The beginning of wisdom, as the Chinese say, is calling things by their right names. (E. O. Wilson, as cited by Elizabeth J. Rosenthal, Birdwatcher: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Don't See Any Deer

November 30, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  This morning when I wake up, Mway is lying on the floor at the foot of my bed.  Last night Moi came home without meat for the freezer – she saw only a few more deer all day than I did just in a short while yesterday morning, and they were all doe (this year the game commission has limited the first five days of deer season in our county to the hunting of buck), so she has gone out hunting again today.  There’s no frost on the ground; the sky is gray.  Out my office window, the light is dim: I can’t see the red cones of the sumacs.  I hear the roosters crowing now and then; one of them’s making almost a perfect cockle-doodle-doo: “ra-hah-roo-roo.”  Yesterday I didn’t hear any gunshots all day, not even shortly before sunset when I took Mway out to the clearing to fetch stick again.  I don’t know if there will be any hunters out today.  I wonder if the deer will be hiding in the brush again down by the creek, or perhaps even on our field.  Well, there’s only one way to find out.
State of the Path:  When I step outside, I see the sidewalk’s wet, hear rain seeping through the trees, making a pucking sound on the cover to the pool.  I creep down by the summer house; Mway takes a dump in the lane, then a couple more on the path.  I walk by a tall narrow cedar (yesterday afternoon I had looked for blue cones on it; didn’t find any cones on it at all).  Mway turns toward the clearing, but she doesn’t go very far; based on what we did yesterday, she’s half-expecting I’ll keep on going straight toward bug land, and she’s right.  The water in the path before the ridge, which was icy yesterday, is now just soggy.  I break through the ridge, look up into the field across the creek.  I walk on the soggy path, pass through the “chokeberries,” don’t bother with the side path, cross the swale.  I move fast along the creek, the upper parts of my pants now wet, drips of rain on my glasses.  A multiflora branch snags my wool cap.  As I approach the other end of bug land, I recall that I’ve seen deer jump up from the brush there.  I walk up the soggy path toward the maples, walk across the plank on the ground, and, because I’m wet, decide not to take the side path here either.  And that’s good, I reflect: if the deer are bedded down anywhere, it could be over there along the side path, and this way I won’t risk disturbing them.
State of the Creek:  I see the riffles in the cascades coming toward me, ripples in the pools colliding with each other.
The Fetch:  On the first toss, Mway bounds off in the wrong direction, and I have to help her find the stick.  When I point to where it landed with my walking stick, she just jumps up at the pointer, and so I have to step toward where the stick lies until she stumbles upon it.  Mway makes only four or five fetches before she starts chomping on the stick without dropping it, and we only play “Put it down” twice, which is good, because I’m cold and wet.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wary of Getting Shot

November 29, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  Before dawn this morning Moi drove over to Ezra’s to walk into his woods with a deer rifle.  In order to allow the heat from downstairs into my bedroom, I’ve been keeping the door open for periods of time, and Squeak has been able to come in to purr and walk all over my chest, which she was doing this morning.  Right now Mway is lying down on the rug in Moi’s room.  I don’t know if I should take her for a walk now or not – if we’ll encounter and disturb a hunter in the woods by the creek, maybe in that deerstand I mentioned the other day.  I just looked out the office window – at first I thought I saw the red outfit of a deer hunter standing in the distance, but then I realized the red I was seeing was the berry cones of the sumacs.  I haven’t been hearing any gun shots.  I suppose we can venture out – just keep our eyes peeled for anyone out there with a gun.  I’ll wear my orange wool cap, and maybe put Mway on a leash.
State of the Path.  As soon as I start putting on my walking clothes, Mway stands up, and she leads the way down the stairs.  I find a red leash, but when I go to snap it on, I discover Mway doesn’t have a collar.  The chicken’s water dish is sitting in front of the door – Moi must have brought it in to thaw, and I realize I’ll have to take it back outside (later I find a note in front of the coffee maker telling me to do just that).  I decide to sneak down along the summer house and cross the lane, where I’ll have the best vista of the fields.  Frost covers the ground; there are crystals on some garlic grass and on the big flaps of leaves of a flattened burdock, wrinkled and holey but still green.  When I get to the beginning of the path that leads from the lane, I survey the fields.  I don’t see anybody, but I also realize there are a lot of trees, shrubs, and brush in which somebody could be hidden.  I hear the caws of crows or bluejays.  Mway scoots down the path then makes a sharp left turn to head to the clearing, but I figure we can still go at least as far as bug land, where there’s another open area for me to look around.  Mway follows me.  The streak of water in the path in front of the ridge is crunchy with ice.  I pass through the break in the ridge, then take another survey of the trees and shrubs around the creek.   Soon I see, first one, then two, finally at least about five, deer running up from the bottom of the field on the far side of the creek, their white tails turned toward me.  Mway doesn’t seem to see them, but she takes a few steps into bug land, ears raised – I believe she must be able to hear them, though I don’t hear a sound coming from their leaping bodies.  I figure, though they’re a hundred yards away or so, that they must have heard me coming down through the field, and while they’re still running up toward the top of the ridge, I surmise that they must have been down by the creek, hiding from hunters in the woods.  I then realize I’ve put them in a predicament – they were down at the creek to hide from hunters, and now I’m scaring them from their hiding place back into the woods.  I decide to turn around and go back to the clearing, and just before I do, I see the deer shift from running up toward the top of the ridge and head instead toward Hutchinson’s wood lot, which is still close to the creek and, I hope, just as good a hiding place for them.
State of the Creek:  I don’t get to see the creek, but on my way back to the house after our fetch, I see that some ice has formed in Moi’s garden pond.
The Fetch: I throw the stick in alternate directions, looking out over the fields as I do.  The goldenrod fuzz is especially fuzzy, since it’s covered with frost, and when the stalks break as Mway runs through them the snaps sound a little sharper than usual.  A bird lands on a bare tree down by the two cedars.  At first I think it’s a blue jay, but eventually I can see that it’s a black-capped chickadee.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Genesis 3:23

November 28, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  Work all day today, come home after dark.  No walk for Mway from me today.  Last night Moi told me she found out whose McMansion has been sheriffed (she had read a few weeks ago that one was going up for sheriff’s sale).  It turns out to be the house right next to us, the one that backs up to our driveway and unusable shed and is closest to our back yard.  We seldom saw the people who had been living there.  They never went in their back yard.  Their kids’ outdoor play equipment spilled out no further than the driveway.  And though their grass was kept trim, I only saw or heard them mow their lawn once or twice, if that.  It’s too bad they have gone.  They were almost as good neighbors as the soybean and corn that at one time were the only things around us.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Surprising Sound of Crickets

