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)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Startled by Late-Blooming Wildflower

October 29, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  Moi tells me that all the animals slept with her last night, Mway, Squeak, and Woody. “It was a peacable kingdom,” she says.  “Good,” I say.  This weekend we’re going to a nephew’s wedding (Moi’s side) in Upstate New York, have even taken off from work (we’ve never done this before).  I’m looking forward to taking a trip somewhere, plus Jazz’s birthday is on Sunday, she’ll be there, and it will be nice to be with her then.  I don’t know what my schedule for walks will be Saturday, Sunday.  I have to work today, and will be leaving sometime shortly.  Don’t get home till close to 5.  Mway’s pacing.
State of the Path:  Can’t find her stick, go back inside, look in music room.  Moi says, “She’s lost all her sticks.  I cut some new ones from the lilac bushes.”  On the way to get one of those, find the birch branch.  Maple by the pool has lost most its leaves.  Stick to main path.  Rain clouds on the horizon, but blue overhead.  A rain drop or two in my face.  My new walking pants don’t fit right, slide down my ass.  More of the goldenrod has more dry brown leaves than green.  With many weeds gone, gill-of-the-ground, though flowerless, on display again.  From the distance, maples by the wigwams appear to still have yellow leaves, but get down there, find a dramatic loss.  Beneath bare branches, prop sticks against Moi’s pole, pee before expanse of dry, crinkled maple leaves on the ground.  Oaks still have their leaves, as does a big maple down by the creek.  At log jam, stop, startled: a new wildflower along the path (if it’d been there before, surely I would’ve seen it).  Small; two clusters of teensy-petaled yellow goldrenrod-like flowers, one brownish on top; soft, oval leaves.  (Moi had mentioned that a wildflower had made the news recently, a poisonous plant now supposedly in bloom, “Snake something.”  Check snake names in Audubon: wasn’t broom snakeweed, wasn’t black or white snakeroot, nor Seneca snakeroot.  Leaf through yellow flower section: find nothing.
State of the Creek:  Walking along black winding, nearly immobile stream, startled to see what looks like a willow sapling leaning over water from opposite bank (with plenty of green leaves still on it), its top roots a gnarled clump sitting above ground.  Could it be an offshoot from the willow Moi had planted?  Look for the planting, near the Boy’s paintball barrier: its leaves are mostly gone.
The Fetch:  Stand in spot I had been, toss stick into untrampled goldenrod.  Fuzz flies as Mway lunges.  When she starts chomping at stick face to face with me, I first tell her “good enough,” then considering it may be few days before next walk, play “Put it down” twice.  What looks like mosquitoes flit in path along sumacs.  Back in house, don’t bother to put walking clothes in drier, but do take what turns out to be a long shower.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Wary of Ticks

October 28, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:   I spoke too soon yesterday.  Only a little more than an hour after I finished writing yesterday’s report, I discovered a tick on my thigh when I went to sit down on the toilet.  Not the first one I’ve seen buried in my skin, so I recognized it right away: its little legs flaring from its body like little hairs stuck in a booger.  I called Moi, and she managed to remove the whole thing, including its head, with tweezers; she gave me a pill of doxycycline to take.  Moi tells me she didn’t let Mway eat the ground hog she killed.  She buried it instead; feels Mway would have gotten sick on it.  Work has come in for me to do today, so I’m going to eat breakfast and do that.  Get home at 3.  Mway greets me in the driveway with the birch branch in her mouth.  I’m apprehensive about ticks today.  My walking pants have developed holes and threadbare spots in them this past year: notice a threadbare spot right where the tick had penetrated my thigh.  I find another pair of jeans which I’ve been planning to demote from street clothes status and put those on (throw the others away, as well as another pair I find – hesitantly, I might add, because my mother would have braided them into a rug).
State of the Path:    Mway plows through the chickens (Moi says she has been especially bullying them since her big kill yesterday.)  I ask her where her stick is, and she runs to where it lies.  I decide not to go by the old orchard (lessen my chances of meeting a tick), but it makes little difference: most everywhere along the main path I make contact with weeds, any of which could harbor one of the buggers.  See a white butterfly in various places in bug land.  Starting at the “chokeberries,” see specks of white floating in the air: bugs (possibly ticks) or seeds from the goldenrod?  I start to cross the plank, look at all the weeds along the path ahead, then turn around. I do take the path up to the summer house (that’s a little wider).  In a treeless black walnut up ahead, a huge squirrel’s nest appears against the sky.  More specks of white bounce around me as I walk toward the clearing.
State of the Creek:  Mway goes into the water at the tree stand, starts wading downstream to her exit spot at the honeysuckle.  Under the bush, I see a curious a thing: a log (looks too big to be a root) embedded in the creek bank, a hole behind it.  Mway exits the creek where I’m standing, immediately starts digging under the bush (now she thinks she’s a mighty hunter, I think).   A dragonfly flits over the pool at the log jam.
The Fetch:  I stand at the clear end of the clearing (the end I formally always stood at), away from any goldenrod, toss the stick to the other end.  Mway a few times drops the stick a few feet short of where I’m standing, forcing me to walk forward to pick it up.  As soon as she keeps the stick in her mouth when she brings it back I tell her “good enough.”  A few grasshoppers hop away into the goldenrod.  See the all-wing bugs on the path back through the sumacs.  When I get back to the house, I throw my walking clothes in the dryer, inspect my naked body.  Moi suggests I take a shower; I do that also.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Ground Hog, Freshly Killed

October 27, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  Work tonight.  Squeak has been going outside, but not venturing too far.  Moi says she’s getting along better with Woody; I saw them pawfighting, which is a good sign.  Moi says Squeak doesn’t like sharing the litter box with Woody, one reason she’s been going outside more often.  Moi surmises that early Monday morning the McNeighbors let Sebastian out, who spooked Squeak, and she ran for a tree and didn’t realize how high it could be before she was so high in it she was afraid to come back down.  It’s 12:20, and I feel like taking Mway for a walk now.  Yesterday I saw Moi pulling a tick off herself.  So far this year I haven’t found one tick on me.  Maybe that’s because I cover myself up better than Moi, or maybe because I don’t sleep with an animal that brings a colony of ticks to bed.
State of the Path:   I look for the long crooked stick but don’t find it; I find something similar: its end is bent, but that’s because it’s broken.  I decide to bring it along.  A lot of red-leafed sumac saplings: now that they’re red, it’s easy to see how much over the years the sumac has spread, right up to the walled garden.  At the pig pen, the big poke weed still lies bent over, still holding its purple berries.  Spot two female cardinals: one in the old orchard, another down by the creek.  With the leaves off the black walnuts, the McNeighbor mansions, lined up adjacent to the old orchard, unfortunately come more clearly into sight.  Just before the maples, I scare up a bird that’s lying in the middle of the path; it flies off toward Hutchinson’s field, brown with orange underfeathers.  I’d like to know what it is, but I didn’t see it long enough to bother looking in Audubon.  I reflect on how I don’t get many burrs and boogie lice on me on these walks; that must be because I chopped so much burdock down in the spring (however, if I walk around the house, I get the stuff on me right away).  I walk the plank: water in both channels, more goldrenrod has turned all brown.  I’m glad I have my new boots: the path is soggy along the ridge.  At the strawberry patch, where there are a number of cedars (they could be something else, but I call any wild evergreen a cedar), I spot a couple cedar saplings I never noticed before.  I take the path up to the summer house (again, simply because I can), walk back down.  Coming up toward the clearing, I don’t see poison ivy anymore below the stalks of goldenrod as I did all summer.
State of the Creek:  It rained a little last night, so the water’s up and moving all along the stream.  Leaves have been shoved downstream, some are starting to sink.  At the log jam, I spot movement in the grass along the bank; probably the same thing Mway saw yesterday.  Was it a turtle or a vole?  All I can say is “spot movement.”  Further down, about six frogs plop into the water.  I think about how warm fall has been.  At the car tire, the stream is riffling, moss on rocks, water laced by brown pin oak leaves.
The Fetch:  Because its end is broken, I can’t twirl the stick I brought along: am disappointed.  I toss what I have, pretty much in same places as yesterday.  As soon as Mway stops dropping it when she brings it back I say “good enough.”
Addendum:  Midway into writing this, the phone rings for Moi.  I go outside to get her.  Coming off the ladder, she spots Mway with a freshly killed ground hog beside her.  Moi praises her, snaps several iPhone photos.  (Reason for the praise:  for as long as Blue was alive, he killed the ground hogs that otherwise ate leaves off the vegetables in the garden, never let Mway share in the spoils, except for organs he eschewed.  Until today, Mway has been too timid to kill a ground hog.  Moi interrupts me, again with praises for Mway.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pause a Moment Beneath an Oak's Red Leaves

