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, December 24, 2011

Moi Suggests What I Can Do Next Year

December 24, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  When I go down to the kitchen this morning, Moi, sitting at her laptop, tells me, “I’m being slovenly this morning.  I didn’t wake up until it was light out.”  She discusses the weather, talks about clearing out some of the junk that’s been piling up in the music room, shows me a photo from a family we don’t know that was mistakenly sent to our address, demonstrates for me how Woody says the word “rat” when he fetches his little cloth rat.  I have no work today or tonight.  The Boy will be arriving here tomorrow night – he works both today and tomorrow – and we’ll be getting together with Jazz this Sunday, after I come home from work that afternoon.  Moi lets Mway, who’s been pacing around the kitchen, out the door.  When I mention having to take her for a walk, she suggests that we can take her for one together.  I agree.  She lets Mway back in the door, then goes to take a bath before we go out – I, on the other hand, don’t think it makes sense to wash up until afterwards.  I go to put on my walking clothes, Mway hanging in the door way, staring at me.  When Moi comes out of the bathroom, I ask her if she saw the black hair band I found yesterday.  “The what?” she asks.  “A black hair band,” I say, “I found it on the path and put it on your laptop.”  “A head band?” she says, “I don’t know, I didn’t think about it.  What, will this take up a whole chapter in your journal?”  When I go downstairs, with Mway at my heels, Moi yells down, “You go ahead on your own.  I have to dry my hair, and I don’t want to be rushed.”  I tell her I’ll wait.  I sit down and have a cigarette, then I put on my snow suit and boots.  While I’m standing at the door, Moi comes down fully dressed, sits down to roll a cigarette, moaning about all the cleaning she thinks she has to do this weekend.  She brushes back her damp bangs, shaking her head, “My hair’s still wet.  You can go and take Mwayla out on your own.”
State of the Path:  Moi must have let Mway out the door a second time, for when I step out, she’s suddenly charging from the porch toward the hedgerow, where I can see a rabbit hopping along among the weeds.  There’s also a sudden loud cawing – I think at first it might be the chickens clucking and crowing, but this definitely sounds like crows.  Mway gives up on the rabbit and heads down the path ahead of me, turning down the side path.  She doubles back before I get to it, but when she sees me coming that way, she turns back around.  She stops to try to poop, but creeps ahead to try again when my steps come to close.  I myself feel like I could poop – ideally, I should have sat on the toilet before coming out.  I’m walking about the same as I did yesterday.  On one step I take somewhat jerkingly, I feel a twinge of pain briefly in the foot of my good leg.  Coming around the hedgerow, I see one small honeysuckle bush that still has some leaves on it – they’re withered and rotting, but they’re still green, and I wonder why they haven’t yet fallen completely off.  When I see that the weeds around the cedar look flattened down, I think about walking to the tree to look at its cones, but then I don’t bother.  The path is brown and hard down to bug land, edged by bits of green grass and a scattering of gill-of-the-ground.  (As I’m writing this, Moi interrupts me to say, “What I’d like is a leash and harness for Wood.”  I nod my head, wondering if I’m supposed to go out and get her that today.  “Then next year,” she goes on, “you could write about taking a cat for walk.”) 
State of the Creek:  I pause below the tree stand, looking at the broken tree framed between the posts of the electric pole, then at the poison ivy twining up the clump of oaks at the corner of the lot.  I stop at the former log jam to poke at the ice, noting the brown oak leaves frozen solid in it.  When I reach the narrows, I hear pecking in the trees.  Gradually I see a bird on a branch jutting from a tree, pecking downwards – it looks too small to be a woodpecker, but then I see the white-speckled wings that it seems every species of woodpecker has.  I look for red on its head, and when the sun comes out briefly behind the clouds, I think I discern a spot of red, but I can’t be sure.  Another bird, small, sleek, and tawny, lands on the trunk behind the woodpecker, then takes off – I have no idea what it is.  The woodpecker stops pecking for a while, and I wonder if it’s aware of me staring at it, but then it starts pecking again, and I walk on.  I cross the swale, then the feed channel, and when I reach the pin oaks, I suddenly think I glimpse in the water beneath the thin transparent ice some black things darting like minnows, but I see nothing as I keep looking for more movement.
The Fetch:  Mway is waiting for me at the clearing.  When I start pitching the birch branch, I note that with the weeds starting to fall down you can now see the evergreens that Moi planted better.  We make the circle, Mway a couple times dashing off in the wrong direction, then having to sniff around to find the stick.  Into the second round, she starts coaxing me to play “Put it down.”  I think about only doing it once or twice, but then I keep yelling it and we make a full round of it with me yelling “put it down,” until my shouts are as loud as her barking.  Finally I feel we’ve had enough, but as Mway’s growling and chomping at the stick, waiting for me to say something next, I have a little trouble formulating the words I want to say.  Finally they come out, a little stiff-sounding as they break the air: “Okay, that’s enough.”

Friday, December 23, 2011

Find a Black Hair Band

December 23, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  I wake up late, and Moi tells me she’s already taken Mway for a walk, “or least out to fetch stick” as she immediately qualifies it – I begin to wonder how often she really takes Mway for a walk.  How often has she taken her down to the creek this past year?  A couple dozen times?  Even less?  I rush to read emails and get paperwork in order then get ready to go to work.  Moi asks me if I’ll be home in time to help her carry out an air conditioner she wants to give back to Ezra before she goes to work herself tonight.  I tell her I should be.  Work takes longer than I expect, and to get home to help her, and also before dark to take Mway for her walk, I make a number of questionable maneuvers in my car as I encounter heavy traffic on what locals call the Golden Strip, including illegally driving up the berm along a stalled line of cars to reach a turning lane onto back roads (in my defense, I can only say the berm looked like the turning lane).  When I get home, Moi has already carried the air conditioner out herself.  Mway follows me from room to room, up and down stairs, as I get ready to go out.
State of the Path:  I’m still having trouble walking.  Although my gait is not halting, there’s definitely a stiffness in my walk, and probably a perpetual wince on my face.  The sky is yellow on the western horizon.  Gusts of wind blow in my eyes.   Where the side path comes back around to the main path, I spot a flouncy black hair band in the path.  Must be Moi’s, I think, and I pick it up and put it around my wrist – then think to myself, she definitely goes at least this far on some of her walks.  Near the wigwams, I hear the ground creaking beneath me.  My walking stick makes a hollow thump against the dirt.
State of the Creek:   I stop at the former log jam, looking at nothing in particular.  An oak leaf falls into the water then floats to the edge of some ice.  As I walk along, I realize most of the ice in the pools has melted, and I’m surprised it was that warm today.  There are still quite a number of thin white ice shelves along the banks.  I try to break some of the ice in the swale from bug land, but it’s pretty hard.  I don’t look at much more, as words are going through my head, phrases like “stiffness to my walk” and “wince in my face.”
The Fetch:  When I reach the clearing, the western sky is turning pink.  Mway is waiting for me, smiling.  We make the circle, and a few fetches into the second round, she starts coaxing me to play “Put it down.”  I play it a couple times, then tell her “that’s enough.”  Back in the house, Moi is gone, and I realize I don’t know whether she’s already fed Mway or not.  I pour out some dog food for her – maybe she has two suppers tonight.  Then I remember Moi asked me to check for eggs, and I have to put my boots back on to go out to the coop.  I find one.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Try to Hear the Trickle of Water