November 27, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  As it turned out Jazz didn’t bring Atlas with her yesterday – the cage outside remained unused  (I’m not sure but I think I heard her telling other people “I didn’t bring Atlas because he makes my dad nervous.”)  Woody, and Squeak too, frightened by the many tall legs stomping around, hid upstairs.  I was happy about that: I didn’t have to keep tossing a cat off the countertops.  Mway hung around downstairs, milling about the kitchen below table level.  Moi and I both work later tonight.  She’s just finished up in the bathroom and is standing at the doorway fully dressed.  She says she’s going to take Mway for her morning walk, and that I can come too, if I hurry.
State of the Path:  While I’m still buttoning up my jacket and putting on my boots, Moi goes outside – I hear Mway barking, Moi yelling at her.  When I finally get ouside, she’s still yelling at Mway and, while she futzes with feed and water dishes, tells me to take Mway down the path away from the chickens.  Very light snow flurries are blowing around.  Moi soon catches up with us.  At the juncture to the side path, I ask her which way she wants to go.  “It doesn’t matter,” she says, “as long as we walk fast so I can get some exercise.”  We continue straight on the main path, the way Mway has already taken.   “You’re going to have to get your snowsuit out.  Aren’t you cold?” Moi asks.  “A little,” I say.  At the tree stand, Moi stops to gaze around.  She yells at me as I turn around rustling the leaves.  After standing quietly for a moment or two, she points toward Hutchinson’s woods at a red band tied around a tree, which she says is a sign that somebody has been up there turkey hunting. Moi takes the lead along the creek.  Past the swale, she points toward the feed channel and asks me if I have to go that way.  I tell her it doesn’t matter, and we head straight to bug land toward her pines, where I spot the long stick with the gash that I prefer to the thick birch branch I’m already carrying.  I ask Moi if she had thrown stick down here in bug land.  “No,” she says, “Maybe the Boy did.”  When I pick up the stick, Mway starts hopping up and down, but I hold the stick high, intent on not throwing it until we get to the clearing.  On the other side of the ridge, the path becomes a long strip of water to the anthill.  Moi, who’s wearing some kind of fashionable work shoe, has to straddle the path, but, in my good rubber boots, I can just trudge straight through the water.
State of the Creek:  The stream, lower than yesterday, is losing its green color and turning brown.  Moi pauses to look at the green plants she discovered in the cascade by the big logs the other day and asks if I ever identified them.  “No,” I say, “unless they get some sort of flower, there’s probably no way I can.”  Further downstream, we see two more places where the plant is growing.  Moi mentions a plant name (I can’t remember now what it was) and talks about how people buy plants for the yard and sometimes they invade the wild surroundings.  I point out to her the underwater plant with the spiky leaves and ask her if she knows what it is.  “Duckweed?” she answers.  “Duckweed?” I say, “you sure that’s what it is?”   She shrugs, then says “I took some of these plants from the creek like this one time and transplanted them in my garden pond, and I used to know the names.”
The Fetch:  Up in the clearing I throw the stick with the gash in the two directions I’ve been liking to throw the stick.  On the third or fourth toss, I lose my grip on the stick before it leaves my hand (probably because I’m holding the other two sticks), and it flies high up in the air and starts falling right down onto Moi, fortunately only nicking her.  She yells at me, and I apologize.  As I’m still tossing the stick back and forth, suddenly she whips out her iPhone and starts talking on it, heading down the path back toward the house.  I keep on throwing the stick for Mway until she starts coming back with it without dropping it.  Walking toward the path, I see a spot of water in the middle of the clearing has started to turn to ice.  Back in the house, while Moi’s still talking on her iPhone, I feed Mway then sit down here at my computer.  After a while Moi comes to the doorway.  “You know,” she says, “that was my mother on the phone.  I have a special ring tone for her calls, the sound of crickets.  When we were outside, I started hearing these crickets and started looking around for them, wondering how they could be out in such cold weather, before I realized, oh, that’s my mother calling on the cell phone.”

Saturday, November 26, 2011

It Doesn't Matter It's Thanksgiving (Observed)

November 26, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  For a number of rather complicated reasons Moi has postponed the turkey dinner she was going to make yesterday until today.  She’s already dressed when I wake up.  I ask her if she’s taken Mway for a walk.  She says she’s only taken her out in the back yard to fetch stick, so I guess I could take her for a full walk now.  The Boy spent the night with Jennifer in B______, and he’s supposed to be coming back here today.  I believe Jazz is bringing Atlas with her today and is going to take him to Lenny beforehand to have his diarrhea checked out.  Ezra some time ago gave Moi a big cage that now sits at the foot of our driveway, between the lilac bushes and a broken down shed, my understanding being that this is suppose to be a place where we can keep Atlas whenever he comes to visit.  I don’t know if he’ll actually end up in there or what  -- it’s still early in the morning so it’s difficult to tell exactly what will ensue today.  All I know is I don’t have to work today or tonight, and I might as well take Mway for a walk now.
State of the Path:  Moi says she’s tired and goes back to bed.  She tells me Mway’s already outside.  I wear the orange wool cap, find the thick birch branch on the porch.  I don’t see Mway anywhere, just Squeak by the wood pallets and the chickens in the lilac bushes.  I have to call several times before Mway comes running from the side of the house.  The trash is beginning to pile up in the walled garden.  The goldenrod fuzz is damp and dark colored, the leaves look especially shriveled, draped down close to the stalks.  Some of the goldenrod looks darker brown than the others – almost looks like a different species, and maybe it is.  There’s a metallic grinding noise coming from McNeighborland.  Only a few yellowish leaves remain on the honeysuckles around the old orchard.  The gill-of-the ground looks strikingly green beneath the goldenrod.  Before the maples, I see two bird’s nests in a shrub along the path – at first, looking at the bare branches, I don’t recognize the shrub; it takes me a while to remember that this is a honeysuckle.  Walk along the creek; at the locust trees, Mway wanders off to sniff in the water-logged brown grass of bug land.  Water’s trickling down the swale, sitting in the feed channel, flowing out the exit channel.  I see a bird’s nest in a honeysuckle along the skating pond.  Crossing back over the feed channel, I realize that the water here must come from the pond itself; it doesn’t flow in from the creek because of the dirt bar and leaf debris – another reason why the skating pond was an engineering disaster.
State of the Creek:  The creek is a steadily flowing green stream today, bubbles being carried along, foam piling up at the two big logs and at other places.  I poke at the vinyl siding with my walking stick: it’s lodged in tight beneath the creek bank.
The Fetch:  Coming up to the clearing, I trample down stalks of goldenrod still sticking up between the path and where Mway has trampled them down in fetching the stick.  I hope she only fetches a few times, but she goes on and on.  I alternate my tosses again.  A couple times the limbs on the birch branch catch on my gloves, and my toss goes off kilter, landing at far-off spots in the goldenrod.  Mway has no trouble finding the stick.  I hear her paws pattering on the soggy ground.  As soon as she starts chomping on the stick without dropping it, I tell her “that’s enough.”