October 26, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  For the second day in a row I have no work.  Squeak is sleeping most of the day; I guess she was out a little this morning, but didn’t venture far from the porch.  The Boy called earlier and said that after paying this month’s bills for student loans he has no money.  I vacuum and try to clear up some of the junk lying on the floor in his old bedroom, which is where I sleep now – detritus from his childhood, mechanisms I have no idea what they are; I stick them in a banana box and hope Moi will sort them out someday.  By the time 1 pm rolls around, I need some air, and decide to take Mway for her walk.  Besides it might rain later.
State of the Path:  I have the old birch branch, which I found in the music room last night.  The top leaves of the maple beside the pool have fallen and lie around the pool or on top of the cover.  Blackberry and black raspberry leaves have all turned various colors, yellow, orange, red, brown. The black walnuts in the old orchard are bare; I see what must be one oak at the far end – it still has leaves, red, of course.  Except for a few leaves that have turned yellow on them, the honeysuckles are still green.  At the back hedgerow I scare up a bunch of birds, smooth gray bodies with conspicuous white tail feathers – these are a kind of bird I see all the time, and I always think of them, rightly or not, as mourning doves.  (Check Audubon – well, these looked nothing like the photo in the book; more like the photo of the white-winged dove on the same page.  I’d say they were white-winged doves, except Audubon limits these to the southernmost tip of Texas.  All the same, I think these were some kind of doves, and, whatever the photo shows, they fit pretty well the prose description for mourning doves: “soft, sandy buff with a long, pointed tail bordered with white”).  The black oak just before the creek seems to be turning a deep red, as deep red as the other tree farther down the creek. Actually, farther down the creek here, I note there are two oaks: a big one right by the creek bank and a smaller one growing beside it on the bug land side of the path.  I stand under the smaller one for awhile, enjoying the deep red leaves that surround me and that stand out so brilliantly against the light.  I walk the plank and take a look at the pin oak; its leaves, whatever they were before (were they red?), now are turning more brown.
State of the Creek:  Mway goes into the water beneath the tree stand – maybe because it’s warm today.  Trickles at the rocks, but I bet to myself that most of the water in the creek hasn’t moved in weeks.  Mway stops to sniff something that made a bubble or something in the water.  I don’t think she has any more idea than I do what it is.
The Fetch:  I definitely don’t enjoy the birch branch as much as the long crooked stick, and I throw it without much enthusiasm into the goldrenrod.  After several tosses I realize Mway has trampled a lot of the goldenrod down on the one side of the beaten-down area in the center, so I toss the stick into the goldenrod on the other side – might as well get her to start trampling this down too.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

No Walk Till We Get Squeak Down

October 25, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  Last night Moi tried to call Squeak to come in from outside: no response.  This morning she found a scared Squeak high up a black walnut on our side hedgerow.  We dragged a ladder over to the tree, but it hardly reaches to where she sits mewing.  Moi suggests we wait an hour, see what she does.  “Ezra’s big ladder is over there, but I don’t know how to work it,” she says.  An hour later Moi calls me; she has moved our wobbly ladder over to the other side of the tree, and, with our aluminum pool pole, is trying to poke a blanket up to Squeak for her to grab.  I tell her to let me try, but I can’t reach much farther than Moi.  Neither of us dare climb higher than the fifth or sixth rung.  Then I fit the leaf net onto the pole, Moi puts some cat food in it, and I try to poke it up so Squeak will get into the net.  She rubs her cheek against the rim, looks down on all sides of the branch she’s on, and mews.  “Ezra’s big ladder is over there,” Moi says, “but it’s too heavy for me to use.”  I suggest that both of us carry the ladder over and see what we can make of it.  “The Boy’s friends know how to work it, but I could never figure out how,” Moi says.  I see that its extension uses the same basic mechanism as our smaller ladder, but the ladder is much heavier to handle.  “Watch your hands,” Moi yells at me, as we hold the ladder straight up in the air, trying to slide the extension. “Don’t get your hands chopped off.”  “Ezra uses that rope there to slide it up and down,” she finally tells me.  I pull at the rope once, find that it works well. We slide the extension up a few rungs, lean the ladder on the other side of tree, then Moi climbs up and drapes a blanket over the top.  But the ladder doesn’t reach up any farther than our other ladder.  We lift it up again, pull the extension out more, then drop the ladder back down against the tree. We both come up with the idea of trying to coax Squeak into a box.  I go to the trash pile to get a banana box; Moi ties a clotheline around it (she doesn’t follow my suggestion to push it up with two of her wigwam poles).  She climbs up the ladder, but can’t throw the clotheline around the branch to pulley it up.  She drops the box, climbs down and back up the ladder to drape more blankets over it.  “I think Squeak’s taking a nap now,” and we go in the house to see if she’ll eventually venture down on her own.  An hour later, Moi calls me:  “I think if we extend the ladder up further.”  Moi pulls the blankets off of it.  We lift it up, pull on the rope, bang it against a branch, but finally manage to prop it just under the branch where Squeak sits.  Moi climbs up the ladder higher than I’ve ever seen her go.  “You holding onto the ladder?” she yells down at me.  She drapes two blankets along the ladder, then tells me to hand her the pool pole.  She pokes the net in and around Squeak, but the cat only mews and paws at it.  Then Moi climbs down to get a whole can of cat food.  She climbs back up, “You holding the ladder down there?,” and stretches to hold the can about a foot below Squeak.  The cat digs her claws into the blanket and crawls down toward the can to where Moi can grab hold of her.  It’s 2:30.  After we put Squeak into the house, remove the ladders, and put the pole and blankets away (I also push the lawn mower down into the basement for the winter), I put on my walking clothes (I had been wearing my lounging pants all day; got boogie lice on them so I throw them in my laundry basket) and take Mway, who’s been staring at us with looks of disappointment for hours because we haven’t left her out, for a walk.
State of the Path:  I bring a new stick I find in the yard, one that I think Mway had found somewhere and put there very early in the day – looks like it’s from a black walnut, has a crust of green fungus on it.  The black oak down by the creek looks a brighter red.  As I’m looking at it, I see a bird, with white on its wings, flying underneath the big oak at the hedgerow.  Then I see a spot of red, redder than an oak leaf, and realize I’m seeing the bird’s head: I think it’s my friend, the red-bellied woodpecker.  As Mway and I approach, it flies off.  I don’t think I see it for more than 4 seconds.  From the creek, I look back at the maples and see that half of them have turned yellow.  Another oak along the creek looks even darker red than the ones near the hedgerow, but the leaves look to me like black oak leaves; the bark is deeply grooved, whatever that might mean.  I cross the plank (after messing around with extension ladders all day, crossing it seems like nothing).  The pin oak leaves seem browner; it and its companion oaks keep dropping leaves into the creek water.
State of the Creek:  Winding black and quiet, thick with black undulating grass.
The Fetch:  Mway fetches the stick, oblivious to how tired I am after spending all day trying to get a cat out of a tree.  After a couple fetches, she rips off a few strips of the fungus-covered bark – I suppose (but this stick was her selection) so the stick doesn’t taste so bad.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Finally Get New Boots, Right Size