December 22, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  I wake up a little earlier than I did yesterday, 15 minutes or so before nine, but just before I get up I hear Moi slamming the door and Mway barking.  After I pee, start up my computer, and get a cup of coffee, Moi comes back in with Mway and tells me they went down to the creek.  So that means I’m stuck with taking Mway for a walk in the afternoon, sometime before I leave for work tonight and when I’m more in a rush.  Last night Moi helped me with setting up my blog, and we discovered that the post I tried to make the other day didn’t appear on the page simply because I hadn’t successfully put any content in it.  We corrected that, and so now there’s a first post on the blog for December 21, 2010, which contains what I wrote up as an introduction.  In three more days, counting this one, I’ll be making my last entry in this journal, and then I’ll start posting each day of the journal up on the blog, exactly a year after they were written.  I’ll still be taking Mway for walks, but I won’t be writing about them – one year of doing this has been enough, more than enough.  I don’t know if I had written this in a different year, if it would have been any more exciting, say in a year when it had rained more, and there might have been more plants to try to identify.  But this is the year I disciplined myself to write about, and so this is the year that you get.  There are some things I wanted to mention in the course of this journal, by way of background, but never got around to.  Maybe I can take the time now and mention them quickly:  This farmhouse in which we live, a log house covered in clapboard, may have been built in the 1700’s by one of the earliest European settlers in this area, famous in local history for being killed by Indians and buried in the cemetery of the village once named after him; I first became aware of the house in the ‘70’s when it was an isolated party house and I played music with friends here, and Moi and I, hearing from my father that it was up for sale (and Moi wanting to move out of the city of Rochester) bought it in 1987 from the guy who owned it, an excommunicated, sneaker-wearing, 70-something-year-old Old Order Mennonite, who was married and soon divorced from a 20-something-year-old English girl; about ten years later Amos Peachy was murdered in his auction barn, his body mutilated with facial stabbings and a “Vietnamese necktie,” by the boyfriend of a young woman whom he had not paid, in his well-known parsimonious fashion, for her sexual favors; shortly after that Peachy’s family put the farmland around us up for auction, several of the local farmers, including an organic farming friend of ours (once jailed for a year for sending fine grades of marijuana to his accountant through UPS), trying to buy it but being outbid by a developer; after which I instituted a zoning challenge to the township, for whom my father was a supervisor and my then employer was solicitor, claiming that, based on the township’s zoning objectives of “maintaining the rural character of the township and preserving prime farmland” (and a bunch of other things), the township had illegally zoned the farmland around us, and indeed all the farmland in the township, by permitting large housing subdivisions to be built in those areas, my zoning challenge eventually ending up in the Court of Common Pleas and found to be “frivolous”; local rumor has it that I lost my job because of these actions, but despite the unsuccessful challenge the township supervisors did change the zoning regulations to preserve the prime farmland of the township, although nothing could be done about the farmland around us; because the development was named S____ Glenn (sic), Moi dubbed our place S____ Swamp, painted the name on our mailbox and across the front of the house next to a scowling Lady Liberty marching forth with an American flag.  So there, that’s all said and out of the way.  There are a number of other things I also would’ve liked to have mentioned, maybe more about family matters, about Moi making corn husk faces from the corn around us, having peacocks, ducks, and geese, and growing pumpkins, about the kids growing up (how, for example, the Boy, when he was about 14, drove transmission-broken minivans backwards through the old orchard), and certainly more about the dogs we had before Mway -- Spot and Blue (not to mention Moi’s first dog, the all-important Maggie May).  Regarding the dogs, I do think it’s important that I explain how we started taking them for walks in the first place, for at one time we just let them out and let them roam wherever they wanted.  Spot, whom I believe I’ve mentioned once or twice in this journal, was the Australian blue heeler that the kids brought home with them one day (assisted by our neighbor friend) and just unleashed in our bedroom while Moi and I were both in bed sick with the flu.  Spot was a problem dog, but she never strayed far from the house.  However, Blue (a German-shepherd, Australian-cattle-dog mix, whom Moi picked up from one of her friends a few years later) did like to venture far from the house.  He used to pick up a dog friend of his, Rufus, and the two of them would strut over the ridge to Route XXX to beg for food from the places of business along the highway, including a state police barracks.  The only way we knew about this is that eventually we would get calls from the places telling us our dog was there (our phone number being on the collar), with the people on the phone saying, “No problem.  Just wanted to let you know.  He’s a nice dog.  We’re just giving him doughnuts.”  However, eventually a woman who worked at the state police barracks told us that we had to start controlling our dog or there could be serious consequences.  So I started taking Blue and Spot on a walk, with each dog on a leash, up and down our right-of-way over the farm fields every chance I could, and eventually Blue learned to stay around the house, even when he was not on a leash.  When the development came in and houses started to be built along our right-of-way, the walks gradually moved to where Moi and I take Mway for a walk now.  We also found out that by taking the dogs for a walk over our own property, we could keep open a path down to the creek, which we seldom saw in the summer time until we started doing this.  So that’s the origin of our walks with Mway –  a warning from the authorities.
State of the Path:  The halting gait I had yesterday is pretty much gone.  Only about every ten steps or so do I feel my tendon twinge or something and then I lunge forward with a sudden jerk.  Yesterday I asked Moi if she had noticed that there were still leaves on the willow tree – she said she hadn’t; but there they are, still there today – I wonder if this is typical of willows, to hang onto their leaves into winter?  A lot of the trash in the walled garden that Moi hasn’t been burning is strewn about – maybe the chickens have been poking around here looking for food crumbs.  I decide to take the side path, since I haven’t been back that way in a while.  It’s very quiet today; I hear no birds, no sounds from the McNeighborhood, not even the rumbling of traffic from the highways.  The only sounds I hear are the briars, goldenrod stalks, and bare honeysuckles branches brushing against my snow suit, the leaves crunching underfoot, and when I get down past the wigwams, the cracking of frozen dirt and ice underneath the ground.
State of the Creek:  I stop at some rocks to see if I can hear the water trickling, and now I hear a distant plane overhead: I barely hear the trickle of water, like someone trying to say something through the rumble of the plane.  I see a stick stuck in some multiflora branches and make a mental note that this is a stick I can count on if sometime I need a fetching stick.  I stop at the narrows to smash up the white ice formed around some debris, but it’s firm and doesn’t break under my walking stick.  I cross the plank over to the skating pond crest and see a white object in the distance.  When I get closer, I see it’s a glob of white on the car tire -- must be from a bird.  After I round the crest, I spy Mwayla in the skating pond walking through the brown grass amidst the catty-nine-tails.  Later she catches up to me in the path, thrashing through the weeds of the marshy spot between the ridges.
The Fetch:  She passes me by and runs way ahead of me as I step slowly over the ice that crusts up like a rumpled rug around Moi’s pines.  She is waiting for me when I reach the clearing.  We start making the circle, and on about the third fetch, she must prick herself on a little briar stalk that sticks up alone in the middle of the clearing, for I hear her yelp and pick up her paw.  But it must only be a slight jab, for afterwards she makes the round without showing any signs of being hurt, although I have to coax her along a little by playing “put it down.”  I think we even make it as far as a third round.  A couple fetches into that I tell her “good enough.”