Friday, November 25, 2011

Sleet and Snow Turn into Cold Rain

November 25, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  Last night my old college chum Drew visited, showing up at my workplace, and then coming with me to the house afterwards.  Mway lunged and barked at him when he came to the door; Moi and I had to yell and hold Mway back.  Eventually she came to realize he was a friend and not a foe, trying to nuzzle up to him as he sat on the sofa.  After Drew left and Moi and I went to bed, the Boy arrived from NYC sometime during the night; he’s still asleep.  It’s sleeting and snowing outside; I see patches of snow on the green grass, snow on the roof of the summer house and on the stack of old lumber from the front porch.  Moi is on the phone with Jazz, probably talking about the prospect of traveling today (it turns out Atlas has diarrhea, and she and Matt won’t be able to visit.)  Squeak was sitting on my lap for a while, but Woody was pawing at her, irritating her (and scratching me through my shirt), and she has jumped off.  It’s 9:15.  I guess I might as well put on my walking clothes and take Mwayla for a walk (I’m pretty sure Moi hasn’t taken her for one yet).
State of the Path:  Moi advises me to wear an orange wool cap today; I manage to find one in the mass of clothes at the bottom of our bureau.  She has an orange pinny for Mway, with the word “dog” scratched on it, but she is unable to fit it on Mway, who’s gotten too plump for it.  The only stick I find on the bench is a rather thick birch branch with broken limbs poking from it; it has chew marks on it, so Mway has apparently fetched it sometime in the past.  What’s fallen on the ground is a kind of crystalline slush, slightly slippery as Mway skids across it before she realizes it’s there and she has to adjust her velocity.  What’s falling from the sky by the time I get outside is a cold rain.  Nothing is lying on the limbs of the trees and shrubs or the stalks of the weeds.  I feel a cold raindrop falling every now and then on my neck.  No side paths today – I wish I had worn my snowsuit.  By the time I get to the creek I feel the cold seizing my back and thighs.  Raindrops hang to the branches of the multiflora.  I duck low as I’m walking through them, and move with increasing speed along the path.  Hear the chirps of birds, the caw of bluejays or crows, but I don’t see anything – are they calling from their nests?
The State of the Creek:  The creek is a brown stream today, with ripples from raindrops colliding against each other in the pools.  My foot slips a little bit in the slush next to where Moi had knocked away part of the creek bank.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, I hope Mway will only want to fetch the stick a few times.  I throw it in the same alternating directions I did yesterday – hear her paws pattering on the slush, the stalks of the goldenrod snapping as she plows through them, the rain falling on my jacket at a higher pitch than it makes falling on the ground.  Drops of rain cling to the lenses of my glasses.  Mway keeps going and going, and the first time she returns with the stick without dropping it I tell her “that’s it.”

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Find Where Moi Knocked Down Creek Bank

November 24, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  Woke up early today, before 8.  I still have to think about letting my gum heal.  Last night I finally had a cigarette around 8 pm, tried to puff on it gently.  Without a cigarette it’s hard for me to conceive of doing things of my own free will.  I have to work tonight.  Moi’s taking a bath – I already had one cigarette this morning; should I have another?  I’d like to take Mway for a walk this morning; at least I don’t have to think much about that.  Moi tells me just now she’s no where near ready to go for a walk – she has a lot to do, she says, she’ll take Mway out in the afternoon.  So it’s just Mway and me.
State of the Path:  I don’t hear any gun shots, so I decide to take my usual route along the path.  The back yard and upper parts of the field are cast in shadow.  Before the monkey vine portal, I note a white PVC pipe leaning against a black walnut – very conspicuous, and I’m sure I must have seen it before, but before now it and its location were phenomenon not fully established in my consciousness.  (It’s the same pipe, I’m sure, that years ago used to lie on the ground and into which Mway and Blue used to chase squirrels.)  I tug up on my pants, tug down on my shirt: it’s a little cold even in my father’s denim jacket.  In the one pocket is a golf ball, in the other a Swiss army knife; neither thing do I ever use.  After I round the bend at the hedgerow, the fiery ball of the sun glows straight through the center of the branches of the cedar.  A lot of bent brown stalks of goldenrod to brush or kick aside, tear away.  Down at the pin oaks, the wind is blowing a few of the brown leaves onto the ground; a low prickly branch catches onto the top of my wool cap.  I detach the cap, and further down the creek, at the next pin oak, the cap is snatched again.  I pull the cap down more over my ears.  I cross the plank and as I’m approaching the oaks along the creek there, on the other side of the creek a bunch of birds -- bluejays, mourning doves, or other -- fly up – I realize they’re flying up around a pine tree I never fully noticed before; I wonder if it’s the same species of pine as Moi’s.  The birds disappear quickly, but a male cardinal lingers in the branches close to the creek.  As I’m walking back toward the plank, suddenly I realize Mway’s walking behind me; it seems like she’s just suddenly materialized out of nowhere.
State of the Creek:  I think I find where Moi knocked down some of the creek bank.  As I’m looking around the bend of the creek where the log jam used to be, I see some fresh soil lying loosely along the water and an exposed root.
The Fetch:  I alternate throws toward the sumacs (making sure to avoid the little evergreen Moi planted there, marked by a white post) and back down the path.  I manage to keep Mway running pretty much through the goldenrod where it’s not tramped down too much.  She fetches the stick only a few times before she starts bringing it back without dropping it.  As she chomps on the stick, I tell her “put it down” several times, but she doesn’t seem to want to move to level 2.  Back at the house I tell Moi I think I spotted the place where she knocked down part of the creek bank; turns out I’m right.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gunshots and Basketball Thumps

November 23, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  Right now, as I’m sitting in my office, Moi is playing fetch with Woody, who runs after a little cloth “mousy,” as Moi calls it, and brings it back for another throw, just like Mway does with a stick.  Moi says it’s a rare cat who will fetch an object like this.  This morning I have to go to the dentist again and have a bad tooth pulled, so I don’t have time for a walk this morning, then after that I have work to do.  We’ll see how the afternoon shapes up for taking Mway for a walk then – I don’t remember last winter having the pressure of worrying about getting home before nightfall.  I get home about 3:41.  I haven’t had a cigarette since I had my tooth pulled at 10:30, dentist said I risk getting a dry socket, very painful.  It’s hard for me to think, or rather it’s hard for me to make a transition from one thought to the next.  Moi is not here.  When I was unlocking the door, heard gun shot, sounded like just beyond the back acre.  The sky looks like it’s being directed by John Ford.  I hear two more gunshots while I’m sitting here – make that three.
State of the Path:  Grab the first stick I see in the kitchen.  Open the door – Squeak’s in the middle of the sidewalk, staring up at me.  I call her, and she sidesteps around the approaching Mway toward the door.  First time I ever let her in the back door.  I decide to sneak down by the summer house, call Mway to follow me.  We scurry across the lane.  Hear the banging of a basketball against a backboard from McNeighborland.  Kick away bent stalks of goldenrod.  I don’t know how far to go.  Mway makes a sharp turn toward the clearing, but I say let’s go all the way to the creek.  Path soppy just before the ridge, is my foot getting wet? check my new boots for a crack, must just be my imagination.  I hope my yellow wool cap doesn’t look like the head of a turkey, but I think of Mway: her fur looks like the feathers.   Just inside the ridge, the sun dips under a strata of clouds and suddenly shoots a spotlight across the brown tangle of bug land onto the creek trees.  Mway scoots through the “chokeberries.”  I keep hearing in the distance a sound like metal clacking.  She fords the feed channel, we round the crest.  I at least want to see where Moi knocked down part of the creek bank.
State of the Creek:  I don’t see anyplace that looks like an unnatural indentation in the bank.  Suddenly I hear gun shots – six, seven, eight.  I curse loudly so anyone will know I’m a human being.  I tell Mway we should turn around and go back the way we came.  (Probably somebody just target shooting, but still --.)
The Fetch:  I toss the stick the opposite way I have been, behind another “chokeberry,” toward a honeysuckle near the sumacs.  More gunshots, more basketball thumps, and now Mway’s sharp barking.  Gray sky all around me, but the sun casts one huge beacon across bug land, which blasts its way up and over the countryside and illuminates the entire F___ O____ ridge.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Check Out Plants, Don't Know What They Are