October 24, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  Work all day today.  In the car to and back therefrom, Sun Ra, the Futuristic Sounds thereof.  Get back the sun hasn’t set down too far, light enough still to take Mway for a walk.  Moi has returned my $12.99 size 9’s, traded them for a $19.99 size 10’s.
State of the Path:  Can’t find the long crooked stick, or even the birch branch.  Halfway across the yard, see a bigger, heavier birch branch, pick that up.  The sun sets fast: by the time I changed clothes and am at the pig pen, getting hard to see.  Hear weeds slashing against my new boots, thump of two sticks against the ground, leaves crunching underfoot, sound of cicadas.  Though I’d taken a pee along the road (in someone’s backyard?), have to stop again when I reach the creek.  When I’m marching along again, Mway stops on the path – does she see something?  Guess not.  Make haste the rest of the way.  Boots feel good.  Beyond the ridge, scare a gray, white-tailed bird from the Russian olive.
State of the Creek:  Winding black and furtive to my left.  Looks like a paved cartway.  Think to myself I can’t walk on it, this form of matter, so intimate, so foreign.
The Fetch:  I toss the big heavy birch branch into the goldenrod.  If I’ve thrown it twenty feet, Mway brings it back five feet short of where I’m standing.  The next toss, if I’ve thrown it fifteen feet, Mway brings it back ten.  She hasn’t complained about it, but the stick’s a little heavy for her.  Ten feet’s a manageable distance for her to lug it.  Somehow we get turned around: she brings it back and drops it behind me, so it’s natural I toss it next in the opposite direction.  This last toss enough for Mway.  Back at the house, I praise the new boots.  Moi cuts down one of the old ones, see if they’ll work for rubbers   But there are cracks even in the toe, so I take them to the garbage can, which I pull down to the end of the lane, for the local trash collector to take to the giant landfill (which I’ve passed to and from work today).

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Purchase New Boots, But They're Not the Right Size

October 23, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  Moi says she doesn’t know where the crooked stick came from; she suspects that Mway may have dragged it out of the lilac bushes along the side of the house.  Last night, after we had finished watching a movie (When Nietzsche Wept) and were just sitting in front of the TV, Moi told me she had played the hoot of an owl on one of the apps of her iPhone and it had scared Woody.  Without even thinking about it, I start imitating an owl, and Woody, who was there with us on the sofa, freezes, stretches his body upright to stare at me, then bounds for cover under a chair.   Moi and I both work together tonight.  Moi tells me we had a frost last night, the first frost of the season.  Sometime today I would like to run the lawnmower over the yard one last time for the year then store it away in the cellar for the winter.   But wait, Moi now tells me, because I said last night that I thought of doing so today, that she expects me to go to the grocery store, and she reminds me that I should also go out and pick up some new boots.  So my day is being shaped already, and we’ll see how it goes and what I can do, keeping in mind that sometime I have to fit in a walk with Mway.  In the car, going from one box store to another (four altogether), listen to Basie, remastered so Freddie Green sounds clear as one foot in front of another.  At the tractor and farm supply store, find economy boots, made in USA, $12.99.  No size ten, though: elevens are too big.  Try a nine, and they seem to fit just right (my shoe size I believe is actually 9 ½).  “As long as they don’t pinch,” Moi tells me, when I tell her what I had to buy.  She goes to an early job, and I take advantage of her absence for an hour, then put on my new boots, telling a disappointed Mway she has to stay inside for now.  Run the mower till the gas runs out; task consists mainly of chewing up fallen leaves.  Up above the barn wall, a fly-covered ground hog is taking its last breaths, so don’t bother with that section.  Before the gas runs out, my feet are feeling sore, the boots seem to pinch.  Gas runs out about 3 pm, leave pushing the mower into the basement for another day.  When I get inside I call Mway to the door, take my new boots off and put my old ones on.
State of the Path:  The sun is shining hard; my sore toes slip about comfortably in a space they’re more used to.  I stick to the main path.  See more yellow leaves on the ground below the maples.  No birds today, sound of cicadas, jet plane overhead.  Must be making a sound walking though the leaves, but don’t notice it much today; maybe my ears are numb from hearing the lawn mower for an hour.  At the swale, I brush aside a dead stalk of the New York or New England asters.  Along the ridge, I spot two wilted aster flowers, hanging on for at least this one more day. Don’t see the all-wing bugs.
State of the Creek:   Stare at the swampy stretch of water, where the Medusa plants undulate.  They seem mesmerizing, like they could hypnotize me to sleep, or even more, they seem like sleep itself, waves of blackness assuming the first shapes of a dream.
The Fetch:  Don’t feel like tossing the stick today, not even the fun long crooked one.  On one toss, Mway struggles trying to extract the stick from the weeds; I see at least one briar among the goldenrod, as she starts snorting, coughing, even choking for a few seconds.  I twirl the stick a few times; Mway almost lunges at my face.  After a couple more tosses, I’m willing to play “Put it down,” but Mway keeps the stick between her teeth, and she starts running for the path as soon as I say “Okay.  Good enough.”

Saturday, October 22, 2011

White-Crowned Sparrows?