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ice on the Creek

December 21, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  Last night I didn’t get home from my job until 2 am, so this morning I wake up later than I have been, about 10.  Right away Moi needs me to follow her into town while she takes her car to Kantz’s.  When I get back home, some rush work comes in by email, so I rush around to fix my breakfast of Ramen noodle stir fry with food from my Sunday job and to get dressed.  Everywhere I step, Mway seems to be at my heels, staring up at me.  I finish up my work and get home about 4.  I have to take Moi in to get her car, and when I get back I put on my snow suit and boots (because I have the snow suit on to protect me from briars, I figure I can just wear my lounging-around clothes underneath, what Moi calls my “fat pants”).  Before I step outside I remember to check the music room for sticks, where I find the birch branch.
State of the Path:  I try to walk as normally as I can, following Moi’s advice that I should not tense up my muscles but try to work them instead, and this seems to help a little with my walking.  Yet my walk could still be described as a halting gait, since I pause when my left foot is forward and my hip is swiveling and right leg is readying to return to a forward position.  A sliver of red hangs in the western horizon.  I see some little birds in the shrubs around the walled garden, but the light is too dim for me to be embarrassed that I probably don’t know what they are anyhow.  I keep my eyes on the path, my thoughts on trying to even out the motion of my two legs.  Before bug land, the path becomes choppy, the ground torn up, I guess, from ice and water.
State of the Creek:  At the log jam, I poke at the ice.  It stays firm.  Around the root and the debris that sticks out from the creek bank, there’s a higher shelf of thin white ice, which I smash to pieces, and as I’m doing that, my stick plunges through the main ice right close to the bank.  As I walk along the creek, I notice the rocky spots are ice free, the pools covered with transparent ice, and the branch and leaf debris surrounded by more thin, white ice shelves.
The Fetch:  Mway gets way ahead of me, and as I’m slowly coming up to the clearing, she runs part way down the path to meet me, then runs back, waits a moment, then runs down part way again and back.  We make the circle, Mway spinning and barking between fetches.  It seems to me that I’m bending over quicker than I was yesterday.  The birch branch, covered with teeth marks, has withstood weeks of Mway’s chewing on it, but it’s impossible to tell it was once a birch, its bark completely gone.  Two pitches into the second round, we play “Put it down” twice.  Then I tell Mway “that’s enough” and we head down the path where I’m surprised to still see a gash of red on the horizon.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Walking Slowly and with Difficulty

December 20, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  I wake up early and meet Moi standing at the door.  She says she’s taking Mway for a walk before heading out to some sort of store or other.  I tell her I can take Mway for a walk, so she says she’ll just take her out for a quick fetch in the back yard.  I still have a little trouble walking, especially up and down stairs, but on a level area I can almost swivel my legs like normal.  I haven’t taken Mway for a walk in two days, and I feel like getting out, although I’m not looking forward to stepping outside in the cold.  I have to work late tonight, and I don’t know yet if I have any work to do during the day.  Last night I visited my blog site and entered some matter in the title and description and “about me” sections.  I certainly don’t like the format and the strictures they impose, and I’m wondering if there’s some way I can fit the matter better on the page – maybe Moi knows her way better around the design controls.  And I’m still unable to view the introduction I supposedly posted the other night.  Well, I’ll take another look at the site when I come back from taking Mway for a walk.
State of the Path:   When I appear in the hallway in my walking clothes, Mway springs up from the floor where she was lying and rushes down the stairs.  After I slowly put on my snow suit and boots, I remember I left my wool cap and garden gloves in the car, and as I drag myself across the back porch, I realize I’ve overestimated how well I can walk.  I don’t find any sticks on the bench, so I limp back into the house and find four sticks in the music room, including the birch branch that I like to toss.  Holding onto the railing I carefully hobble down the back stoop, then seize my walking stick, and as I lumber down the sidewalk I see this is not going to be as easy going as I thought.  My hip swivels well enough, but when I lift my right leg or bend the right knee I feel a slight pain in a tendon or muscle in my calf, not enough to hurt a great deal, but enough to cut my usual walking speed in half.  By the time I’m at the pig pen, I see Mway running back down the path toward me to see if I’m still coming.  My foot seems to drag across every bump in the path, and I feel like I’m lopsided every time I swing my right leg forward.  Every goldenrod stalk I brush against remains flexed for several seconds until I move past it.  At the dip in the path just before bug land, I lose my balance slightly and sway a little into some blackberry briars.
State of the Creek:  I make several stops along the creek, more or less just to rest.  I don’t bother to lean over the bank to poke at any ice, lest I lose my balance.  There are some brown oak leaves lying on top of Moi’s green plants frozen in the ice, and I see the green underwater plants frozen rigid beneath the ice.  Before the locust trees, I stop again, and while I’m staring across the creek at nothing in particular, I hear a pecking sound like a woodpecker.  I look around on all the trunks but I see nothing, then I spot a black-capped chickadee, or a bird that closely resembles one, walking up and down one trunk of a tree.  It’s nipping at the wood, but it doesn’t seem that that could be making the pecking sound.  Then further down the trunk, I spot a smaller chickadee, nipping away at twice the speed of the other, but it doesn’t seem that the pecking sound is coming from that either.  At the narrows, I have to lift my legs over the branches lying in the path, and I nearly stumble.  But I hear the pecking sound growing louder.  I start keeping my eye on one tree and as I sidle down the path eventually a bird comes into view in a crook high in the tree.  Its pecking motions readily align with the sound of the pecking I hear.  This woodpecker, or flicker, or tree-clinging bird, has white-flecked wings, and I look for, but don’t see any, red on its head.  In the Audubon bird book, it looks like every kind of woodpecker has white-flecked wings.
The Fetch:  Over the ice along the ridge I move very cautiously, stepping onto grass as much as possible.  As I hobble up the slope toward the clearing, I see Mway watching me coming.  Over the past couple days I’ve had to bend over many times to set up equipment, so I know I can bend over okay, but I’m not looking forward to Mway trying to rush me.  It seems with every fetch she’s able to get in a few more barks or an extra spin as I’m bending down to pick up the stick.  We go a few pitches into a second round when Mway brings the stick back without dropping it, and as soon as that happens, I tell her “that’s enough.”

