Sunday, April 22, 2012

It is a cold damp day today. A bit on the raw side, I set a wood fire in the stove to drive the damp chill away. On my walk today I investigated the vernal pools again. Last weekend, I found wood-frog eggs and some of those are hatching out today. When I lifted a mass up in my hand, it almost disintegrated and I could see miniature tadpoles within the mass. On the outer edges they were beginning to break free and swim away from my hand. I also found some salamander egg masses this time. They must have been laid some time during the week, even though it was pretty dry. Those masses were still quite solid and firm when I held them.

The trees are budding forth. I have noticed the changes on the hills when I drive into work. I used to attribute the first green to the poplars, but I have noticed that the black cherry has budded out first, and then the poplars. The hills reflect a very subtle reversal of the fall color scheme. The maples shed a glimmer of red and orange from their flowers, then their little leaves unfurling, and the beech buds shimmer golden as they begin to swell.

Yesterday, I took a close look at an emerging maple leaf, and was struck with the similarity of the human hand. I know, it has a palmate leaf shape, and I use that when helping children to learn to identify maples, by putting our hands over a leaf so they can see what that means. But yesterday, as I looked at the little wrinkly red leaf opening up, it looked so much like the wrinkly red hand of my children just when they were born. They say patterns in nature repeat themselves over and over. It points out to me how interconnected we are to the natural world around us.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Yesterday, I took my walk in the evening. It had been a hot day and after spending the morning in town, I returned home and labored in the gardens. It seems every winter the snow covers a nursery hotbed of dandelions and sheep sorrel. It can be a nice chore to try to eliminate them in the early spring before it is really time to do much planting. I enjoyed the hot sun on my back, listening to the birds, and checking out my ever-improving soil. And, the chickens enjoyed getting some fresh greens in their pen, as that is where I dumped the weeds.

On the walk through the woods to my daughter’s house , I discovered that the trailing arbutus had blossomed. It was my mother’s favorite spring flower, and yesterday was the anniversary of her death. I held still for a joyous moment of remembrance and honoring a woman that instilled much that is good in me, including my love of the natural world. I may have grumbled and complained as a teen when she had our entire lawn tilled so she could plant perennials, and groundcovers. Then in the next house the neighbor’s crumbled and complained when she let the back yard turn to a field of black-eyed susans.

I looked at the “new den” being dug. There seemed to be more activity there, yet it seemed less like the creation ofa home. Maybe the animal found a good cache of insects, or some other fancy treat. I will continue to monitor the changes that are going on.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

I went into town early this morning to run errands, so no early morning walk. On my way home I went the route that takes me by the power-lines that cross over the Passy River. I have been coming home that way at least once a week to see if the osprey has returned. And, yes, today one was in the nest, looking large and white and quite content. For a second, I thought it was an eagle, until I refocused my gaze and realized I was looking at its chest, not its head.

This afternoon is warm and since the peepers and wood-frogs have been quite noisy in the evening I decided to check for egg masses. I didn’t find as many as I had hoped. In looking in five vernal pools, I found less than 20 egg masses. And the pool that had the most last year only had one. I do know it is a bit early, so hopefully There will be more. I did have to move one branch further into the water as it was already almost touching the bank and would begin to dry out if we don’t get rain. The pools are much smaller this year, which does not bode well for the amphibians that lay their eggs in them.

By the waterfall, I took off my boots and stuck my feet in the water. It is pretty cold, but I couldn't resist on a warm day like today. I do an annual May Day dunk, I think today has been my earliest touching of the water thus far.

I found a new den being dug. There was a scat nearby which looked like it belonged to a canine. Maybe a fox was working on this hole. Or maybe, a fox just decided to leave a mark on someone else’s spot. I also found some weasel scat along the river, and tracks of a raccoon. I walked along the water’s edge, and since I had on my high rubber boots, I periodically went into the water. The dog, which I was dragging along on its leash, did not like that part all that well. I also scared up three ducks when rounding a bend in the river. All in all it was a fairly eventful walk this afternoon.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Today, while I was still lying in bed, the phoebe landed on the lilac just outside the window. Even though one of my neighbors has seen it already this spring, this morning was my first visit from it. It was nice to get such a morning welcome; to not only hear it but to see it while first awakening. The sun is shining after a day and night of cold rain.