October 22, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  Moi tells me that last night Woody slept with her, Mway looking with “whites showing all around her eyes” at the new cat daring to lie down near Moi’s head.  Mway then eventually crept up as close to Moi’s head as she could get herself.  Squeak, who had been sleeping with Moi, spent the whole night outside, which she’d never done before.  Right now, Squeak is on my lap, her purring head butt against my arms.  I worked today, got home about 4.  While I was putting on my walking clothes, Mway jumped off Moi’s bed (Moi’s not home) and stood in the doorway looking at me, first grinning, then snorting, then yawning and stretching her legs.
State of the Path:  I don’t remember what color the maples down by the wigwams turned last year – this year some leaves are turning yellow and falling before the whole crown of the tree turns an autumn color, and this seem typical of most of the other kinds of trees too. On a leafless “chokeberry” right at the start of bug land perch a number of the birds I’ve been thinking of as black capped chickadees.  I get an almost perfect 3-second view of one of them.  Leafing through the Aududon now, I realize these weren’t chickadees; maybe white-crowned sparrows – these had brown and white wings – god an awful lot of birds have a white stripe on their heads.  I take note of an oak sapling coming up right at the bank of the creek – don’t know if it’s black or pin.  I walk across the plank – I’m not sure if I’m spotting new cracks on it or not.  Lot of the same gnat-like insects – I actually remember these from previous years, this late insect.   Actually they’re only like gnats in that they dance and swirl in the sun.  They have rather large wings for their thin brown bodies – they seem like all wing.
State of the Creek:   Water murky from the dying weeds it swept over in the last big rain, a faint scum at some places.  On the crest of the skating pond, while I’m stooping beneath the pin oak, Mway startles me by plopping into the pool of water there.  I see her as she breaks through an almost solid mass of pin oak leaves lying on top of the water and stirs up a black cloud from the creek bottom.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, the all-wing insects flit above the fuzzy tops of the goldenrod – they look like the fuzz taking flight.  I stand where I’ve been standing the past few days, toss the crooked stick where I’ve been tossing it.  After a while I begin twirling it like a lasso like I did yesterday.  Sometimes Mway stands gawking at it with her tongue hanging out, other times she starts barking and hopping, one time she dashes off before I throw it, then dashes back when she realizes I’m still twirling it.  This is certainly the most fun stick we’ve had this year – I’m not sure what kind of wood it is.  It looks kind of like a monkey vine – I bet it’s part of the trumpet vine Moi had to cut down when Ezra was fixing up the front porch.  I’ll have to ask her.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Almost Get a Pair of New Boots

October 21, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  This morning Moi goes to a Mennonite store, says she can pick me up a new pair of good-quality rubber boots.  When she gets there, she phones to tell me they don’t have any size 10.  When I checked my shoe size on my old boots, I saw they were made in USA.  “Must’ve been one of those products Wal-Mart told the manufacturers to make real cheap,” Moi says.  “The boots at the Mennonite store are made in China now.  Maybe that’s all you can get these days.”  She tells me she’s seen some boots at a discount store that’s along a route I frequent, so I’ll try to stop in there sometime soon.  I have to work tonight.  I was just getting ready to take Mway for a walk, but Moi and Mway have just gone for a nap – I’ll have to wait till a little later.  I go to lie down – fall asleep, when I wake up, it’s twenty minutes later than the time I wanted to take Mway for a walk.  Have to rush now.
State of the Path:  Set the sticks against a small hemlock near the pig pen to pee.  A vine twines up it, its still green leaves ovoid with a distinctive tip, just one of the many plants I haven’t been able, or haven’t even tried, to identify.  Look at what I used to think of as pin oaks, see a second small tree near the one I walk under, now I think of them as black oaks.  At the narrows, a branch from a big locust has fallen across the path, must step over it.  I cross the plank without thinking too much about it.  Look at what I used to think of as black oaks, now think of them as pin oaks, the leaves maybe really do look different.  Don’t see any New England or New York asters – maybe they’re gone now.   Boneset gray like gray goldenrod, the latter growing everywhere more fuzzy. 
State of the Creek:  At log jam, note grasses in the water turning brown to black.  Much of stream looks black, from rotting vegetation.  Up by car tire, water getting low, filled with pin oak leaves.
The Fetch:  Mway and I continue trampling down the goldenrod, I intentionally, she accidentally.  Mway seems to really like the long crooked stick, maybe because of all the sticks we’ve used its most like the jointed leg of an animal.  Before I say “that’s enough,” I even get swept away by Mway’s enthusiasm, a couple times taking the stick by its jointed end and spinning it around several times like a baton or a lasso, feeling like the Boy, a young man, enjoying the physicality of what I’m doing, for a brief moment.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Study the Oaks Closely and Am Still Confused

October 20, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  I had to wake up before the sun came up to drive 40 miles (the neareast dealer) to have my car checked out for a recall item.  On the way back I was able to finish some work I had to do and got home about 1:30.  I have to work tonight, so I have enough time between now and the time I leave (about 4) to take Mway for a walk (I don’t think I’ll even have to take a shower, as I took one at 7 am). I’m bringing the Audubon tree book with me (looking at it briefly just now, I can’t see much of a difference between the photos of a pin oak leaf and a black oak leaf).
State of the Path:  Down at the wigwams, I lean my two sticks against a post that Moi has leaning against a maple, take off my gloves, and pee.  Before I put the gloves back on, I look in the Audubon to try to make a judgment about the shapes of the oaks trees down by the creek.  I see two where I first walk down to the creek, a smaller one which I walk under all the time, and a bigger one closer to the hedgerow.  From a distance, their leaves look the same, but from the shape diagrams in the book, I judge the smaller and more compact tree to be a pin oak (which is what I’ve been calling it), while the bigger and more sprawling one I think could be a black oak.  When I get down to the trees, I look closely at the leaves on the smaller tree.  The leaves don’t look like they have “deep lobes nearly to the midvein” and “wide rounded sinuses” like a pin oak should have, but they also don’t look quite like the photo of a black oak.  For a while I consider that it might be a scarlet oak, but the leaves don’t look like they’re turning a brilliant scarlet, just brown and red.  The leaves are a little tattered, and I regret not looking at them during the summer.  The bark on the tree looks closest to the photo of the bark for the black oak, and I leave the tree thinking that what I’ve been calling a pin oak all this time is probably a black oak (I don’t bother to look closely at the bigger tree because its leaves look pretty much the same).  Along the creek there are a number of oaks, and they look pretty much the same as the one I’ve just looked at, and I’m beginning to think these are probably all black oaks down here.  I walk the plank across the feed channel to look at the oak trees on the crest of the skating pond.  These oaks look pretty much like the other ones, but there’s one tree I have to stoop under on my walks and whose lower bare branches have prickly twigs I’ve gotten caught up in a number of times.  Audubon emphasizes that pin oaks have “very slender pinlike twigs,” and so I tell myself that these prickly twigs I get caught up in must surely be indicative of a pin oak.  The leaves don’t look that much different to me than the leaves I’ve been looking at, but then I imagine them to be more deeply lobed and to have more rounded sinuses than they appear on first impression.
State of the Creek:  On the straight stretch of creek I looked at yesterday, I can see more clearly the dark, Medusa-like weeds waving beneath the water.  The surface looks streaked like a finger painting.
The Fetch:  I take the same stance and toss in the same places as I did yesterday.  It looks like Mway is starting to trample down a lot of the goldenrod I want her to.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wonder If Pin Oaks Are Actually Black Oaks