Monday, December 19, 2011

Because That in It He had Rested

December 19, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  I did manage to work last night, although it was a tough time.  Fortunately I had help carrying my equipment, so that wasn’t a problem.  But I hadn’t eaten anything all day, and I felt very weak during the whole job.  By the end of the night, though, my appetite was coming back, and I was able to eat much of the clams casino served to me at the end of the job.  A long drive home – 138 miles round trip.  This morning I woke up with my appetite fully restored, so I was looking forward to food I would get on the job today.  I was still having a little trouble walking, but I was assured I would have help moving my equipment again today.  Before I left Moi read something she’d written up.  “You know,” she said, “how people send out these letters at Christmastime all about what their family did all year?  I think they’re stupid, but I wrote one up.”  She read it to me.  The letter touched on all the major events, Jazz’s wedding, the Boy getting a job with CBS in NYC, Moi working as an enumerator for the US Census, the family pow wow up in Awkwesasne, Jazz’s photography award, Moi not being able to shoot a deer but discovering the inspiration to write about it.  When she finished I said it was good, but Moi wrinkled her face.  “It’s stupid, isn’t it?  I’m not going to send it out.”  Right now I’ve just gotten back from work.  Moi was on the phone when I walked in the door, so I haven’t talked to her yet.  Typical Sunday: work all day, when I get home it’s dark.  No walk for Mway from me today.  I’m hoping tomorrow morning my leg will feel much better and I’m able to take her for a good walk then.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fall Down Stairs, No Walk Today

December 18, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  Last night I went online to set up a blog.  After about two hours, rather than the 5 minutes that the servicer suggested it would take, I had a title page.  But when I tried to post my introduction, although I was told that the upload was successfully completed, I couldn’t find it anywhere on the site.  Then when I was walking downstairs I missed the bottom step and landed hard on my leg, the ice from my drinking glass flying across the kitchen table.  The tendons of my leg and hip were jarred, and I can barely walk this morning.  Plus I must have churned up juices in my digestive tract, because I’ve been burping up a rancid taste in my mouth, and my energy is low.  I’m going to beg off taking Mway for a walk, at least for now.   The bigger problem is that I have to work tonight, at a place other than with Moi.  It’s not a simple matter of calling in sick: I’d have to find a replacement for myself, and I’d lose my entire pay.  I don’t know yet what I’m going to do.  Maybe I will go soak in the tub.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Some Things I Haven't Mentioned Before

December 17, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  This morning, the last dream of my night’s sleep was about keeping this journal.  I dreamed that I was taking note of some plants, some sort of white flowers, that were persisting into winter time, but then I realized these were not old flowers but new ones coming up.  Then I started seeing other flowers that had come up, which I didn’t know the names of and some of which were appearing behind trash cans in our house, and I suddenly had a feeling of being overwhelmed, that another whole year was arriving in which I’d have to take note of the plants and try to learn their names.  While I was lying in bed, thinking about this dream, I could hear Mway outside barking, undoubtedly outside with Moi, then a little later Moi opened my bedroom door to tell me she was going out and that she had taken Mway out.  I got up to sit over the edge of the bed, and Mway came sauntering into the room, to be pet on the head a couple times, then went sauntering out.  So far today I have no work to do, or rather I have a job I could do that will take all of two minutes to do but waste an hour or more of travel time.  I don’t know whether I should take Mway for a walk or not – but what am I fretting about?  Moi has taken her out, but not for a walk.  So I’m going to check my email, then I guess I’ll take Mwayla out.
State of the Path:  I’m wondering what possibly else could I say about the path – or, on the other hand, I’m thinking of all the things I’ve never mentioned.  Under one of the bare shrubs by the springhouse there’s a bright red, plastic ball, slightly smaller than a basketball, only revealed now in the winter time – probably has been there since the kids were small, or maybe it’s part of the pool paraphernalia that got tossed over here unaccountably.   In the walled garden, I look into the old orchard and see a second PVC pipe next to the one leaning against a tree.  When I get over to the tree, I at first can’t find the second pipe, but then I spot it – it seems to have moved and turned in another direction.  I see the bottoms of briars and sumac saplings chewed bare, probably by rabbits.  Near the hedgerow, I look into the bare honeysuckles and see a cement block, covered with moss.  I hear the chirp of a bird and see two birds – neither of which I can identify.  The one bird – I can say this – is gray and has white feathers on its tail.
State of the Creek:  At the former log jam, I poke my walking stick into the ice.  It’s thick, but I manage to break through it after several pokes.  I still see Moi’s green plants, but they look pretty pathetic, frozen into the ice.  The ball of the sun shines in my eyes as I walk along the creek.  At the narrows, there’s a rotted log athwart the path that’s a little problem to step over since there’s not much space here; it looks like its trunk was in the ground along the bank, but more likely it’s a log that was washed up here in the last high water.  I walk over to the crest of the skating pond.  A couple weeks ago I saw a golf ball on the ground, but I don’t remember picking it up, so I look for it, but I don’t find it.  As I walk by the frozen pond between the ridges, the ball of sun again shines in my eyes.  On the other side of the ridge, as I walk toward the clearing, I look at one of the evergreens sitting in the middle of the field.  Last night Moi mentioned to me that Ezra is concerned about the coyotes in his woods.  Because they didn’t see as much deer this year as they usually do, he thinks the coyotes might be getting them.  But Moi added that, because Ezra had his woods cleared, there’s a lack of cover for the deer.  “Out on our property,” Moi said, “there’s a lot of cover, in all those places we don’t walk.  There could be lots of deer bedding down there.”  As I look briefly at the evergreen tree and the area around it, I think, yes, anything could be in there.
The Fetch:  I toss the birch branch around the circle, Mway running after the stick to the various points where it lands, bringing it back and dropping it at my feet, spinning and barking as I bend over to pick it up.  Today as it lands against the frozen ground it resonates and makes thuds with different pitches and timbres.  Sometimes when it lands it sounds like a bass drum or a tom tom, other times like a marimba.  When it lands in the goldenrod it sounds like the swish of brushes against a snare drum.  On the way back to the house, while Mway’s running ahead of me with the stick she’s fetched enough times to her satisfaction, I spot something on the ground that looks like the guts of a field mouse.  It’s red and green, and I think it could also be a seed pod or something from a plant.  I poke at it with my walking stick, but I don’t know what to make of it.  Back in the house, Mway skitters around her food dish, looking up at me with a smile.  “You already had your breakfast,” I tell her.  I toss her a biscuit.  “Here, you can have this.”

Friday, December 16, 2011

Note Changes from Last Year

December 16, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  I have to work today, at the job I usually do at night.  Moi has already taken Mway outside, but just out to the back yard.  I heard Mway barking, then saw her coming into the door behind Moi, carrying her stick into the house, which of course I don’t like her to do.  Right now she’s lying on the floor next to me in the office.  I suppose she is hoping I take her for a walk.
State of the Path:  Sure as soon as I get up, Mway gets up too, eyes me as I go to my room to put on walking clothes, follows me downstairs, and stands waiting at the door.  I had reread my first entry of this journal, since I want to see today what changes there are in the path and the creek since this time last year.  The first change is that the side path along the old orchard, partly because of the extremely dry weather this summer, has remained open all year, so Mway doesn’t have to step gingerly over a whole area of briars and goldenrod.  Because we haven’t yet had a big snow, the goldenrod, except for areas here and there, is still sticking up.  Also, I now have a pair of good boots, so I don’t have to be fussy about where I’m stepping, although today the water in the path is all iced up.
State of the Creek:  The log jam that used to be there is now gone, the smaller branches dispersed and the big log now resting a few feet from where it was against another big log on the opposite creek bank.  A honeysuckle has been chopped down, and more of the creek bank has given way, where Moi has stomped on it.  The plastic barrel the Boy has taken out of the water and thrown beside the path, and the piece of vinyl siding, once in the middle of the stream, has been washed downstream and is partially hidden underground.  And over the feed channel, there is now a plank, so I don’t have to stumble over the ditch to get to the crest of the skating pond.  The sumac tree that I mention as fallen over into the path is still where it was, but over the year I’ve simply made a path around it.
The Fetch:  As I walk along the ridge, I’m amazed to see all the puddles of ice around Moi’s pines.  On the other side of the ridge, the path is also iced up.  I step around the ice onto the thatches of tan grass surrounding it, pass the Russian olive that juts into the path.  When I come into the strawberry field, I see Mway sprinting up the path through the goldenrod into the clearing.  When I reach the clearing myself, she stops snooping at weeds and runs over to me, smiling and dancing in place.  On the first throw, I accidentally pitch the stick close to the evergreen Moi planted (another change), but fortunately Mway pulls it out of the weeds without wrecking the evergreen.  We make the circle, Mway dashing to the perimeter and back, barking and spinning at my feet.  As she runs, I notice her tail twitching, and I wonder if that’s because she moves her tail muscles or if that’s just an effect of her leg muscles moving.  A few fetches into the second round, she goes galloping past me with the stick in her mouth.  I yell “good enough.”  But she circles around me, and I find myself corralled by her circling.  “Oh, okay, put it down,” I say.  She fetches the stick a few more times.  We walk back through the sumacs, Mway passing me on the path as soon as it widens enough for her to do so, the stick in her mouth knocking against briar stems. The fresh air arouses in my head some words I’m thinking about putting into the introduction of my blog, words like “the underlying point is that the relation, the interplay of forces, between Nature and Art, object and subject, is more subtle and complicated than a mere dichotomy.”