I went out last night looking for salamanders, although I must admit it was a half-hearted search. I did not put on my rubber boots, but walked along the edge of my driveway where the vernal pools come up close. Yes that sounds horrific, like someone had put the driveway in where they shouldn’t; and that is exactly what happened. The previous owner and builder of my home put the driveway through the wetlands. I am trying to keep them alive and well, but last night’s walk was one advantage I have of his indiscretion. I did not see any salamanders, but heard wood-frogs and peepers. Earlier in the evening when it was still light, I could see the water moving as the frogs dropped down to hide, so I knew there were quite a few .

I did the closer part of the loop today. Usually I can block out the sounds of human activity, but this morning the sound of heavy equipment was too noticeable from one of the gravel pits across the river. I am not sure which one, sound travels pretty far and it was annoying to say the least this morning. The dog and I heard the flock of turkeys that inhabit the woods near here. It sounded like they were in the garden next door. We also came across a clump of discarded winter hair from a deer. It looked as if I might have grabbed a chunk and deposited it in the path for an unsuspecting dog to find. The dog really did enjoy sniffing his treasure.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Yesterday, I went for a guided nature walk led by a friend of mine. It was at some property in the neighboring town. The land had been heavily logged within the last fifteen years or so, and left looking pretty worn and sad. Then a group bought it and turned it into a non-profit permaculture education center. The land is being restored, but not with the same values that I have. I could be judgmental here, but will choose not to be. Let’s just suffice it to say that I don’t agree with portions of the permaculture ideology which in my mind puts humans at the fore. I don’t think we should always be in the forefront.

The theme of the walk was water. So at one point the leader had us all stop and he spoke to us about the importance of water, how our bodies are not a solid mass of muscle and bone, but really a fluid vessel 90% water. Our skin keeps us from drying out. He then held an imaginary goblet and asked us all to make a toast to water; he to the intricacy of a snowflake, I to the refraction of light in a rain drop, others to the connectivity of water and such. It is a nice thing to stop and take stock of what there is around us, how we depend on it, not only for our existence, but also for the spirituality connected to it. I realized it is my daily walk along the river that helps keep me sane in this ever insane world.

He also sent us on a quest by a small pool of water in a slow stream for the upside down tree. After a few minutes of many adults looking and NOT finding it, he pointed out the reflection, to again remind us to look beyond what he called the ordinary. When a group of children arrived, I told my friend to ask them. Within a minute one of the children said, oh you mean the reflection? A young mind was still able to look beyond the ordinary—or to see something further than what our adult minds had blacked out.

Friday, April 6, 2012

This morning I awoke to the sun shining through the trees on the eastern horizon. A cloud bank was moving in from the west. Fro a brief moment the tops of the western trees were gilded with that early morning glow. The maples bedecked in their red blossom glowed a luminous orange, the pines a silvery green, and the oaks a gold.
By the time I went for my walk the clouds had overtaken the entire sky. Sometimes a clouded sky makes for better clarity on the ground; there is not the harshness of the sun, nor the glare when facing into it. It was quiet in the woods today. Not much bird song, until one moment when I stopped below a dead pine trunk and heard a robin burst forth in gleeful song. I was expecting a moment of stillness when I stopped, but that stillness was shattered by joy and glee. I have been stressed and somber lately; I thank that robin for reminding me to be joyful.