October 19, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  Moi tells me that the other day she ran into our neighbors the Schmidts at the grocery store.  We only know their names because they were among the first people to move into the development around us 14 or so years ago, and we had to tell them that they couldn’t build on our right-of-way to the main road.  They moved into one house, then moved to another, oddly, closer to us, the house that sits above the end of our lane.  Moi tells me they were buying cat food; apparently they have adopted the gray stray cat that we’ve seen a couple times poking around our lane.  “They greeted me with smiles,” Moi says, “and they said they like our chickens – like seeing them when they wander down the lane.”  I work in the afternoon, and when I get home about 4:30, the chickens greet me at the car, Mway smiles at me from the porch.  Inside, Moi tells me Squeak and Woody were actually playing today, “though Squeak was getting a little rough.”  They played paw-fights around a post in the kitchen and peek-a-boo around a shirt draped over a kitchen chair.
State of the Path:  Although the birch branch is right in front of the door, I opt to bring the long crooked stick   While I’m going in and out of the house (because I keep forgetting things: my denim jacket, my gloves), Mway runs after a few chickens, and I have to yell at her.  Beneath the big maple by the pool, a hen is sitting beside four new peeps.  Out in the old orchard, I spot something white on the ground that looks like a sheet of white plastic; I can’t tell what it is partly because my contacts are wearing out, and I realize I should finally throw out the present pair and start wearing new ones.  Adding to the red in the fields are the many blackberry leaves that have turned a dark red.  The leaves on the pin oaks look to me today like they’re too wide to be pin oak leaves, and I start to wonder if they’re actually black oaks; I realize that I’m going to have to bring an Audubon with me some time soon and study the oaks.  A cardinal darts behind a honeysuckle bush on the other side of the creek.  Beyond the swale, a fairly large bird flies out of a small oak; I don’t get a good look at it.  I think about walking across the plank, but I decide not to.  I hear crows cawing.
State of the Creek:  Between a bare black walnut and the big locusts, there’s a straight stretch of the creek where the water looks almost black, and it looks like there’s dead brown grass waving underneath the water.  I can’t tell for sure; the light is growing dim.  A few lady’s thumbs still stick out of the water.
The Fetch:  I stand in the same spot I did yesterday and throw the long crooked stick in the same patch of goldenrod.  On the first toss, Mway seems to be struggling so much with the stick in the weeds that I walk over to see if there really is a bush or something growing there.  I don’t see anything, and I suspect that the stick is just so long and crooked that it gets caught up in the goldenrod more than the birch branch would.  Mway gets a lot of grit on her tougue, and her tongue hangs a lot out of the side of her mouth.  After I don’t know how many fetches, Mway sits down in the weeds, chomping and growling at the stick.  I figure she’s had enough, so I walk over toward her, but then she coaxes me to play “Put it down” once.  When she brings it back, she sits again, growling and chomping, but this time I say “That’s enough.”

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Birds Singing "Tow-hee" Aren't Towhees

October 18, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  I just have piddling work to do, so I postpone it until at least tomorrow.  I try to call DUI management officer Jolene to schedule a DUI class, but there’s only a message telling me she's out because of a family problem, although the message tells me she’s supposed to be back on the 18th.  I haven’t been able to schedule a class for the whole year of my probation, and it’s getting very worrisome.  Moi, oddly, has a job to do.  While she’s out of the house, I take advantage of her absence.  When she gets home about quarter to four, I stop what I’m doing to take Mway for her walk.
State of the Path:  Mway teases some of the chickens and takes a dip in her pool. I pick up the long crooked stick.  Leaves lie on the ground around the pool from the maple, the ground’s wet.  There’s rain water on the weeds, though I have no idea when it rained.   I see about twenty little birds in the trees and bushes around the cedar, and get a good view of a couple of them.  “Damn, these must be black-capped chickadees,” I think to myself, but then I hear a bird calling “Tow-hee, tow-hee,” and I begin to wonder if they are towhees. (I check in Audubon: the towhees look nothing like what I saw, so either I heard, but did not see, a towhee or two or else chickadees also sing “tow-hee” – although I’m not completely happy with the photo of the black-capped chickadee in the book either, and I’m beginning to doubt that’s what I saw.)  Down by the creek, I see some more of these birds then hear a bird pecking in a tree, though I can’t sight it.  The lady’s thumb leaves have turned a dark red.  The dayflower plants are scraggly but still up, their leaves striped brown – they never did get any flowers.  I walk across the plank at the feed channel, face forward again, and with two long sticks I can kind of support myself from both sides of the ditch.  The same gnat-like bugs I saw yesterday spring out of the goldenrod.  The oaks down by this end of the creek are redder.  As I walk along the ridge, looks to me like the “chokeberries” have lost all their berries, many have also lost their leaves.  Past the strawberry patch, I take the path up to the summer house, simply because it’s there now – hear the stumps of goldrenrod stalks crumple and break as I walk on them.  Up at the summer house, I look at the brown, tattered puffball.  Surprised to see Mway here poking around in the weeds.  To get to the clearing, we have to walk back toward the strawberry patch, then take a sharp left through more goldenrod.
State of the Creek:  Water trickles at the rock cascades.  The pools are calm, rusty brown, soupy.  Down by the crest of the skating pond, fallen oak leaves lie splattered across the rocks and the water.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, I move into a different section of taller goldenrod, Mway smiling and prancing along beside me eagerly to see where I’m finally going to stand.  I toss the stick from where I’m standing in the goldenrod to another section of taller goldenrd near the sumacs, so Mway pretty much has to plow through goldenrod to get the stick and bring it back   A couple times she takes about a half a minute to extract the stick from the weeds, and I wonder if there’s a bush in the weeds I can’t see and the stick’s getting stuck in.  Finally I’m just standing there while she’s messing around in the weeds and the wait gets too long, so I walk over to see what’s the matter.  I don’t see any bush that the stick could have got stuck in, and Mway is just sitting there chomping and gowling at it.  I tell her, “Okay, that’s enough.  Let’s go.”  She drags the stick out of the weeds and drops it, but I’m already on the path ten feet in front of her, and finally she just picks it up and follows, passing me when the path gets wide enough for her to do so.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Gnats or Something in My Face

October 17, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  Again, coming home from an all day’s work, night is falling, a big ball of sun blazing in our valley, seen from O__ C_____ Road.  Ball kind of disappears when I’m coming through the McDevelopment toward the house.  In the dim driveway Mway mills around, but Moi is opening the door, letting her in.  “Oh, it’s you, “she says, seeing what must be my dim figure stomping across the porch.  Inside, consider the lateness of the day, clock says 6:30, ask about walk.  “Oh, you can take her for a walk.”  Upstairs, change from work to walking clothes, aware of night approaching fast.
State of the Path:  Can’t find birch branch, go back inside, can’t find it there either, resolve to do without, near pool, see suitable stick, a long one, much like the walking stick, more crooked.  Must not dither.  Seem out of breath, too much smoking and drinking at work?  What seems like seed dust floats about my face as both sticks brush against goldenrod.  No, I eventually realize, it’s gnats of some unknown kind, realize, just as stalk of fuzzy goldenrod catches onto a stick.  Don’t quite make the maples, hear Mway barking in walled garden.  What the hell, I think, if she’s not coming, I’m not going.
State of the Creek:  Turn around, happy to go no farther than clearing.  Bugs still floating, what the hell these things, Mway now approaching, sees me, knows to turn toward clearing, happy to go no farther too.  Never see creek.
The Fetch:  What the hell these things, these gnat-like things, all the way to the clearing, glad to get clear of them.  Pitch crooked stick length of clearing.  Mway fetches, and fetches, neither of us counting.  Last toss goes into the “chokeberry.”  Mway plunges into branches.  I call it the last toss.  What the hell these things, gnats with long wings, lit now in the moonlight. Back at porch, see birch branch on stoop step.  Place it and crooked stick on bench, Mway snapping at them until they’re placed.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Flycatcher? Phoebe? Chickadee?