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Snow Squalls

December 15, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  I have rush work to do today, and I also have to work tonight.  I just heard Moi going outside with Mway, and Mway barking, for a short time anyway – I’m not going to be able to take her for a walk this morning.  Maybe I can squeeze in a quick walk this afternoon.  I get home about 2:30 and just have time to take Mway for a walk before I have to leave around 4.  Mway greets me in the driveway, and as I rush through the cold, follows me to the door.  Moi is at her laptop, and after she tells me how this morning she barely avoided driving into a snow squall and how one of her students then called to cancel her lesson because she was in a car accident in that very same snow squall, I ask her, as Mway is pacing around the table, “So what’s up with her?  Does she need a walk?”  Moi tells me the Boy, who’s home for a few days, just took her out.  “Good,” I say, “Then I don’t need to do it.”  While I’m rolling cigarettes for tonight, the Boy comes in the door and tells me, “I took Mwayla out, but not for very long.”  “Well,” I say, “I’m not going to take her out.”  Long ago I decided I was only going to keep up this journal for a year, and the time for finishing it up is drawing near – 9 days to go.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Frosty Snow and a Cold Wind

December 14, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:   When I go down into the kitchen this morning, it looks like Moi’s again at work on her hunting stories.  The blinds on the kitchen windows aren’t opened; there are dirty dishes in the sink; half the coffee in the carafe is gone.  Woody hops on the table, coaxing Moi to throw his little mousy.  Mway follows me around the kitchen, looking up at me whenever I turn around.  I have to work, both today and tonight.  Outside my office window, I see patches of snow on the ground.  I’m not looking forward to going out in the cold.
State of the Path:  A few steps outside, and the cold is already burning my nostrils, drying my mouth.  I hear the wind – I’m inclined to say “howling,” but that doesn’t seem to be the right word.  I unlatch the chickens’ cage, as Moi told me to do – she didn’t even get around to doing this this morning.  The snow on the ground, encrusted in the hard soil, seems more like frost than snow.  The metal barrel near the walled garden is topped with white, as I see, later, that the plastic barrel down by the creek is as well.  I move swiftly down the main path, keeping my neck and head stiff, braced against the cold.  I hear my walking stick thump against the ground, and it startles me by sinking a couple times into mud around the wigwams.  Mway moves around in jittery movements, sniffing the ground – she doesn’t seem to have any complaint, though, about the cold.
State of the Creek:  I immediately see white ice along the banks of the creek, and as I walk along I find that most of the pools are frozen over, with a frothy but firm layer of ice, thin enough, though, to poke my stick through.  I keep moving fast.  My entire hands are cold.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, I start going around the circle – with each toss I hope Mway will feel lazy today and come back without dropping the stick, ready to go back to the house.  Sometimes she snatches up the stick with great ease – if the stick has landed in front of the weeds.  Other times she has to extricate the stick from the clutch of flattened goldenrod or the low branches of a “chokeberry,” stabbing at it with her snout before she can grab it and pull it away.   She follows the various tosses around the perimeter of the clearing, going a few fetches into a third round, and finally – I’m not paying close enough attention to know what circumstance sways her – she brings the stick back, chomping on it.  Although I’m cold, I indulge her a bit and command her to “put it down.”  Twice we play “put it down,” then I tell her “that’s enough.”  As I head down the path through the sumacs, I suddenly come up with the word to describe the sound of the wind: “moaning” -- the wind is moaning.  Yet as I write it, that doesn’t seem like the right word either.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dead Tree between Posts of Electric Pole

December 13, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  This morning I had to go to the dentist early to get my filling refilled, so I couldn’t take Mway for a walk in the morning.  Downstairs Moi was on her laptop, spending all morning, I believe, writing more deer hunting stories – it looked like she hadn’t taken Mway for a walk either.  When I got home, I checked my email – no work had come in today.  Mway was pacing around, following me from room to room, staring at me, and I considered taking her for a walk then – but before I could do so she and Moi went upstairs to take a nap.  Right now, it’s 2:59, and I’m waiting for them to get up.  Whenever they do, I’ll take Mway for her walk.
State of the Path:   Out my office window, I see a large cat striding down the lane behind the summer house; perhaps it’s what made the prints in the snow the other day.  I suit up, gather a couple sticks from the music room, one of which I bring along.  Moi has put weather stripping along the back door, and now you have to slam it shut several times before it stays closed.  A cold wind blows against my cheeks and nose.  The snow is gone, but Moi’s garden pond is still frozen.  At the side path, I turn to go on it; Mway, just ahead on the main path, looks behind her, and I mumble “we’re going this way today, Mway.”  Near the hedgerow my wrists start getting cold and my arms start freezing – it was not this cold this morning.  As I past the cedar tree I realize I’m not paying much attention to what’s around me; instead I’m thinking about my plans to post this journal online as a blog, and in my mind I’m pouring over words for an introduction to it.  My plans are to make the last journal entry on the day before Christmas, and then on Christmas day to post the first entry from exactly a year earlier.  The words going through my mind are mainly repetitions of words I’ve already written, although new words slip in now and then.   When I realize I’m not paying attention to what’s around me, I try to start looking around.  I look at some ice on the path down by the wigwams and at an old brown stalk of ironweed, but it’s hard for me to break through the swirl of language in my head.
State of the Creek:  At the tree stand, I look up into Hutchinson’s wood lot, through the two posts of a high tension electric pole, at a dead tree broken in the middle of the trunk with its top half leaning over, all of which is framed neatly, from where I stand, between the two posts.  I’ve been catching a glance of this dead tree, perhaps the most distinctive sight here, on most of my walks lately, but this is the first time I think about mentioning it.  It seems dark around the creek, and despite how cold it is, there’s no ice in the stream.  I spot some gill-of-the-ground, which has bounced back after being covered with snow and doesn’t seem to mind the cold.  I walk quickly, just looking to see if I come across any ice.  There’s none in the puddles in the grasses of bug land, and none in the water trickling down the swale.  Just by looking at it, I can’t tell if the water in the feed channel is frozen or not; but when I poke it with my walking stick, the stick makes a thud.  There’s ice in the puddles on the path along the ridge, which cracks as I walk across it, but there’s no ice in the soggy path on the other side of the ridge.
The Fetch:  As I walk up toward the clearing, cold spittle is forming around my lips and snot building up in my nose.  As soon as I toss the stick, I realize this is a way of keeping warm, and I try to bring my whole body into motion as I toss it, instead of just lackadaisically pitching it underhand.  I wind up for each toss, bringing the stick behind my back, and follow through on the pitch, even though I’m not trying to throw the stick as far as I can.  I go around the circle, flinging the stick into the corners of the roughly rectangular clearing, Mway dashing off in pursuit, snatching up the stick from whatever straggle of weeds in which it landed.   When she brings the stick back, she drops it at my feet, barks and spins once or twice.  If I hold the stick behind me, she stands still, ears erect, tongue draped over her teeth.  If she has to wait too long for me to throw it, she starts barking again.  She goes as far as two pitches into the second round before she brings the stick back and keeps it held in her mouth, gobbling on it.  I tell her to “put it down.”  She drops it, then makes a few more fetches, but when she starts chomping on the stick without dropping it again, I feel the snot gathering heavy in my nostrils and tell her “that’s enough.”