November 22, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  Though I took my DUI class a week ago, this morning I receive in the mail a “Petition To Revoke ARD” from the court, along with a notice of a hearing scheduled on the matter for December 28.   Frantically I call the probation officer listed on the notice, managing to actually reach her on the first call.  The situation, as she already knows, is that I took the class during the one-month grace period after my probation had expired.  As I hoped, the probation officer reassures me that I may ignore the petition. By the time I get off the phone, Moi is getting ready to go out on some errands.   She says she didn’t take Mway out for a full walk, only fetched stick with her in the back yard.   So far I have no work that has come in for me to do today, so I’ll probably take Mway for a walk sometime soon.  I’ve looked at the picture of the plant Moi saw in the creek yesterday – of course, I have no idea what it is.  Out my window, the air looks cold and misty, the sky gray, the kind of day I like -- November may be my favorite month of the year.  Moi has just come back from her errands, with a report about some outrageous consequences due to American firms outsourcing labor: she had wanted to buy some orange fabric to add to her homemade hunting outfit, but, unlike six or seven years ago, she wasn’t able to find any.  She learned from one merchant that it’s being hoarded by sewing interests overseas.  Well, time for that walk.
State of the Path:  I pick up some sticks that Mway has dropped in the music room, their bark shedding on the rug.  Outside I can’t find the long stick with the gash I’ve been using, so I select one from the music room; it’s not quite as lengthy and weighty, but it will do.  Out on the path, note the colors of November:  the yellowing leaves of the honeysuckles, purple canes of the black raspberries, red ones of the blackberries, the latter’s reddish leaves, low green grass in the path, green garlic grass and gill-of-the-ground, brown stalks of goldenrod bearing white fuzz, the red candles of the sumacs, the gray bare branches of most of the trees and shrubs, the brown leaves still clinging to some of the oaks, the light brown tall grass of bugland, black stalks of ironweed leaning over, the occasional red berries on the bare multiflora briars, the green cedars and pines.  At the crest of the skating pond, I veer from the path to look over the edge of the pond; it looks like there’s water lying in the brown grass but I can’t tell how much.  In the “chokeberries,” I see for a second a bird that seems to have the head of a black-capped chickadee, but its wings and belly look striped black and brown.  I think maybe this is how the female of the species looks, but Audubon doesn’t confirm this. Whatever it is, it makes a squeaking noise.  The leaves of the Russian olives have stayed green for a long time, but they are now shedding quickly.
State of the Creek:  I stop to look at the plant Moi saw in the water; it’s growing in a shallow cascade right in front of where the big log from the former log jam was flung up onto another log on the creek bank.  I can get fairly close to it by walking through the multiflora briars that I see are bent from Moi walking through them yesterday.  The plant has leaves with three lobes, kind of like a maple leaf.  Just downsteam from it, there’s a dirt bar forming in the creek, so the water’s being swept by it into one narrow channel running along the opposite bank.  Down from this, where the creek widens again and forms a pool (one of those that are last to disappear in the dry summer), I see a plant I’ve seen before, one with spiky leaves that grows entirely underwater; I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, and I’m surprised Moi didn’t see it.
The Fetch:  When I get up to the clearing, before tossing the stick I decide to go check on Moi’s cedars, wading through goldenrod and tripping over sumac saplings to get to them.  Mway follows me, happy to have some new ground to sniff around. The one cedar’s narrow and the other one seems bushier.  I realize now, after looking through the Audubon back here in the office, that I have to look at them again more closely.  On the bushier tree I find Moi’s “turd-like” objects; they almost look like mutant cones; Moi thinks they may be the cocoons of some insect, but to me they look natural to the tree – I don’t know.  Audubon only lists a couple trees of the cypress family: the one that looks like it would be most common around here is the eastern redcedar, or red juniper.  The cones are described as “berrylike…dark blue with a bloom.”  I know I’ve seen these blue cones on trees in past years, but I haven’t thought to look for them this year.  Audubon then says that the “pollen cones [are] on separate trees”; I wonder if the turd-like things could be pollen cones.  Mway and I go back to the clearing, and I start tossing the stick.  I realize I can throw the stick as far as Moi by just pitching it underhand, whereas she has to wind up with a full-bodied backhand.  After a couple fetches, Mway comes up the path, empty-mouthed, sheepishly smiling with tongue hanging, and I have to march down into the goldenrod to help her find the stick.  As soon as I see it she spots it too, but I figure now she’s screwed up and I only toss it one more time.  Back in the house, Moi asks me if I looked at the plant in the creek, and I tell her I did.  Then she asks me, “Did you see anything else?” giving me this devilish look.  I shake my head.  “Well, next time you take a walk look to see where some of the creek bank’s missing,” she says, “I found a spot that was giving way, and I stomped on it twice.  It fell through.  I almost sprained my wrist.”

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sunday, No Day for a Walk

November 21, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  This morning, while I’m sitting here in my office before heading out to my full day of work, Moi comes to the doorway and says “So I suppose you’re not going to take Mwayla for a walk this morning?”  (I guess I set a precedent these last few days.)  “No,” I say.  “And that’s because you don’t have time to write about it afterwards?”  I nod.  “Don’t you think that’s a little bit crazy?” she says, twittering her fingers beside her ears to indicate the insane thoughts of a mad man.  Before I leave, she comes back to me with the report that, when out with Mway, she saw what looked like a new plant growing in the water of the creek – she took a picture of it with her iPhone.  When I come back from work, some 9 hours later, it’s too dark for me to take Mwayla for a walk then.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bluejay Makes a Laughing Sound?