It is still chilly in the mornings, and I walked quickly, in part because I was cold, in part because I was invited to have breakfast with my daughter upon returning from the walk. I liked the idea of spending some time talking with her. The dog and I did flush a partridge, we see many on our walks—or maybe we see a few many times. It is looking like the beaver are deciding not to rebuild their dams in one of the places they had one last summer. The winter’s ice and high water have broken all three. Tonight I should walk down to the swimming hole to see if they are still around that much. There are still no green shoots of grass for them to forage. They must be eating what they have stored or have found small saplings to nibble on. I don’t see any signs of new chewings on my loop, I will need to explore further away to see where they are. Sounds like a walk for this weekend.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

This morning I walked in a world of white. It seemed as if overnight my enclave became a tunnel of grey and white. The little snow we had was wet and sticky, transforming every tree, branch and twig into white be-decked fairies. Even the silken strand of a misguided insect that came out during last week’s heat was clothed in the crystals of snow

It was quiet, as I walked through the tunnels left by saplings bending over the trail. At times I twisted, stooped and almost crawled to avoid shedding snow onto my back. As I reached the river, I could see the water reflecting the silvery gray of the morning sky. Even the waterfall seemed to have hushed in this moment of winter’s return. Though in reality, it has already retreated in volume to almost early summer levels. At another bend in the river where the water runs slow and almost still, the reflections of the opposite bank looked up at me in reverse. I could see the dark underside of the bank, where water has cut under the roots and soil, then the whiteness of snow, then the green and white filigree of the evergreens, then the grey of the sky. In silence I looked at this underworld, a world at my feet, wondering how to get in. Is it the world of Hades, the world in which Persephone descended to re-emerge when her mother Demeter brought her back? It seemed so alluring and peaceful, looking into that still reflection. Why do we fear that altered space? It reminded me of the pull of the sirens years ago when I stood high on a cliff off the rocky shores of Maine. I could have jumped to land in the beauty of the surf and rock below.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I was bummed when I got out of my meeting and realized I would get home too late. Ah well, another night to go look for the woodcock. I did however see a frog crossing my driveway. I braked and stalled the car in my excitement and concern for hitting it. He continued across the drive within the frame of my headlights and entered into the vernal pool that is right on the side. I got out the BIG flashlight and wandered along the side of the drive checking out the pools. They are like a reverse archipelago of islands around my property. I did not see the frog, or any others, but I did hear one peeper, and the woodcock did do one flight dance while I was out. I guess I could have gone to look for the bird with the flashlight, but other creatures were attracting my interest.
This morning, I went out a bit earlier than I have been. As I was cutting through the woods to get the dog, a white but spotting brown, hare belted down the path toward me. We were both taken aback with our inadvertent near collision. But the rabbit scooted off and left me in its dust. The geese were honking profusely from the beaver pond, and a murder of crows flew overhead. The dog seemed to be very intent on smells, that for a while I could not discern. Then I got a whiff of that telltale musky smell of skunk, which must have passed by at some point not long before. Near the falls, I heard a rustle, and saw two deer cross the path, followed by three more. I continued to hear noises on the left from where the group had emerged, but did not see the other or others, until I took the turn that would take me along the river back to the house. I got one very small glimpse of movement, and that was all. I know I have mentioned not seeing deer tracks in the snow, and to keep me honest they waited to come around again after the snow was gone. If I had taken the time to look, I probably could have found their tracks in the mud, but I had the day’s obligations ahead of me.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I got home from work utterly exhausted. So exhausted, in fact, that I decided to cook pasta rather than rice so I wouldn’t have to measure the water. But I still had to shut the chickens in for the night, so I went out just a bit before dusk. Joy of joys, I heard the wonderful flutter of the woodcock in my neighbor’s field. Exhaustion forgotten, I went over and listened to three rounds of its courtship calls. It sits on the ground puffs out its chest and sends out a loud peent. Then it flies in a rapid spiral high into the air, out of sight. Soon it falls to the ground with a soprano sound of wings fluttering in the wind, to then land and begin again. It usually lands in about the same place, so we humans that want to witness it can oft times run to where we heard the peent and sit until it lands nearby. However, I seem to be around smart woodcock as they will not land near me. I once went out with my sister and some of her naturalist friends. We hunkered down, pinpointed the call and when it flew we all ran to the spot. When the bird landed we heard its peent, right where we had been; it had outwitted us for sure. Tomorrow, I will go out again, I have a meeting but hope I can make it before it is too dark to be able to see the woodcock in flight.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring is coming. I have begun to hear geese flying in overhead to the small beaver pond across the road and on Saturday evening the first red-winged black birds. Even though I did not write yesterday, I did get out in the woods twice. I went early in the morning with the dog. I wore a sweatshirt, vest and gloves. Later in the day I walked over to get the dog, and went out again, that time in a sleeveless shirt, although I still wore the rubber boots to keep my feet dry and out of what snow and ice remains in the shadiest parts of the path. Looking up into the tree tops, I noticed the buds beginning to swell and a definite tint of red on the maples. Soon they will be blooming. On my second walk I ventured off the trail to check the vernal pools; all are still covered in ice, although the ice is shrinking quickly. I think the next rain will bring a salamander migration. I am prepared this year, I bought a big flashlight! Usually I forget and go out with a flashlight which is losing its battery power and can’t see much of anything. My sister, in Western Massachusetts, has already witnessed the big night. She went out last Thursday with friends and had 40-50 salamanders congressing at her feet. For those that don’t know, congressing means mating.
This morning, it was chilly and I was a little later than usual, so I turned it into a fast paced walk. Just above the waterfall, I looked up to see the beaver on the bank. He quickly headed into the water and swam until the dog moved. At that point he slapped his tail and dove.
I have some family history regarding the Hudson River painter Thomas Cole, and on these last three walks the lighting was just so that I could not help but think that I was walking in one of his paintings. I felt the spirit of both the land and of “God”. Although I would not say I am a believer in God in the usual sense, I do believe there is something spiritual about the world something much greater than me and all the human inhabitants that live in it.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