Monday, December 12, 2011

And God Blessed the Seventh Day

December 12, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  Yesterday afternoon, about 2, while I’m working in the music room, Moi came back from her day of hunting (we both had to work last night).  She doesn’t say anything when she walks into the kitchen, and I know this means that she hasn’t gotten anything.  I stop my work and go into the kitchen to make a late morning stir fry, and to listen to what she has to say, because I know after she pours herself a glass of wine, she’ll have a lot to say.  “I had a shot at a doe today,” she says, “but I just couldn’t bring myself to kill it.  If I’d been seeing more doe this year, I could have done it.  But I don’t know, I guess I was just thinking conservation.  I’m a BFF – big fuckin’ failure,” and she flops her arms in an apologetic manner.  “Are you mad at me because I wasted all this time, and didn’t come home with anything?”  I’m busy trying to get my food together and have trouble paying attention to her.  “No.  I’m not mad at you,” I say.  “I went out there today,” she continues, “with the resolve to come back with something, to shoot a doe if I had too.  It has to be the right situation for me to shoot a doe.  If I see one with fawns, I won’t shoot it.  When I’ve shot doe in the past years, it’s always been a bad thing.  One time I shot one and when I went up to it its mammary glands were spilling milk all over the place.  But I was resolved, if the right situation came, to shoot one.  The right situation came today, and I had a good shot at a doe, but I still didn’t take it.”  She’s saying a lot more, but like I said, I’m trying to fix my brunch.  I tell her about seeing cat prints on the plank yesterday, and ask her if they could’ve been from Squeak. “No, Squeak was up in my bed all last night,” she says.  “A BFF,” she goes on, “that’s what I am.  No meat for the freezer this year, I guess we’ll have to eat chicken all year.”  I tease her that perhaps she hasn’t been getting enough testosterone as part of her hormone therapy.  “No,” she replies, “it actually has more to do with estrogen,” and she says something I don’t catch about taking estrogen.  “There’s usually only a short window when I’m willing to shoot something.  If the right situation doesn’t come along then, then that’s it.  You know, I’m only telling you this, but this year I prayed to Matt’s mom that if the situation was such that only one of us could get a deer this year, then let it be him.  When Matt got one on the first day this year, I thought, well there you go – he’s the one who got a deer.  I was so happy he got one.  All these years, since I started hunting, I’ve gotten a deer, and Matt’s been having trouble.  And I want him to feel like he’s a good provider for Jazz and all that.  This morning,” and I scrape my food out of the frying pan onto a plate, “since this was the last day, I prayed to Blue to bring me the right situation – he, you know, always liked it when he had scraps of meat and fat to eat from deer hides – and, what do you know, the right situation came along.  About 11:30 this morning I saw about ten doe passing along the ridge, but I didn’t even bother picking up my gun.  The right situation came along, and I just let it pass.”  I move into the living room, and Moi starts telling me how in getting up into the tree stand that morning her gun barrel got filled with snow and how the red light on her viewer was not working because the battery was low, and a bunch of other things that I can’t quite all take in.  She asks me again, “Tell me the truth, are you mad I didn’t get a deer?”  I tell her that it would’ve been nice if she had gotten one, but if she didn’t, that was alright.  “You know,” she says, “I think I just like being out in the woods.  You see a lot.  You know – in your walks with Mway, some time you should bring a lawn chair with you.  You’d be surprised what you see when you sit outside for a while, what comes along.  Or maybe some time take a walk without Mway.”  Like most Sundays, work all day.  Come back, it’s dark.  No walk for Mway from me today.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Following Tracks in the Snow

December 11, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  Moi has gone hunting, and she left a note on the coffee maker that she gave Mway a half cup of dog food this morning and I’m suppose to give her a second half after my walk with her.  The snow’s still on the ground.  Mway’s lying down on Moi’s bed.  It’s 9 and I’m going to go put on my walking clothes.
State of the Path:  Outside I immediately notice a bare circle in the snow on the sidewalk where I had placed the chicken’s water dish yesterday – Moi hadn’t left a note about the dish:  I guess now I’m suppose to “just know” to haul it out in the morning, like I “just know” to take Mwayla for a walk, so I go back in the house, get it from the laundry room tub, and place it down on the bare circle.  Little birds are flitting around in the lilac bush – I don’t know what they are.  Tiny snarls of grass show through the snow at places, especially through the footprints that are all over the place by now.  I follow my foot prints down the path, then take the side path.  There are no prints in the snow here until I get to the monkey vine portal, where I see some animal prints on the path, and I wish I had brought the Boy’s little pack of cards for identifying animal tracks.  But the prints are kind of indistinct, and I think to myself that they’re probably made by rabbits, for what animal do I see out here all the time?  A bird sings very melodically in the hedgerow, and it makes me angry that after nearly a year I still can’t identify bird songs.  More snow seems to be on the ground out here: the gill-of-the-ground is covered up, and I wonder what happens to it in such a state.  The flattened down goldenrod is weighted down by undisturbed snow, so I figure if anything was bedding down here lately it didn’t do so last night.  Then I note that the goldenrod is not pressed down all the way to the ground, like it should be if something slept on it, and I guess that it must have just collapsed from the cold, although it has done so in an oddly uniform manner.  Past the wigwams and into bug land, I feel ice beneath the snow cracking under my feet.
State of the Creek:  The stream is flowing gently, a strip of brown winding through an expanse of white.  Actually I can only see it flowing, or trickling, at the rocks; the pools themselves seem stationary, with bits of slushy ice at their edges.  Moi’s green plants are covered with snow, and I look at the underwater plants – wonder how much longer these plants will last.  A few more little birds flit about – again I’m angry I can’t identify them.  I don’t see any prints in the path here, and I realize that Mway has not been following me – she must still be back around the old orchard, maybe sniffing at the rabbit tracks.  Finally at the swale I see, pretty distinctly, a set of animal tracks.  I follow them toward the feed channel, then over the plank – I see some on the snow-covered ice of the channel.  I continue following them to the pin oaks, where they suddenly stop in a dip of the ground.  Since I don’t have the Boy’s print packet I have no idea what animal made them, but I consider the possibility that they might have been made by one of the raccoons that Mway and I have disturbed down here, and it makes me happy to think this animal is still managing to live.  Back here at the office, though, I do consult the Boy’s packet: it looks like what I saw were not raccoon tracks.  If I remember correctly, I counted four toes, and the packet tells me raccoons have five.  A red fox has four toes, but there were no claws showing in the prints I saw, which the packet tells me I should see if the prints are those of a red fox.  The tracks look mostly like what the packet identifies as those of the “Family Cat,” so I figure they must have been made by a feral cat.  Or had Squeak been out last night and had she ventured all the way down to the creek?  This morning I had found her in a deep sleep on the top bunk of my bed, lying among the neglected clothes heaped up there.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, I have to call for Mway.  Soon she comes jaunting down the path through the sumacs, indicating to me that she had spent our entire walk up at the old orchard sniffing rabbit tracks.  I pitch the stick, making our usual circle, and Mway, though she dashes off after each toss, seems distracted, stopping several times to sniff at the tracks here (which are probably mostly mine and hers).  On the second round, after a few tosses, Mway brings the stick back without dropping it, chewing and gobbling at it in her usual fashion.  I tell her, “Put it down.”  She drops it, spins around once, splashing up snow on my arm sleeve as I bend down to pick up the stick.  I toss it again.  She goes after it, snatches it up from a tangle of goldenrod, then comes galloping past me, stick athwart her snout, back toward the house.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Few Honeysuckles Hang onto a Few Leaves