November 20, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  I tell Moi I want to do the morning walk again – why shouldn’t I get to experience the crisp morning air rather than the stale air of the afternoon?  But we have a little argument about it: I’m ready to go, having just thrown on my walking clothes, while Moi takes a bath, washes her hair, has to let her hair dry, and expresses her worry that I’m going to take over the morning walk and exclude her from it.  I reassure her that I don’t want to do that.  Right now I’m still waiting for her to get dressed (Mway’s also waiting, out on the back porch).  Just as I write this, Moi stomps down the stairs fully dressed.  (Though now the phone just rang, and she’s talking on that – .)
State of the Path:  Down in the kitchen Moi says she wishes she had a bright red scarf to wear, then puts on her camouflage jacket.  I put on what looks like a new pair of gloves.  “Those are your new gloves,” Moi explains,  “Your old ones were filled with holes and I threw them out.”  Out in the back yard, Mway picks her fetching stick up in her mouth and disappears down the path at the outbuilding (it’s the stick I’ve been using – with a gash and a crack in it, but slim, long, and good for throwing).  While Moi dawdles looking at the chickens, Mway reappears, stick in her mouth, at the outbuilding, as if to say “aren’t you guys coming?”  A monkey vine that drapes over the trees at the building seems to be sagging more than it did before.  It forms, I realize to my delight, another monkey vine portal.  At the garden pond, I see Mway’s dropped the stick and I pick it up.  Beyond the pig pen, I ask Moi if she wants to go straight or take the side path.  She opts for the side path.  I point out a big bird flying in the sky over Hutchinson’s field.  I thinks it’s a hawk, Moi thinks a duck.  “It had a long neck,” she says.  Mway wanders over to the old dump and starts sniffing under a tree.  While Moi goes over to investigate, I note that a few old berries still remain on the Arum honeysuckles.  We round the bend, and Mway starts sniffing around the brush where the doe had jumped up from.  “She’s on the trail of something,” Moi comments.  We come back to the main path, walk through the maples.  Moi sees a bird flying back up toward the sumacs, and I’m able to tell her that it’s a black-capped chickadee.  There’s a lot of water on the path, and I’m grateful to have my new pair of boots.  Along the creek, we hear the chickens back at the house squawking.  Moi wonders if they’re being disturbed by something.  “Well,” I tell her, “we just saw something that was probably a hawk.”  Moi sees some garlic grass and asks me if this just came up.  I tell her that I saw it in the early spring (maybe even during the winter?), and it’s always out in cool weather.  A multiflora branch snags my wool cap and I struggle to detach it, Moi looking at me and chuckling.  “Well, for one thing,” she says, “your cap’s not down on your head – it’s jutting way up high.”  As we walk along the creek, Moi points out again that some day the path’s going to go caving in.  We cross the swale, where water’s still trickling, then I cross the plank, Mway stepping into the water in the feed channel then hopping out.  As soon as I take a few steps on the plank, it seems to wobble more than usual, and I wonder if Moi’s stepping on it with me and making it shake.  But when I look back, I see she’s waiting for me to cross first before she steps on it.  At the exit channel, which has water trickling out of it, I point out the little animal skull on the ridge; Moi is intrigued by it.  I mention the catty-nine-tails in the skating pond.  “That must mean there’s a lot of moisture there all year round?” I venture.  “Yes,” Moi says, “That’s why it failed as a skating pond.  We could never get in there to keep the grass mowed down in it.”  I cross the plank, and it wobbles a lot again.  I look back at Moi.  “The reason the board shakes so much when you walk across it,” she says, “is because of your European splayed feet.”  She demonstrates how she can easily walk across it, naturally keeping her toes pointed straight forward.  We stop at her pines, and I walk up to a tree growing up close to the ridge, apparently an offspring of the trees Moi originally planted.  “I think we’ve seen that before,” Moi says.  She goes through the break in the ridge and starts hiking up toward the clearing.  I linger for a moment, suddenly hearing a bird down by the creek making a strange call, almost like an artificial turkey gobble, and I call Moi back.  All I can see in the trees is a bluejay, cawing like a crow.  “Did you hear that strange bird sound?” I ask Moi when she gets back.  “Yeah,” she says, “it sounded like laughing.  Ha-huh-hah-ha-ha-huh-hah.”  I tell her it must have been the bluejay.  There’s a lot of water in the path on the other side of the ridge, a collecting point for moisture in the field; again I’m glad I have my good boots.  Before we reach the clearing, Moi talks again about the two cedars she inspected yesterday:  “They must be two different kinds.  The one looks like it has little turds on it.”
State of the Creek:  The water is low enough, and apparently warm enough, that Mway wades into it at her favorite spot below the tree stand.
The Fetch:  In the clearing, I hand Moi the stick to throw.  She frowns but takes it, gives it a big heave past the “chokeberry” down into the goldenrod.  As the stick sails through the air, I hear the wind singing around it – I wonder if the crack in the stick is making the sound.  As Moi hurls the stick a few more times, I knock over a goldenrod stalk with my walking stick, then just poke around with it in the wet ground.  Mway eventually comes back chomping the slim, cracked stick in her mouth, but Moi doesn’t want to have anything to do with anything like going on to level 2; she turns around, muttering “Okay, enough of that.  I have other things to do.”

Saturday, November 19, 2011

I Point Out Why They're Virginia Pines

November 19, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  I have a dentist appointment today at noon, and then I should work afterwards.  I’ve already told Moi that I want to take Mway for her walk this morning, but she says she wants to come along  -- she says she needs to take a walk to get in shape for deer hunting.  I wanted to familiarize myself more with the concepts of conifers, but I haven’t yet got around to it.  Moi’s getting ready to go out, so I better hurry and put on my walking clothes lest she leave without me.
State of the Path:   In the kitchen Moi hesitates trying to decide what jacket to put on (“something so I don’t look like a turkey”); inexplicably she grabs a camouflage coat.  When we look out the back door window, we see Mway, lying on the porch, looking up at us with bulging eyes.  Moi goes over to the feed bin, scatters feed for the chickens; Mway wanders into the chicken cage, and Moi yells at her (“Does she always go in there?”)  At her garden pond, I ask Moi what the evergreen trees are.  “That one over there is a wild cedar,” pointing to the far one, “and that just came up.  This other one,” next to the plum tree, “I found once while trashing with Paul.  It’s an arbor vitae.  Pyramidal arbor vitae.”  I tell her I thought the bushes in the walled garden were arbor vitae.  “No, those are boxwoods,” pointing to the ornamental bushes right behind us, but I meant the one behind them.  “That’s a, uh, evergreen of some sort.”  We take the side path, and I ask her what the evergreen is in the middle of the field here.  “That’s a wild cedar.”  I point out to her where the doe had jumped up from.  Moi goes to the far side of the hedgerow and discovers a fence post has fallen over (Hutchinson used to keep cows in his field; occasionally they would stray over onto our land, but I haven’t seen cows in the field for a long time).  At the maples, Moi stops to gaze at them.  “These are my sugar bushes,” referring to her tapping them this past spring for syrup.  We walk by the creek, cross the swale, cross the plank, round the crest of the skating pond.  Because my hands are occupied with two sticks I ask Moi to hold the Audubon tree book, but somehow it ends up in my hands again (and I end up not cracking it open the whole walk).  We stop at her pines, and I point out to her why I think they’re Virginia pines, also known as scrub pines or Jersey pines.  “Oh, okay.”  I have her touch the pricks on one of the cones, and she takes a picture of it.  She discovers another sapling coming up by one of the trees.  Moi then retraces her steps along the ridge and plows through the weeds to the edge of the marsh-like pond between the ridges to look at a cedar growing up there.  “One time,” she tells me, “I was down here with the kids, and the Boy was standing in the water here, and he called me over and said, ‘Mom, this is just beautiful.’”
State of the Creek:  I’m eager to show Moi how the big log had been swept downstream, but even before we get there, Moi stops (near the honeysuckle that’s Mway’s frequent exiting spot) and remarks that the stream bed looks wider there.  I walk back and point out to her the log that looks like it’s been buried under the creek bank.  I then show her where the ground caved in at the former log jam, and as she walks along she points out to me several other places where the ground is becoming undermined.  “Some day you’ll be walking along here, and this will all collapse out from under you.”  She stops at the pool near the big locust trees.  “This looks like it’s getting deeper.”  I look for the piece of vinyl siding, and I discover what looks like just part of it sticking out from the creek bank; the rest of it must be wedged a foot or two beneath the ground of the path.  Before we cross the swale, Moi stops me, “See these rocks here,” she points to a cascade in the creek, “The kids and I put these here one day when we were trying to build a little pool in the stream.”
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing I hand Moi the stick to throw.  She tosses it beyond the “chokeberry,” way farther than I have been throwing it.  “So these are all cedars coming up here?” I ask, looking down through the field toward the skating pond.  Moi throws the stick once or twice then wanders down through the goldenrod to look at two evergreens beyond the line of sumacs, and I end up tossing the stick for Mway the remainder of the time.  After she looks at the trees, she comes back to give her report, while I’m still throwing the stick.  “Those look like two different kinds of cedars maybe.  The one’s bushier and has cones.  The narrower one, I don’t know what’s up with that.  It has something growing on it that looks like cocoons or little balls of shit.”