I woke at sunrise this morning; Gus (the dog) woke me in his dire need to relieve himself. I donned coat and boots and took him out. The sky was clearing from east to west, so the sun came up in front of a light blue. Yet the clouds above reflected the golden orange hue of the sun on their lower edge, rising to a solid gray. Even as I watched it changed drastically as the cloud cover dissipated and the orange turned to yellow then white. Morning has broken.

This morning’s walk was quite lovely. It had rained yesterday and I guess some during the night. Many of the branches held diamond clusters of rain drops on their tips. –I find myself using man made similes; the rain like diamonds, the tracks like roads, the beech leaves rustling like rain sticks. Yet really I want to reverse the simile. What makes a diamond beautiful? Man has cut it so that it reflects light like a raindrop in the early morning sun. I want to rejoice in the basics and the beauty in the simplest of form, not in man-made complexity.

The ground was quiet, what with the damp leaves and most of the crunchy snow cover gone. The dog and I were able to move quietly. I stooped to investigate an old den, which seemed to have no activity until one day just after the last snowfall. Tracks went in and then out again. They looked like they could possibly have been a fox, investigating. Today, I again saw nothing; as I stood up I looked toward an old oak by the river and there staring at me was a rather small weasel. I could only see its face and front half of its body. Its face and ears were a deep chocolate brown and his legs and chest a russet brown. It stood there, sniffing and peering at us, trying to decipher what we were. Then it curled its body around and disappeared down the bank. I waited to see if it would reemerge, either in the water or further down the bank, but it didn’t. I walked to the oak and on the opposite side saw a hole in the trunk, which I am sure would have easily fit that little creature. I will investigate that tree again one day, maybe without the dog in tow.