October 16, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  Because Moi and Mway were taking their naps, I went to lie down myself, was reaching that place between waking and sleep when one seems almost aware of one’s unconsiousness, of what it must be like to be nonexistent, when with a start I turn to look at the clock, suddenly fearful that it might be getting late before I have to go to work.  It says quarter to three, but it seems hard for me to believe that it’s not later, and I spring from my bed, go downstairs to pour myself what remains of the coffee from this morning and start writing this, no sooner doing so than Moi bursting out her door with Mway behind, giving me my cue to go and put on my walking clothes.  I should mention before I write anything else that yesterday around suppertime Woody ventured out into the middle of the kitchen floor, partly to play with a marble that Moi had played with him the night before – Mway treated him with the respect due to another animal of the household, while Squeak perched on the tops of the refrigerator and the counter staring at him for about an hour.
State of the Path:  At first I can’t find the birch branch, but then I see it in the yard.  Mway sniffs around the outbuilding.  Beyond the disc harrow sits a metal boxspring propped up against something.  Around the cedar tree flies a least flycatcher or an eastern phoebe – or maybe it’s a black-capped chickadee.  Whatever it is, it’s common enough around I’d like to make a more positive identification of it sometime.  When I step on the plank down by the wigwams, which seems very sturdy but doesn’t have any apparent function, I ask myself why I don’t switch this with the plank across the feed channel – I wonder if Moi has plans for it.  A slight wind rustles the maple leaves, cicadas drone, a woman occasionally speaks over a loudspeaker at the tractor pull on O__ C_____ Road.  Down by the creek, in a dead multiflora sprawling half-way up a tree, sits a cardinal – at least I thinks it’s a cardinal.  Two other birds join it – all I see are the forms of birds and a white streak.  The asters at the swale have shriveled (but later I see some still open along the ridge).  The plank draws me toward the feed channel.  I walk across it face forward, walk back the same way.  As I brush through goldenrod, their seeds spray out around me – or it might be gnat-like bugs stirring, or both.
State of the Creek:  The creek looks soupy, with newly fallen leaves like peas and carrots lying both on top of the water and underneath in the silt.  A couple minnows dart in the pool beneath the big locusts.
The Fetch:  I toss the stick into the taller goldenrod, and I realize that, when she thinks about it, Mway always follows the path she’s already beaten down, which indeed is getting too beaten down.  Only when she gets very excited, starts spinning around, and doesn’t think about it, does she help me trample down the goldenrod where it needs it.  Coming back into the yard, I kick out of the dead leaves a pair of garden shears; these look like something Moi could use, I think, and I carry them back to the house.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Monkey Vine Portal Broken

October 15, 2010. Friday.
Situation: Last night Moi, after coming home from her work, asked if I knew where Woody was. Of course, I told her I had no idea. She looked under and behind chairs, sofas, cupboards, the refrigerator, but could not find him. Finally she looked behind the one thing she hadn’t looked behind, the piano, and that’s where he was hiding. “I wonder how he could stand it behind there,” Moi said to me, “Maybe he’s deaf.” Today Moi tells me Woody ventured out from his hiding place when Mway was in the room. “Mway just stood there, with her ears drawn back. She remembers that Squeak cuffed her when they first met.” Today I work a little bit in the early afternoon, and when I get home, Moi and Mway are getting ready to take a nap. I lie down too, and about an hour later, around 4, Moi and Mway stir. Mway is now lying in front of the back door, waiting for me to put on my walking clothes, which I’ll have to look for – last night I laid them out on a chair in front of the wood pellet stove, and Moi has moved them somewhere.
State of the Path: Mway circles around the chickens once before following me to the path. Looks like there’s no more flowers on the Jerusalem artichokes. Rain clouds have formed in the sky, and the sun, low on the horizon, lies obscured behind them. A breeze whooshes through my helmet, sounding like radio noises. The wind nearly blows the helmet off, but then it dies down. Only a scattering of leaves remain on the black walnuts in the old orchard. In addition to the Boy’s fort, and the virtual monkey vine fort in the tree next to it, I can clearly see our second piece of antique farm equipment at the border of our property. The thinner of the two vines that formed the monkey vine portal has snapped in two, but a kind of portal remains, since the main vine runs from one hawthorn tree on one side of the path to another on the other side. Down at bug land, I at first think the last ironweed flower has finally disappeared, but then I spot it, shriveling but still purple, next to its brown and shriveled companions. I still see a few lady’s thumb on the path along the creek, but they’re disappearing. The asters at the swale are scraggly, but a few flowers still remain on the plants. I approach the plank. It wobbles once, and I look down at what I’m sure is a crack down the middle of it, though I don’t know how serious a crack it is. I test the plank with my feet – it seems like it’ll support me – then I quickly sidle across it. I make the whole circuit of the path on the skating pond crest. The far feed channel (or more properly, what my father must have intended to be an outlet channel) has a little water trickling down it towards the creek, which must mean there’s some amount of moisture that has collected in the skating pond. On the far ridge, below the sumac that has fallen over onto the path, there’s an animal skull – bigger than a rabbit’s or squirrel’s, about the size I imagine that a racoon’s skull would be.
State of the Creek: Mway doesn’t go into the water; maybe it’s turning too cold this late in the day. Newly fallen leaves – most noticeably oak leaves – lie on top of the still water of the pools and collect in front of the rock cascades and the trunks of trees on the creek bank.
The Fetch: I stand in the wedge of the nearly-trampled down goldenrod. I toss the stick toward the sumacs, and Mways heads down the path in the wrong direction, but she quickly corrects herself and manages to find the stick, pinpointing where it landed I believe entirely by sound. On the first few tosses, Mway doesn’t bring the stick all the way back to my feet, and I have to point to the ground and tell her “bring it here,” but eventually she starts bringing it all the way back. I note that the goldenrod in front of the sumacs, which I thought was all brown yesterday, still has its fuzzy white flowers. I toss the stick back and forth down the path and toward the sumacs, and where I stand near the “chokeberry” bush, I lose sight of Mway when she heads down the path. I see the weeds where the stick lands wiggle, and then I hear Mway huffing while she’s running up the path before she comes into sight at the clearing.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Wonder How I Walked Across It Yesterday