Friday, November 18, 2011

Red Pine Is Probably Virginia Pine, Also Called Scrub or Jersey Pine

November 18, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  When I get out of bed around 9 this morning, I see Moi still in her bathrobe sitting at her laptop on the kitchen table, and I realize she hasn’t taken Mway yet for a morning walk.  So I think to myself, I so enjoyed going out in the morning yesterday that I’ll take advantage of Moi’s inaction and take Mway out myself – plus this will allow me not to have to rush around so much this afternoon before going to work tonight.  Moi frowns when I tell her this, but she accepts it.  Mway has already built up a lot of anticipation in her psyche.  When she sees me putting on my walking clothes she starts staring at me, pacing, walking in front of me and looking around her shoulder.  (Moi tells me, by the way, that her fiddle student Alma told her yesterday that she discovered she had a tick bite this past week; a red circle developed around the bite; her doctor prescribed doxycycline.)
State of the Path:  Moi did let out the chickens – I see the cage door open, but I don’t see them anywhere.  I’ve brought my Audubon tree book.  I first note that there are two evergreens around Moi’s garden pond; I don’t know exactly what kind they are.  What I’d like to do is bone up on evergreens and start trying to identify everyone on our property.  Today though I’m just going to focus on Moi’s pines down at bug land.  From the evergreen at the center of the side path – I shouldn’t have been calling it a cedar – a bluejay flies onto a branch in the sumacs.  It sees me coming and flies away right away.  On a small tree covered with vines I spot some white fluffy stuff in what I eventually realize is a bird’s nest.  A little further on I see a white blanket or something on the ground, and I believe this is where the bird got its white fluffy stuff for its nest.  Cardinals flit through the trees; I hear a woodpecker but don’t see it.  Behind the honeysuckles that have now shed many of their leaves I can now see the TV set near the Boy’s tree fort.  As I round the path, I half expect to scare out the doe; apparently she’s already gone looking for food this morning or she’s abandoned this spot as a safe resting place.  A flock of black birds fly over the corn stubble in Hutchinson’s field.  I note a lot of tree branches piled up along the hedgerow: was this here before or has PPL recently trimmed around the electric pole here?  I look at the evergreen; I’d like to identify this someday but it’s going to mean trampling through a lot of briars.  In bug land, the ground of the path is saturated with water, and there are streaks of water on top of it -- again so glad to have decent boots.  I walk along the creek, cross the swale where water trickles slightly, cross the plank, round the crest, and when I come back through the “chokeberries” see a brown bird I’d like to think is some kind of sparrow.  It’s so hard to identify these brown birds; the distinctions between them are so minute; and I only see this bird for one second.  I come up to Moi’s pines.  I guess from what Moi told me she actually planted these trees here; she wants me to identify them so she knows they’ve been planted in the best soil, which would be clay here.  Besides the saplings, there are three trees.  They’re all sort of irregular in shape, though the one closet to the brown grasses of bug land is so irregular it looks at first glance like a different species, but all its attributes are the same as the other two trees.  Yesterday I thought maybe these were Virginia pines, also called scrub pines or Jersey pines – Moi made a face yesterday when I mentioned these last two names to her – but everything I look at today confirms my guess.  The bark looks like the bark in the photo -- Audubon calls it brownish-gray, although I think reddish-gray might be more like it.  The bark looks somewhat scaly to me.  The needles, bundled in two, look “slightly flattened and twisted.”  And when I look at and feel the cones, boy, they are “narrowly egg-shaped,” “almost stalkless,” the cone-scales are “slightly raised” (they’re also suppose to be “keeled,” but I have no idea what this means) but most of all when I touch them, god, they have one “long slender prickle.”
State of the Creek:  I miss the log jam.  The bend here is just smoothly flowing water now.  At the bank, some of the ground has partly caved in, a root running along the ground.  I look at the log where it landed beside the other log; I don’t quite know which one is which, and I can’t see them too well because there is a tree, bushes, and briars growing on the bank that obstruct the view.  It looks like one of the logs has been lifted up on top of the other -- it would be fun to walk along on top of them, but they’re on the other side of the creek.  At the crest of the skating pond, I see deep into the trees on the other side of the creek a deer stand someone built next to a tree – I don’t know if I ever mentioned this before; I’ve never seen anyone in it, and I don’t know if our McNeighbor who owns this land (McMansion at the top of the ridge) ever uses it.  In front of the stand, I see paths where it looks like the fallen oak leaves have been washed away; this must have been from water gushing down here in the last rain.
The Fetch:  On the way to the clearing, I see that the goldenrod behind the “chokeberry” is getting flattened down from Mway running through here on our latest walks.  I continue thowing the stick in the same places I did yesterday, trying to coax Mway as much as possible away from the streak of water down the middle of the clearing.  A good many fetches – Mway comes back chomping on the stick without dropping it, the indication that she’s ready to move to level 2.  But I have to tell her to “put it down” three times before she drops it, and when she comes back again, I start shouting “put it down” several times then quickly get fed up, soon telling her “good enough.”

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Same Deer As Before?

November 17, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  Yesterday it was nice to take Mway for a walk in the morning and not have to rush, as I so often have to do in the afternoon (before or after work), so I tell Moi I’ll take Mway for her morning walk again today. It rained hard last night, even thundered and lightninged, and I’m curious to see what the creek looks like.  Also, I’ll bring along the Audubon, try to look at some other characteristics that will help me identify what Moi’s pines are.
State of the Path:  The lilac bushes around the house have shed half their leaves.  The chickens are lined up at the door of their cage, waiting for Moi to feed them and let them out.  The willow above the corn crib still has many of its leaves.  I walk by the garden pond, filled with water (as it has been for some time now), walking upon damp leaves, soundless underfoot.  Mway bounds past the side path, and I call her back, and we both follow the path along the old orchard.  The wind is roaring, swirling in the bare black walnut trees.  The Arum honeysuckles have also shed a lot of their leaves, which lie green on top of the bed of the brown black walnut leaves.  I round the cedar (or whatever the evergreen is out there), and I realize that I’ve forgotten the Audubon.  The brown goldenrod is bent over in the path; the stalks seem to have lost some of their fuzz, or maybe the fuzz is just dull colored from the rain.  There are patches of goldenrod that have been flattened by the rain.  As I’m pushing my way through the bent-over weeds, I suddenly catch out of the corner of my eye a large doe rising from the brush in the center of the field around which the path circles, probably the same doe I saw the other day.  She leaps over weeds and bushes, almost silently, heading toward Hutchinson’s field, her white tail sticking up and looking almost like Atlas’s long tail.  Unlike the other day, she didn’t run away when she first saw me, but waited till I had rounded the path, apparently not knowing that if she had not moved I would never have been aware she was there.  Mway sniffs around the sides of the path, not even noticing her.  Heading into bug land, I can hear water squooshing underneath my boots.  There’s a small puddle here and there near the pin oaks, and once again I’m so glad to have boots without cracks in them.  I walk along the creek, stooping carefully so my cap doesn’t get snagged, noticing more honeysuckles that have begun to shed leaves (they are more yellow down here).  When I get to the locust trees, I look out into bug land and see water pooled up in the brown grass. I cross the plank (water in the feed channel reaching back to the skating pond), round the crest of the skating pond, pass through the “chokeberries,” and before I reach the pines, I see a bird’s nest in a small maple on the ridge.  I wonder if it’s still in use.  I go over to the pines, angry at myself for not bringing the book, but I know there’s one characteristic I can check out that I hadn’t before: whether or not the cones are thorny.  When I look at the cones, at first they don’t look quite as egg-shaped as they did yesterday, but I figure that must be just all in my head.  I can’t tell if the cones are thorny by looking; I have to touch them, and I go from one cone to the next: they are definitely prickly.  Audubon tells me that red pine cones are “without prickle” -- so rule red pine out.  It doesn’t tell me whether the table mountain pines are prickly or not.  It says that scotch pine cones are “often with minute prickle.”  I don’t like the sound of that, because I don’t even know what that means.  Maybe the pines are Virginia pines, also called scrub pine, or Jersey pine.  They have cones that are “narrowly egg-shaped…with long slender prickles.”  They also grow in clay, which is the soil of bug land.  As I’m feeling the cones, a bird starts scolding me.  I look up and eventually see a bluejay, flying from branch to branch of the sumacs on the ridge.  I wonder if it will head to that nest, but it doesn’t go there.
State of the Creek:  The stream is up, green water moving swiftly, too swiftly for Mway to even think about wading into it.  It’s well within its banks though, but I see places where the water swept over grass and weeds last night.  Little waterfalls here and there, rocks making ripples but themselves mostly hidden beneath the water.  When I get to the log jam, at first I think the water is passing over the big log, but then I realize that the big log is gone.  I look at the next bend, and I see it lying against another big log that must have been lodged there against the bank before.  I can’t tell for sure because the water’s so high, but it may be that the log jam has been cleared, although there’s still a smaller branch that lies athwart the creek.  I can’t imagine how the big log must have been moved, and I’m amazed that it didn’t get caught on the shore and was carried down as far as it was.  I walk along the narrows, water rushing alongside my feet.  I wonder if the plank over the swale has been swept away, but it’s still there, sunk it seems a little more into the ground.  A pool of water has formed at the dirt bar, and just beyond there’s a pile of foam that’s bubbling up high in some debris.  I didn’t think about it then, but I wonder now what’s happened to the vinyl siding.
The Fetch:  I toss the stick each time at least a few feet into the goldenrod, and much of the time pitch it back down toward the path or behind the “chokeberry,” so Mway, in bringing it back, will pass through the goldenrod and stay away from the middle of the clearing which is streaked with water.  She fetches the stick I don’t know how many times, then when she comes back without dropping it, seemingly ready to move to level 2, I tell her to “put it down” about four times, and when she doesn’t, I stomp away back toward the house.  On the path along the sumacs, I see a little flock of black-capped chickadees fleeing away from me in short flights (I imagine it might be the same flock I saw the other day).  One chickadee lingers behind, sitting on a sumac branch, and I get so close to it I could almost reach out and snatch it up in my hand, before it too flies away.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Might Be Red Pine

