well.
State of the Creek:  The puddle at the narrows is nothing more than a couple spots of water, and even the puddle below the swale, though still long, has shriveled into the middle of the creek bed.  Below it plants are growing in the middle of the creek bed, and among them what looks to me like a striking oddity: a daisy-like plant with green petals and a yellow pistil.  I excitedly open up the Audubon, wondering what this strange plant could be, when, while still looking over the plant, I realize that what I think are petals are probably the large sepals of a yellow-petaled flower that simply has not opened up in the shade.
The Fetch:  More fetches than I bother to count, more than I care to throw.  Between tosses, I catch glimpses of a vista of an acre or more of goldenrod sloping toward the skating pond, punctuated by maple trees, cedar bushes, but most distinctively at this time of year, by the dry ruddy-brown crowns of the “chokeberry” shrubs.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Some Turns Out to be Lady's Thumb, Others May Indeed be PA Smartweed

September 10, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  This morning Moi is pulling some furniture out of storage which she and Ezra are going to take in his truck to the Boy’s apartment on Monday: a mattress and box spring out of the corn crib, which she’s going to have to inspect for mice nests, and a dresser out of the cellar, which she has to wipe the dust, mildew, and mold off of.  In the dresser, she finds one drawer full of videotapes and other stuff the Boy accumulated as a teenager, which she brings up to the kitchen to sort through.  One thing she finds in there is a Playboy issue from 1999.  “How old would the Boy have been in 1999?” Moi asks me.  “Well, let’s see,” I say, “He was born in 1986, so that would make him thirteen.”  “Does that seem like the right age for that sort of thing to start?” Moi asks again. “Yep,” I say, “That’s about the right age.”  Another thing she finds in there is a flip-card packet for identifying various animal tracks, which she hands to me, saying I could probably use this on my walks.  I certainly could have used it this past winter, and maybe I’ll have an opportunity to use it this fall, so I put it on the window sill in my office next to the Audubon wildflower book.  No work tonight, but I work during the afternoon, and I get back for my walk with Mway about 4:00.
State of the Path:  Dark rain clouds suspended in blues skies again make a mockery of the bone-white ground.  On the side path, I poke one of the giant anthills, and some tiny ants do indeed spring up.  The jack-in-the-pulpit seeds, still bright red as ever, now lie upon the ground, seem about ready to disperse into the soil.  Mway and I make a short visit to the dump mound, where I shake my head because I remember I still don’t know what the red-berried shrubs surrounding it are.  But my main focus today is to try to clear up my confusion about the smartweed-type plants I’ve been mulling over the last couple days, and with Audubon in hand, I first look at a cluster of what I’ve been calling Pennsylvania smartweed not far from the walled garden.  I’ve reread the entry on that plant as well as the one on lady’s thumb, and keeping a bookmark in the pages of the photos and a thumb in the pages of description, I soon realize that what I’m looking at here is not Pennsylvania smartweed, but lady’s thumb.  I’ve already seen, of course, the “oblong…spikes of small, pink…flowers,” and I confirm that there are “pinkish stems.”  But the clincher is that I discern on the “broadly lanceolate, punctate” leaves “a dark green triangle in the middle”; I wouldn’t call it a triangle exactly, more like a dark smudge, or, well, a thumbprint.  After going on the side path, I then stop just at the start of bug land to look at the plants that I told Moi the other day were not Pennsylvania smartweed.  I still don’t like the fact that the flowers are still more cylindrical than elongated, though I suppose they could be, as Audubon puts it, “spike-like” -- I conjecture that maybe they just haven’t yet grown long, perhaps because of the dry weather or perhaps because of their youth.  I confirm that the stalks are “sticky-haired.”  But what makes me think this is Pennsylvania smartweed, and that I was wrong and Moi was right, is that I see that the “leaf bases form a distinctive cylindrical sheath where the petiole joins the stem,” or as I would put it, the indentation at the top of the arrowhead-like leaves seems to wrap around the stem.  I move on, and I see that this plant is growing a lot amidst the touch-me-nots, and I even see some of the same plants with white flowers, and I think this might be, what Audubon mentions as, a “closely related species, Pale Smartweed,” although the stems here are also bristly instead of “usually smooth.”  (Audubon says there are over 30 species of smartweed, so maybe I’m looking at some of the smartweeds they don’t describe in the book.)  Down at the creek, I look again there too at the plants I no longer believe are Pennsylvania smartweed, and here also I find the tell-tale thumbprints of lady’s thumb.         
State of the Creek:  As I walk along the creek, the main sound I hear is that of dry crinkled leaves crunching under my boots.  At the narrows, I stop to gaze past the little puddle and admire the long cavity in the creek bank under the big locusts, where strong girders and a cozy thatchwork of roots are exposed.
The Fetch:  Mway’s bark seems even louder and her body movements even more tense than usual.