October 14, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  Although Moi played with him for a little bit today with a laser light, the new cat, Woody, runs away when he sees Mway or Squeak and spends most of his day in hiding.  I work a little bit and am now home, waiting for Moi and Mway to wake up from their naps.  It’s raining, so I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do.  I decide to go and lie down myself, but after a couple minutes I hear Moi and Mway getting up.  I read for a little while longer (skimming through Kaufmann’s portable Nietzsche for passages on the eternal return), then get up.  It’s about 3:30.  It’s cold enough that Moi has the wood pellet stove going, so I decide to put on my snow suit over my walking clothes.  I find the birch branch in the music room, which is not where Mway put it when I took her for a walk yesterday.
State of the Path:  It’s not raining that hard, but I decide to take the shortest way down to the creek, which is on the path I cleared two days ago, below the summer house.  As soon as I feel the water soaking my socks, I wonder to myself why I’m taking this walk. Much of the goldenrod now has brown dried leaves along the stems.  Mway turns to go up to the clearing, and I lose sight of her as I continue on toward the creek.  As I approach the break in the ridge, briars catch against my snow suit.  The path along the ridge is soggy.  I brush my way through the area of the “chokeberries” and head to the feed channel.  When I step on the plank it wobbles, and I wonder to myself how I walked across this yesterday.  My walking stick touches solid earth when I stand at the end of the plank, but I realize that if I step forward the stick will no longer reach the ground.  Finally I turn sideways and sidle along the plank without lifting my feet.  Mway, who’s caught up to me, hops over the ditch behind me. 
State of the Creek:  My first view of the creek is from the crest of the skating pond.  Seems to me some of the oaks are getting redder.  I don’t bother making the circuit around the crest, but head back the same way I came, going over the plank in similar fashion as I did before, although a multiflora briar grabs my snow suit as I’m crossing, and I whack at it with my stick when I reach solid ground.  I step over the swale and walk along the creek as far as the big locust trees.  The creek doesn’t seem much higher than it was yesterday; I can only see it flowing at the rock cascades.  I hear the rain dropping through the trees, and I stand and watch the rain drops make random ripples in the pools, impressed by one drop that lands in the middle of a pool and sends a ripple the entire width of the creek.
The Fetch:  Mway and I head up to the clearing the same way we came down.  I stand in the middle of the wedge of goldenrod, which I note is getting pretty well trampled down, and throw the stick in various directions.  One time I throw it toward the end of the clearing and it lands between some fleabane and a honeysuckle, and I think Mway won’t be able to find it, but she manages to extract it from the weeds okay.  When I throw it toward the other end of the clearing, I notice that Mway avoids a big area of goldenrod that I’d like her to go through and just follows the track down the middle of the clearing, which is now getting muddy and a bit too well-beaten.  At that end of the clearing, the goldenrod which had fuzzy white spikes yesterday now looks completely brown.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Test Out the New Plank

October 13, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  The new kitten has been in hiding most of the day.  Squeak, seeing it peer once from underneath the laundry tub, growled at it.  I have to work tonight, and after doing preliminary work most of the morning, I’m ready to take Mway for a walk, about 1:21.
State of the Path:  The leaves of the big maple beside the pool are a third green, a third orange, and a third red.  Moi’s garden pond has water in it (been this way since the big rain a week or so ago).  One of the antique farm machines, a disc harrow I believe, has become clearly visible near the walled garden, with yellow leaves of poison ivy sticking out of it.  The floor of the old orchard is covered with red Virginia creeper.  Green gill-of-the-ground grows beneath it, and what looks like a lot of black raspberry brambles grows over it.  Yellow grape vines hang over everything.  Though I thought most of the black walnuts had lost all their leaves, looks like some of them have a few on them yet.  Half the goldenrod is fuzzy white, half a dull-yellow-green-brown.  All the honeysuckles still have green leaves, the Arums still have berries, most of the multiflora is bare.  Between the line of red sumacs and the still green maples the frame of Moi’s second wigwam rises above the goldenrod.  Her first wigwam, which has been collapsing for some time, looks like it’s about ready to fold into itself; a blackberry bramble juts out of it.  What I believe to be the last ironweed flower still rises before the pin oaks, which actually look redder than I once thought, half red, half green.  I’m surprised I see no green black walnuts lying any where on the path (and later I also take the new path up to the summer house and see none there); perhaps the trees didn’t bear any nuts this year.  The New York or New England asters are still blooming, but they’re disappearing (none in the feed channel); the same it seems for the fleabane.  I see other oaks, half-red, half-green (and realize it’s mostly oaks by the creek along the crest of the skating pond).  Along the ridge around bug land, still spot a heal-all or two.
State of the Creek:  Mway moseys into the water, which is shining yellow and green.  I can’t hear the stream gurgling anywhere today, but there’s a lawn mower running in the distance.  After I walk over the plank that crosses the swale, I turn left to the feed channel, which has a little water sitting in it.  I believe I can make it over the new plank, as long as I use my walking stick to support myself.  When I step on the end of the board, the plank begins to bounce, and I hesitate.  It doesn’t look nearly as wide, thick, or strong as it did when I was pulling nails out of it; looks like there’s a crack running down the center of it too.  I take one little step, stab my walking stick into the ground, then scurry across the whole board.  When I’m on sold ground I look behind me and see Mway.  “Go ahead, Mway, walk across it,” I think to myself, but she steps into the ditch and hops out the other side.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, she and I resume trampling down the goldenrod in the wedge, although I have to initiate the work.  After she fetches the birch branch a few times, she starts spinning more and the goldenrod stalks start bending and twisting beneath our feet. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Make a Major Improvement to the Path