November 16, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  Moi tells me it’s suppose to rain hard this afternoon, so I think I’m going to take Mway for a walk this morning before I go to work.  I’m looking through the conifer section in Audubon; there are a lot of pines pictured there, and I don’t know if I have any hope of identifying those in bug land.  (By the way I come across Russian olive while leafing through the book; the photo looks something like those shrubs I’ve been calling Russian olive – have I checked this out before?)  Although I thought about going back to wearing my safari helmet, I’m going to stick to wearing a bright wool cap – never know when there might be someone with a gun out there.
State of the Path:  Hear the drizzling rain falling on the plants, but I don’t feel or see any drops landing on me.  I reflect how nice it is to have a good pair of boots.  Beyond the first line of sumacs, Mway stops to poop – she slowly moves up after each dump, looking behind her, I guess, to make sure I don’t walk into her – four short turds in a row.  Beneath the pin oak, a branch snags my wool cap.  But after that, I’m wise to the multiflora briars that snagged me yesterday, and my cap doesn’t get snagged again.  However, coming through the locust trees, a multiflora branch that I must have cut down this summer gets caught on my pant leg, and as I’m pulling that off me, a twig from a tree branch slips under my glasses and pokes me in the eye.  I cross the plank and round the crest of the skating pond, and then I stop at a Russian olive to doublecheck it against the photo in Audubon.  It’s started raining harder though, the pages are getting damp, and I figure I better just concentrate on the pines Moi wants me to check out.  They’re only a few feet ahead of me.  After taking off my gloves and leaning the sticks against one of them, I first check to see how many needles they have in their bundles: turns out to be two, which matches the number for jack pine.  However, Audubon decribes jack pine cones as “long…long-pointed, and curved upward,” and the cones I’m looking at are short.  Furthermore, the range map shows jack pine as occurring much farther north.  The pages are getting splattered with rain drops, and I have to move quickly.  I see that red pine, also called Norway pine, has two needles in a bundle, their cones are “egg-shaped,” and they range “south to Pennsylvania.”  I’m afraid my book will soon get too wet: I decide to tell Moi that they might be red pines.
State of the Creek:  The raindrops make ripples in the otherwise motionless pools of water; the stream bed is black in most places, filled with gray decaying leaves.
The Fetch:  I toss the stick fairly deep into the goldenrod, often throwing it behind the “chokeberry,” where it takes Mway some time to find it.  I’m worried about getting wet now, and I toss the stick as fast as I can.  After I don’t know how many fetches, Mway eventually keeps chomping on the stick after she brings it back.  I first tell her “good enough,” but then when she doesn’t follow me when I turn around I tell her to “put it down.”  Still she doesn’t drop it, just keeps chomping on it, and I get fed up and say “good enough” again.  Back in the house, Moi asks me what I’ve found out about the pines.  I tell her I think they might be red pines, but as she’s grilling me on soil habitat and I’m leafing further through the book, I realize that the characteristics I selected could match at least two other pine species as well: table mountain pine and scotch pine.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Brairs Twice Snag My Cap

November 15, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  Work late morning into afternoon, get home about 4.  But Moi has to take me to Kantz’s to get my car, which I had dropped off early for inspection (I had been using hers for work).  “Look how disappointed Mway looks,” Moi says, as we close the door behind her.  When we get to the garage, I tell Moi to tell Mway I’ll be home soon to take her for a walk.  Ten minutes later I pull up in the lane, just behind Moi.  “All Things Considered” is on the radio.  In the music room, I find two sticks Mway has dropped there over the weekend.  As I put on my boots and a yellow wool cap (instead of my helmet), she paces frantically around the kitchen table.
State of the Path:  I lay the two sticks on the bench because I find the stick I have been using, a longer stick, on the porch.  The chickens have already retired to their coop.  I feel like I can’t see too well in the diminishing light (a cloudy sky too), but I can at least tell that the honeysuckles have gotten a little yellower since I’ve seen them last.  The blackberry canes seem striking in their redness, probably because many of them are now bare.  At the wigwams, a big birch branch, which I’d seen for weeks in the back yard, lies in the middle of the path.  It’s too big for fetching, but still Mway must have carried it down here sometime over the weekend.  At the tree stand, I lean my walking stick and the fetching stick against a honeysuckle (this one’s leaves are even turning brown and black) to take a pee.  Further down the creek, a multiflora briar snags my wool cap.  I have to clamp my hand down on it and pull hard to unsnag it.  A few feet further on, another briar snags it again -- I think about returning to using my helmet on my next walk.  Along the ridge to bug land, I come to the pines growing there.  I see Moi has put a white post beside the sapling that she always admonishes me not to step on.  Moi had mentioned these pines to me yesterday and had asked me if I knew what kind they are.  I probably just considered them cedars; Moi thinks they might be jack pines.  She asked me to try to identify them sometime.  I would have tried to do so today, but I started out in a hurry because of the waning light.
State of the Creek:  Water’s hardly moving; can just make out the shiny film over the surface beneath the locust trees.
The Fetch:  I start right out throwing the stick at least a few feet each time into the goldenrod, tossing it not only around the “chokeberry” and the honeysuckle but also into the weeds around the electric pole, which has a bunch of dead poison ivy vines around it.  Mway hesitates not at all going deep into the weeds to get the stick; I don’t even hear her coughing and snorting today, although a clump of goldenrod fuzz gets wedged in a crack in the stick.  After I don’t know how many tosses, and we might have already gotten to level 2, the stick slips from my hand, slices, and lands especially deep into the goldenrod.  I hear Mway running back and forth in the weeds, the brown stalks crunching, until eventually I hear her teeth clattering against the stick.  Her teeth are still chomping on the stick when she finally comes running back.  If I were to tell her to “put it down” she probably would go for quite a few more fetches, but I tell her “good enough” and turn around to head back to the house.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Keeping It Holy