I walked along the very edge of the river from then on. I was about ten or fifteen feet from the path, but just the slightest change brought on a new perspective. I was level with the river instead of up on the bank; it seemed wilder, richer and larger while I was up close and personal. At times I needed to skirt ice chunks for fear they would break or send me slipping into the water. Soon, I will be skirting the river more often in search of spring flowers and fiddleheads.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Last night it snowed again. It was less than an inch, but the world is shrouded in white again. I must be a creature of winter because I felt my heart lift when I went out for my walk. The last few days , I have been deep in thought while walking. My mind has been dragging in the mud, seeing only the gray of the world. I hadn’t even been noticing the changes in the river.
This morning, I noticed that all the ice is gone from the river. It has been noisy, as it rages over the rocks and the small falls that I walk by. In fact it is noisy enough that I can hear the falls from the house. From what I can tell the three beaver dams seem to have been torn asunder by the ice and water. I still question why the beavers moved over here from the small stream and pond they had for years across the road; these woods do not have small tasty saplings of poplar or alder. These are relatively mature oak and conifer woods. I realize the y consumed most of the poplar, and maybe their population increased such that some of the members of the family had to move out and on to new pastures, or in this case new waters. Maybe it takes a few years for them to find that perfect spot, or maybe like some children, they don’t want to move too far from home.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Yesterday, the CC group did boundary work on Northern Pond. This year we pushed working on it until it was almost too late in the winter. We have had a very mild winter, and in the beginning it never got cold enough to freeze, or snow to use snowshoes to get in. We have a lot of wetlands to cross, and a couple of streams. Yesterday, the edges of the wetland were beginning to thaw, where the sun warmed it and the rain and melt water dribbled in. But we were able to cross. At the stream, one of us fell in, and had to return home, the elements had begun to claim our membership….
In some places it was difficult to find the old blazes, but by siting the line, and a bit of exploration we would ultimately find an old blaze. At one point the line goes over a major rock outcropping; where some geologic event either heaved up rock or carved earth down. I do not profess to know geology. Amongst the crannies, I notice a huge pile of porcupine scat, and was pleased to know that the area is still a popular denning site. Years ago, I had taken a picture of a porcupine sleeping with its tail out to the world, its perfect defense against predators. I noticed a hemlock with many chewed twigs on the ground and a poplar with bark chewed down to the cambium layer.
We continued on through woods and wetland. The day was warm, the sun clear and bright. I found myself shutting out the other people and focusing on the silence of the woods, the stillness, at the expanse and at the minute. It is always in the woods where I can breathe deep and feel both the magnitude of the earth and my tiny presence to the fullest

Saturday, March 10, 2012

On Tuesday it was nine degrees when I took my morning walk. The cold seemed to seep right through me. During February’s full moon, I thought the deep cold would be done for the winter, but I was mistaken. I walked quickly to protect my face from the cold and wind. I noticed lots of hare tracks. I have noticed there have been some regularly travelled pathways. These were usually straighter and more direct. While the singular tracks took a more meandering approach, I supposed in search of accessible buds and twigs. One animal track I didn’t see much of this winter was deer. I know they are around; I saw three last fall on an early morning walk, they browse down my blueberry bushes and walk through the garden in the summer. Maybe they winter on the other side of the river. From this side the woods look to have more conifers, than what I have on my side.
On Thursday the high temperature was 58. In the morning, I could smell the earth: rich and brown and musky. It was such a wonderful smell to uphold. The river was beginning to break up; ice was jamming where there was shade thus keeping the ice solid all the way across the river. The sound of the waterfall was strong enough for me to hear from my house; --it is maybe a third of a mile away. When I arrived at the falls, the normal narrow flow of water was spread all across the rock ledge.
Today, I took the dog, and we walked to the falls. Again the river was loud, but my footfalls, on crunchy ice were even louder. Almost all of the ice is gone, and the river runs high. The woods only have snow under the shade of trees, on northern sides of hillocks, and where there were drifts. The vernal pools, though still frozen are turning brown and the soil around them warms and the tannic acid from the leaves seeps in to them. Soon they will be clear. Spring is truly coming.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Last night, I took the dog for a walk in the moonlight. There was a light cover of cloud, but the moon and the white of the snow gave enough light for easy walking. Periodically, the clouds moved completely aside and then the deep shadows of the trees loomed on the ground around me. My night-time walks are generally up the driveway, about an eighth of a mile, to the road. Last night, at the head of the drive, I turned left and walked the road to the neighboring farm’s field. There I could see a few of the humps of snow laden hay-bales, the large round kind, and the hay rake tilted toward the sky, as if resting right where it had finished its late summer harvest. I am not sure why the farmers didn’t bring it in, except that maybe they are still working on the interior of the barn. The farmers are two brothers, who bought this farm from an aging and retired farmer. It had been years since the previous farmer had done much and both the buildings and fields were in dire need of restoration. The brothers and their wives have been working hard at reviving an old enterprise, and it is beginning to show. It is heartening to see that an old way of life is being reborn, that people still care, and are becoming stewards.
This morning, it was snowing again, very gently and quietly, when we went out. At the end of this week my dog-sitting duties will be over. I wonder if I will take the time to venture out just for myself. I hope I can keep up this habit. It is so restorative to gaze up at the night sky, or walk amongst the trees in the early morning.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