October 12, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  Work this afternoon, get home about 3:30.  When I pull up in the car, I see Mway on the sidewalk, and she comes over to sniff me when I open the door.  As I get out of the car, she runs back to the sidewalk to stare at me, making her squeaking sound.  She follows me to the door, stopping once to stretch her legs.  When I get inside, Moi is sitting at the kitchen table: “Did you say you saw a big black-and-white cat the other day,” she asks me.  I nod. “Well, I saw it today,” she goes on, “It was getting ready to pounce on one of the chickens.  I sicced Mway on it, and she chased it all the way into the back acre, and it finally ran up into one of the neighbor’s yards.  It’s a big cat.”  “Well, that’s good,” I address Mway, “You did something useful today.”
State of the Path:  Mway follows me upstairs as I’m going to the bedroom to put on my walking clothes, and she stands at the door as I put on my gloves and safari helmet.  Next to the outbuilding, I see our wheelbarrow turned upside down.  For years I’ve kept the wheelbarrow in an outbuilding when it wasn’t being used, but some time ago Moi put some posts for her new wigwam in it and it’s been sitting outside ever since.  She finally took the posts out of it.  Its underside looks pretty rusty, and I poke it with my walking stick, half-fearing the stick will plunge through the rust.  I think to myself I’d like to put the wheelbarrow in the big outbuilding, but the building is so cluttered right now, I’d have to move stuff around and I think “Some other time.”  I stop near the pig pen to look at a giant pokeweed growing out of some old logs. Its stalks, now bent with age, are an otherworldly pink.  As I’m looking at it, Mway wanders into the pig pen.  I think I hear something like a branch snap behind me, but see nothing.  I start to go down the side path, but then I remember I want to drag the planks from the front porch down to the feed channel after our walk, and figure I’ll conserve my energy and just stay on the main path.  Mway soon catches up with me.  Coming into bug land, I notice that the black walnuts along the creek have lost pretty much all their leaves.  The locust trees, which have been losing leaves, don’t seem to have turned any color, just a dull green.  The pin oaks, which if I remember correctly usually turn bright red in the fall, are only turning partially red at the bottoms of their crowns; at the tops, they’re simply turning brown.  All along the walk, I notice it’s getting harder to find a goldenrod stalk with a bright yellow spike of flowers.
State of the Creek:  Mway goes into the creek at the tree stand.  The water is flowing gently.  A frog dives into the pool at the log jam, another plops into the water farther downstream.  A lot of lady’s thumb, which must have been underwater a week or so ago, is now sticking out of the stream.  When I stop walking on the leaves, I can just hear the water faintly gurgling over the rocks.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, I take my stance in another section of the wedge of goldenrod because the area where I had been standing is now well-trampled down.  I pitch the birch branch down the path, but when Mway brings the stick back she drops it short of the goldenrod I’m standing in, and I see that I’ll have to start trampling it down myself.  I alternate tossing the stick down the path and toward the opposite end of the clearing, slightly into a patch of fuzzy white goldenrod in front of the sumacs.  Eventually Mway starts spinning around in the goldenrod when she brings the stick back and contributes to trampling it down.  When we get back to the house, for some reason Moi is at the back door opening it, and she is amused to see that Mway has dropped the birch branch right in front of the bench, where I like to keep it between walks.
Addendum:  After I finish writing this, I immediately go downstairs and ask Moi where I can find a crowbar.  She says there’s one in the outbuilding.  Moi must have let Mway back outside: when she sees me she starts dashing around the yard.  “No, we’re not going for another walk,” I tell her.  I find the crowbar.  It’s rusted, but it’s solid.  I shuffle some things around in the outbuilding and manage to squeeze the wheelbarrow inside, then I go to the front yard.  The one plank looks pretty rotted, but the other, a 2 by 10 about 8 feet long, looks like it would hold some weight.  There are about twenty nails in it, about six of which are six-inch spikes.  I manage to claw out a few nails, almost injuring myself on one when the crowbar slips and hits my knee.  I go inside to ask Moi where I can find a hammer. Back outside, I manage to pound some of the nails back through the wood and claw them out.  Most of them I end up pounding edgewise into the wood; the spikes are rusted and break apart when I whack them from the side.  The plank has a notch on either end.  I pick up one end and start dragging it down the path along the summer house, the quickest way to the feed channel.  The trailing end digs a little furrow in the ground, of very black soil.  Burrs from some burdock attach themselves to my shirt.  Below the summer house, in the grassy lane, I spot a puffball, chicken-pecked it looks like (Moi later tells me this is the one she spotted before).  When I get to the field, as I fear, there’s no longer a path there (I haven’t walked this way all summer).  Because it’s the time of year when hornets build their nests, I worry about plunging through the weeds, besides their being thick enough to make the way difficult.  I go to the outbuilding to get clippers, snip the bothersome burdock on my way back, then hunker down to begin cutting down goldrenrod.  I can’t tell at all where the path once was, but I aim for the space between a cedar bush and two small bare black walnuts, about 20 yards ahead of me.  I run into a honeysuckle and a dead multiflora.   At the cedar, I see the Russian olive bushes just below the strawberry patch and realize I have to angle toward them.  Eventually the goldenrod becomes sparser and I’m mostly clipping stalks of poison ivy.  I come upon, hard to believe, one heal-all, then the juncture to the clearing and the main path comes into sight.  I go back to get the plank where I dropped it, when I see Moi up in the yard walking towards the chicken coop, and I think “why the hell am I trying to drag this all by myself?”  When I call out to her, she agrees to give me a hand.  We each grab an end of the plank, and Mway follows us down.  Beyond the ridge, Moi scolds me for stepping on the evergreen sapling she told me always to watch out for.  At the feed channel, I have to step carefully down the ditch and up the other side, grabbing hold of the honeysuckle, until the plank straddles it.  When we set it down, the notches at either end cause it to flip up on its side.  Moi suggests that if I cut down the honeysuckle, the plank would sit flat over that part of the ditch closer to the creek.  I tell Moi to move the plank toward the skating pond, and when we move it as far over as it can go, it finally sits flat.  Moi immediately walks over it, then back again.  But to get back across the ditch, I step down the footholds, holding onto the plank like a rail.
Second Addendum:  After supper, while we’re sitting in the living room waiting for Moi’s cobbler to finish baking, she reaches under a cabinet and pulls out an all-gray kitten.  She tells me Lenny gave her the cat.  The story goes a timber worker found it in a tree on J_____ Mountain, just inches away from the marauding blade of his chainsaw.  I tell Moi I don’t even want to talk about it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What Looks Like a Golfball Turns Out to be a Mushroom

October 11, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  I have no work today.  Had the piano tuned today.  Since I had to remove all the knick-knacks Moi piles on top of it, gave me a reason to vacuum and dust around it.  I wish she’d stop allowing Mway to drag sticks into the music room – brings a lot of dirt in.  Moi spent the day painting the remodeled front porch.  Among the old lumber, there’s a couple planks I figure I could put over the feed channel to the crest of the skating pond.  I’ll have to remove some nails from them, if I can find a crowbar.  I guess I had all day to drag them down to the ditch, but by the time I get around to it, about 3:15, Mway’s ready for her walk, and I have to do that first.  Thought maybe afterwards I could drag it down, but now I’m back and writing this up, hear continuous rumbles of thunder.
State of the Path:  A rumble of thunder as soon as I step out the door.  In the fallen leaves by the garden pond, bare spots where chickens have been digging for bugs.  The other day Moi asked me if I’ve seen any new wildflowers.  I told her I didn’t think I’d be seeing any new ones, but now I can see birds again.  A cardinal among the sumacs, some brown birds in the old orchard – wings black with white stripes.  If I look in Audubon, will I find dozens of birds that fit this description?  (Could be least flycatchers or eastern phoebes again.)  Beyond the honeysuckles, spot what I think is a golf ball.  Turns out to be a mushroom.  Moi had told me to look out for puffballs; she spotted one above the walled garden, but it was pretty well pecked at by the chickens.  Don’t generally see puffballs on the path.  I poke the mushroom with my walking stick; it rolls around like a golf ball.  The leaves of the maples down by the wigwams are still green, but in bug land a maple sapling (which I never really noticed before) has turned scarlet.  Since I’m thinking about planks, I note that we already have two planks along the path: one near the wigwams, which doesn’t serve any function that I can see, and one over the swale.  I take a look at the feed channel and the lay of the ground around it and worry that the planks I want to put there might not be very safe; looks to me like they will form a long span and rest about a yard above the ditch.  Near the break in the ridge, poison ivy turning yellow.  See more on the way to the clearing.
State of the Creek:  Mway goes in the water at the tree stand.  I hear both splashing and the clack of rocks.  In the pools the water is at a standstill.  Beneath the big locusts, fallen leaves look frozen in the water, and there’s scum over the water in the sunlight.  Water still moving over rocks.  I can’t hear it moving, although I might be able to if there wasn’t a lawn mower growling in the distance.  At the narrows, about five frogs plop in the water.
The Fetch:  Toss the birch branch in the tall goldenrod, continue trampling the goldernrod down in the clearing.  Mway makes up for what she didn’t fetch yesterday.  A couple times she starts running before I throw the stick, and I worry the stick might land on her head, but she and the stick manage not to collide.  After a while I get tired of throwing the stick and anxious because the thunder is starting to become continuous.  When Mway finally comes back with the stick without dropping it, I don’t play “Put it down” but tell her “that’s enough.”