November 14, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  Work all day, again when I get home it is dark.  I notice Moi has taken the garbage down, and I thank her for that when I step in the house.  “Well, it’s too dark to take Mway for a walk,” she says.  I had already made up my mind to follow the precedent I set last spring and confirmed last week, but it was nice to hear her affirm it too.  And so, though Mway greeted me enthusiastically, the stump of her tail wagging, there’ll be no walk for Mway from me today.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Class Ruins Any Chance for a Walk

November 13, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  My DUI class runs from 9 to 6, and then afterwards I go to work with Moi.  Looks like there’ll be no time for me to take Mway for a walk today.  As it turns out, the class lets out early and I make it home about 15 minutes before Moi is ready to leave.  Still no time for a walk, but as I’m changing clothes and getting things together, Mway follows me from room to room, staring at me, as if imploring “we’re going for a walk now, aren’t we?  Aren’t we going for a walk now?”

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cardinals Like Berry Cones Like Candles

November 12, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  I go out and work in the morning, getting back at 12:30, which gives me a good stretch of four hours before I have to leave for work tonight, in which to take Mway for a walk.  When I get home Moi and Mway are taking a nap, so I decide to lie down and read myself.  Just as I’m falling asleep, I hear Mway yapping outside.  When I get out of bed, Moi tells me that she was digging up Jerusalem artichokes, and Mway, being outside with her, was barking as she usually does when the two of them are outside together for whatever reason.  She tells me that she ended up throwing some stick for Mway, but regardless of that, I’m now ready to take her for a walk.  Moi tells me, just now before I leave, that this morning on a walk with Mway she scared out some dark ground birds.  I told her I had flushed out a bird the other day; Moi thinks they might be quail, and then she starts to go on and on about something having to do with them.
State of the Path:  See both cardinals and black-capped chickadees in the bare branches of the sumacs, the cardinals looking a little like the red berry cones that stick up like candles on the topmost branches.  At the monkey vine portal, I look at a mass of wool-like stuff lying on the ground which I first noticed the other day;  I poke at it with my walking stick, but I don’t know what to make of it.  A few of the red pods on the plant I noticed the other day have burst open with a cottony fluff, with tiny thin red seeds mixed in.  Between Moi’s wigwams, just about where the ground bird flew to the other day, I see something shining on the ground; I don’t bother to go over to look at what it is.  In bug land, the ground is wet enough that sometimes my walking stick jabs into the mud.  I walk along the creek, cross the swale, and think about going over the plank, but decide not to, Mway already having moved on toward bug land, and me thinking to myself that I’ve already seen enough for the day.
State of the Creek:  Of all things a dragonfly darts about above the big log at the log jam.
The Fetch:  Around the clearing, the goldenrod fuzz shimmers in the sunshine.  I don’t know how many times Mway has already fetched the stick today but she seems as enthusiastic as ever to fetch it again, although we move to level 2 more quickly than usual.  Level 2 goes on for a long time, until I finally toss the stick behind the “chokeberry.”  Mway lollygags there for while, and when she comes running back with the stick in her mouth, she passes me by and heads down the path.

Friday, November 11, 2011

What-Do-You-Know -- A Deer

November 11, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  I hadn’t expected it, but my workplace is closed today, so, except for errands, I have no work to do.  Moi plans on going to Ezra’s land where she’ll be hunting deer in a couple weeks, and she asked me if I wanted to go with her.  I thought I would, for a change from my usual routine.  (On the way to and from, I have to listen to Moi talk about the details of hunting: how Ezra has been packing her shells incorrectly and she’s afraid to say anything to him, how some of the tree stands are falling down and need repaired, how she herself walks like a deer in the woods, deer pausing a lot while they roam, and slipping their hooves under the leaves instead of crunching them from on top – not five minutes into the woods, we see a flock of turkeys, and Moi sees three deer -- it makes my walks with Mway sound like a quick jaunt through Washington Square Park.)  Tomorrow, because I can’t do any work today, I’ll probably have to make up for it then, plus I have work tomorrow night; I might only be able to squeeze in a quick walk.  Saturday I’m finally scheduled to take a DUI class.  This is the last chance I have to take it, or else my year of ARD could be revoked.  The class runs from 9 to 6, so I won’t be able to take Mway for a walk on Saturday.  I still have to run my errands today, but hopefully when I’m done with that, I’ll be able to take Mway for a good walk.  Mway and Moi have gone for their naps.  I go on my errand.  Shortly after I get back, Moi and Mway wake up; it’s now 2:42, and I’m going to take Mway out now.
State of the Path:  Hear McChildren playing in a distant yard.  Mway runs through the chickens; they scramble, bucking.  The leaves from the poolside maple are drying, shriveling.  I make a loud crunching sound as I walk over them.  Take the side path.  The sun is just at the topmost branches of the black walnuts.  All-wing insects dancing here and there.  There aren’t as many leaves on the path here, and I wonder how quiet I am being, step through the monkey vine portal, when, what do you know, up from near the cedar jumps what looks like a big doe, charges loudly through the brush into Hutchinson’s field.  Mway hears it, and runs up toward the path where it would have passed, sniffing.  She knows some animal bounded through here, but I don’t think she knows exactly what it was.  With my walking stick, I beat back some dry goldenrod leaning into the path.  At the wigwams, I have to reach down the back of my pants and scratch my ass.  The maple leaves on the ground here are shriveling also, shrinking in size so the dirt’s almost visible.  Along the creek, scare out among the oaks a flock of those birds I think of as mourning doves – I wish they’d make a mournful sound so I knew for sure that’s what they are.  Walk across the plank, round the crest of the skating pond.  Note that the Russian olive leaves (if they are Russian olives) (like the honeysuckles they are still green and on the shrubs) look crinkled, with lots of edges so they look like holly leaves; wonder if what I thought was holly the other day is really just smaller growths of Russian olives (or whatever they are).
State of the Creek:  At the log jam, I pause to stare into the water, wondering what new thing I could possibly say about the creek today.  Suddenly I realize I’m standing next to a little cloud of gnats – I believe I can call these gnats – and move on.  Below the locust trees, the film I noticed on the water the other day seems to have accumulated into the middle of the pool into a patch of scum that looks like a piece of thin floating ice.
The Fetch:  I first throw the stick toward the edge of the clearing, but as time goes on I throw it further and further into the dry brown goldrenrod.  Tiny pieces of goldenrod fuzz that Mway has stirred up float past me in the sun.  At one point as Mway’s holding the stick in her mouth waiting for me to say “put it down,” I lean forward and glare at her, and she shifts her eyes (but I don’t know if it’s because I’m glaring at her or if she thinks she hears something).  When Mway starts dawdling in the goldenrod, I figure she’s had enough and turn around to head to the house.  Back inside I tell Moi that I saw a deer.  She wonders how Mway responded and then she starts telling me about the habits of deer, “They’re coming out late in the afternoon now.  They move according to the moon.  I’m going to have to tell Matt when he goes hunting to stay awake after lunch…”