December 10, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  When I wake up, Mway is on the floor next to my bed – I left the door open last night so heat would waft into the room.  Moi’s not downstairs, which means she went hunting today.  I feel tired, I think because with my bedroom door open last night Squeak was able to come in and walk all over me a couple times during the night, disturbing my sleep.  I let Mway out, but a couple minutes later, she barks to be let back in.  I’m mentally steeling myself against the cold – I really don’t feel like taking Mway for a walk right now.
State of the Path:  I have to take the chicken’s water dish out, which Moi emailed me about.   Actually the air is refreshing – my first thought is I’m happy to be outside, like taking a swim on a hot day.  The path has that same faded look, with dead leaves and browning grass receding into the ground.  On the side path, a few honeysuckle shrubs are still hanging onto a few yellowed tattered leaves.  The gill-of-the-ground remains shriveled and frozen.  I come across a large circle of goldenrod that has been flattened – I wonder if deer have been bedding down here, or if the area just collapsed from the cold weather.  I walk along at a brisk pace – again I’m somewhat in a hurry because I have work to do today, and also I have to call the dentist because I lost a large filling last night.
State of the Creek:  The water is flowing brown and gentle, but in most of the pools a soupy film of ice has formed, which I stir up with my walking stick.  I look at Moi’s green water plants and wonder when they’ll disappear completely.  I see the underwater green plants still floating in the brown water and wonder how long they’ll last too.  I cross the plank to the skating pond crest, and when I duck down under the branches of the pin oak, I realize I don’t come this way sometimes because ducking down under these branches is hard on my joints and muscles.  When I return through the “chokeberries,” I expect to be struck in the eye by the ball of sun over the marshy spot near the ridge – but it doesn’t happen.  I look up in the gray sky, and there’s no ball of sun anywhere to be seen.
The Fetch:  I make the circle, Mway a couple times having to search hard for the stick.  We make a full round, then before we complete it a second time, Mway comes running back with the stick without dropping it, and I tell her “that’s good enough.”  Back in the house I don’t know whether to feed her or not – Moi didn’t leave any note about whether or not she did earlier.  I decide to feed her: better she have two breakfasts, I guess, than none at all.
Addendum:  When I get home from work, about 4:30, Moi’s not home – she had come back from hunting before I left for work, and I expected her to be home; I assume she went hunting again, so that means I have to take Mway out again in the afternoon. Moi had told me, by the way, that she had fed Mway earlier today, so that means Mway did have two breakfasts this morning.  Since it’s getting dark and I already took Mway for one walk today, I figure I’ll just take her in the back yard to fetch stick.  During the afternoon it has snowed, and there’s a half inch to an inch of coating on the ground.  I go out to the back yard, but Mway runs past the outbuilding onto the path.  I call her once, but she doesn’t come, so I figure I’ll fetch stick with her out in the clearing. I find Mway traipsing through the shrubs around the pig pen.  As I shuffle through the snow, my feet feel cold because I’m only wearing my street clothes – no wool socks – beneath my snow suit.  In the path through the sumacs much of the goldenrod is bent over into the path, not just from being dead, but from the weight of the caps of snow on top of their fuzzy spikes.  Mway follows me to the clearing.  I make the circle once, both the stick and Mway splattering snow off the goldenrod.  We only make the round once, though – about five fetches -- when she comes running back without dropping the stick.  I start to head back down the path, but Mway’s looking up at me, and I think what the hell – I shout “put it down.”  She drops the stick, and I throw it again, this time toward the electric pole, Mway bounding down the path toward the strawberry patch.  When the goldenrod swishes as the stick lands, she realizes her mistake, skids around, and zips up toward the sound, but she ends up sniffing around in the faint light, unable to find the stick.  I have to trudge over to find it myself.  I spot it right away, right in front of where she’s standing all bewildered.  When I bend over to pick it up, she suddenly catches sight of it and snatches it before I can reach it.   As she runs off, I walk back toward the path, telling her “okay, that’s it.”

Friday, December 9, 2011

Ground a Faded White

December 9, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  I wake up shortly before 9.  When I step into the hall, Mway slinks out of my office.  I turn on the computer, go to the bathroom to pee, and downstairs I’m surprised to see Moi sitting at her laptop at the kitchen table.  She tells me she didn’t go hunting because it was 15 degrees outside, 7 degrees wind chill.  She’s making minor revisions on her story, and while I roll a cigarette, she talks to me at length about that.  I ask her if she took Mway for a walk.  “No,” she says, “I let her out when it was still dark outside.”  I go into the living room to smoke my cigarette and drink some coffee while my computer’s warming up.  Out the living room window I can see the swing set sitting in the driveway of our McNeighbor’s house – the one that Moi told me had gone up for sheriff’s sale – I’ve been wondering why the swing set is still there.  Mway comes into the living room and buries her snout in my hand.  I pet her head for a while and then, when she starts walking away, I pat her backside and a cloud of dust rises in the air, as thick as a cloud of cigarette smoke.
State of the Path:  Mway is at the door pacing as I suit up.  Outside the ground is a faded white, as if there had been frost, which, had I been out an hour before, I might’ve seen.   Moi’s garden pond is frozen over with thin ice.  The path is a faded white too, crinkly.  My lips are cold.  A lot of the goldenrod is knocked over, probably collapsed from the cold.  At the wigwams there are patches of ice in the path, and, through bug land, I feel like I’m stepping on the crust of a pie.
State of the Creek:  The water’s flowing at the tree stand.  At the former log jam, a shelf of ice hangs along the far bank.  I poke my walking stick in the water, to confirm that the whole stream of water has not yet frozen over.  Moi’s green plants are still in the cascade, but they look withered and battered.  A few brown leaves cling onto some oaks, and I look back and see that there are still some brown leaves on the oaks just before the creek as well.  I hadn’t taken the side path by the old orchard, and I don’t take the one to the crest of the skating pond either – I have to work today, so I’m somewhat in a hurry.  As I walk along the ridge, the sun, reflecting off the ice in the marshy spot between the ridges, catches me blindingly in the eye – exactly as it did yesterday.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, for some reason, the frost that must have covered everything this morning is still apparent here, glistening in the sun.  There’s a strip of snow down the center of the clearing.  I do the circle, Mway running, smiling, spinning, barking, but after I come to throwing the stick down the path, on her way back she glances over her shoulder and then, for whatever reason, prances past me to head back to the house.  I could insist that she drop the stick, but I don’t bother.  On my way back I think to look at the willow by the corn crib to see what’s happened to its leaves – amazingly there’s still quite a few green leaves hanging onto its uppermost branches.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


December 8, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  Last night I reread Moi’s story, “The Old Man Who Took His Gun for a Walk.”  I hadn’t told her yesterday that when I read the story it brought tears to my eyes.  I hadn’t told her this because I wasn’t sure I cried solely because of the story.  Last night I waited until Moi was sound asleep, and while there was no sound in the house but the blower on the wood pellet stove, I reread it.  This time when I finished I cried uncontrollably for a half an hour.  Again I don’t know if this was solely because of the story.  But whenever my crying would subside for a moment I would reread the last two sentences and again the tears and mucous would well up: “He would just wait for that thing you see that wasn’t there the last time you looked.  He would wait for the whispers.”  Moi has gone out hunting again today – out my office window it looks very cold outside. 
State of the Path:  I select the same stick I used yesterday; it’s not as long as I’d like it to be, but it has some heft and a nice, what I imagine to be aerodynamic, bend to it.  The chickens are huddling in a lilac bush; I wonder if they find enough to eat this time of year, maybe seeds and nuts.  On the ground, looks like the same flecks and patches of snow as were there yesterday.  The water over the cement slabs has dried up, the ground crunchy underfoot.  I take the side path.  Mway turns around from the main path to follow.  Seems very quiet, very still, along the old orchard and back to the main path, except for a slight breeze.  I begin thinking I’m not going to see anything, when suddenly a gray body appears, disappearing behind a maple trunk.  I at first take it for a bird, but I know it was a squirrel; I don’t know why it’s in a tree among the maples.  I keep my eyes on the tree for a while but I don’t see it again.  At the wigwams, the water on the path is starting to freeze.  Across bug land, some birds are stirring in the shrubs along the creek, probably black-capped chickadees.  They fly off  before I get to where they were.
State of the Creek:  The water flows quietly, but at the former log jam, a thin shelf of ice seizes the far bank.  A multiflora briar makes a grab for my cap.  I stop quickly, take a step back.  The briar unloosens, and I duck under it and continue forward.  At the narrows I walk upon footprints I left in the flecks of snow yesterday.  I cross the plank, stepping on yesterday’s boot treads and poking the solid ice in the feed channel with my walking stick.  As I round the crest, I look for the rodent skull on the ridge but don’t see it and figure it’s been washed down the bank into the channel and out into the creek.  Recalling the bones I put under a small tree near the “chokeberries” many months ago, I decide to look for them.  I don’t see a skull, but I find two leg bones, frozen into the ground at the base of the tree.  At the ridge, the sun, reflecting harshly off the ice in a marshy spot, suddenly shines bright in my eyes.
The Fetch:  Mway is waiting for me at the clearing, smiling, taking little jittery steps backwards as I walk into position.  I do the circle again, play “Put it down” once, then tell her “that’s enough.”  Back at the house, I’m in a quandary whether Moi already fed Mway early this morning or not, but I dish out some dog food for her anyway. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Yellow Turning Pink

December 7, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  I wake up around 8:45, expecting that Moi has gone out hunting.  But even before I go downstairs, I can tell she’s home: hear the TV murmuring, hear her mumbling to the animals.  She tells me it was too windy to go out this morning, and she says she’s already taken Mway down to the creek.  That means I’m relegated again to an afternoon walk -- I have to work today, and I’ll have to make sure I get home before dark.  Out my office window I see a coating of snow on the ground, just an inch or so, but the first full covering for the season; I’m a little miffed because it would’ve been nice to write about this this morning.  Yesterday morning, while she was not out hunting, Moi wrote a hunting story instead.  It’s about an older hunter who goes out in the woods and, for the first time in his life, decides not to shoot a buck he has a good shot of.  I read it late last night, and Moi asks me this morning what I think about it.  I’m milling around the kitchen, heating up coffee in the microwave, rolling a cigarette.  I tell her that it seems to me that the “older hunter letting the deer go” is a theme that’s been addressed many times before, but that the story has a “quiet subtlety to it.”  “Well, I know the theme’s not original,” she says, “but this is about a hunter who lets the deer go because he can’t see to shoot anymore,” and she goes on to tell me that the story is based on what Ezra has been complaining to her about his father going hunting and that it has many of her own perceptions about hunting in it.  I tell Moi I’ll have to read it again because last night I was distracted by typos.
State of the Path:  By the time I get home from work, about 4:30, most of the snow is gone, the lawn largely green with wisps and patches of white here and there.  I hurry to get into my snow suit, not even changing first into my walking clothes.  Mway paces around the table, at first huffing, then unable to contain herself, bursting into a round of barking, which I tell her to “knock off.”  “She’s been waiting for this all day,” Moi says.  “But you took her for a walk this morning,” I protest.  “A walk’s not a walk until you take her for one,” she retorts.  I pick up several sticks from the music room, one of which I decide would be a good one to toss.  Outside the setting sun is scarring the sky yellow, jagged streaks through heavy blue clouds.  There’s a puddle of water over the cement slabs, thin ice on one edge of Moi’s garden pond.  The path is muddy, only a few flecks of snow under some shrubs.  Goldenrod stalks and briars paw at the sides of my snow suit.  Down at the wigwams, there are streaks of water in the path and at the spillway into bug land.  In bug land itself, the path turns muddy.  I’m happy to be wearing good boots, but my feet feel cold because I’m not wearing my usual wool socks.
State of the Creek:  There are still flecks of snow on the creek bank, which contrast sharply with the quietly running brown stream.  I stop at the former log jam and, with my walking stick, poke at some sort of root, caked with dead leaves and grass, that sticks out into the water, the only remnant of all the debris that used to be jammed up here.  I manage to duck successfully under briars without getting my cap pulled off.  At first I plan not to go over to the crest of the skating pond, but when I see there’s snow on the plank over the feed channel, I decide to walk across it, leaving my foot prints on it.  Under the oaks, it looks like the pool of water there has a lot of small round stones in it which I don’t remember seeing before, and I wonder if these have been washed down by the last flood.  Walking along the ridge of bug land, I see that the yellow streaks in the sky have turned pink.
The Fetch:  I make the circle of tosses, same as I’ve been doing the last few days.  The center of the clearing is a streak of snow; otherwise, it’s brown all around.  I play “Put it down” with Mway once, without actually saying “put it down,” just jabbing my finger, but after that I tell her “that’s enough.”  Back in the house, since Moi’s now up in the bath room, I feed Mway.  When Moi comes out of the bath room, she tells me that this morning she saw paw prints in the snow, “I don’t know if it was from a feral cat, a raccoon, or what.”  “Yeah,” I say to her, “you told me that before.”