This morning while I was sitting at the dining table looking out at the falling snow, I noticed a squirrel digging into the snow. While I was eating my breakfast of granola and nuts and dried fruit, the squirrel was looking for his. Later, I took a few walnuts in the shell and put them in the little cache hole the squirrel made. I also finally met face to face the stray cat that I occasionally see running quickly away when I open the door. Months ago, when the water in a five gallon bucket started to freeze, I turned it on its side and said I would put it away…eventually. Well, it has made a nice little cave for the cat. As I rounded the side of the house I could see into the bucket and there it was all curled up against the cold and snow. I felt for it, too, and went in to get some dry dog-food and left it in the empty bucket, hoping it would come back.
The dog and I walked the full loop this morning. During the walk the snow unfroze and came down as a light rain. The quality of light changed; the wetness from the rain made the trees darker and more foreboding and substantial. The dog Gus had moments of terror at the sight of a dark tree stump, and would not move forward; I had to drag him along until the stump was behind us.
I filled out my seed order for the garden. It was a nice diversion on this dismal March day. I never seem to plant all the seeds each year, so always have left overs, yet not enough for a full planting. I am also buying from a different seed company, so instead of having packets sold by the ounce or pound, this company sells by the packet and sometimes says how many seeds are in the packet. Who knows how much I will over-buy or under-buy this year? Each order is an exciting adventure, to be followed by the excitement of planting and watching the crop come up. I get less excited as the summer progresses and I have to tend with weeds and processing. I like, best, the planning stages of things; it portends greatness for the future, and leaves us with our hopes and dreams still in tact.
We haven't yet had to deal with the trials of life and any failures that may sneak up on us.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

It is snowing today. March roars and shakes its lion’s head and duff and dander fall white upon the earth. I have been out walking twice today. Early this morning I took the dog and we headed out. We came upon a curve in the road and I looked up to see two neighbor dogs, a shepherd and a pit-bull. I do not know these dogs, but I do know something of their owner, and I did not feel so good. They saw me though and turned and ran. I decided to continue my walk, but found a good stick to bring with me. I have not felt this discomfort when I have watched a coyote parallel my path through the fields, nor when I saw the markings of bears in woods in western Mass. Wild would choose to flee, but maybe not these dogs bred by man. I thought of a movie I watched not too long ago called “The Grey”. It is a movie of man pitted against the elements, but mostly against a pack of wolves. I chuckled at the running joke my friend and I now have from the repeated line of “Don’t be afraid”. What did I fear in this moment? I admit the walk was clouded with a different feeling and I never felt those moments of exaltation.

I went out again a few hours ago. The snow was coming down hard. Trees were covered and at times I needed to bend down under the laden branches of the hemlocks and pines. The woods were almost silent. It took a few moments of being still before I could notice a few calls from birds, the tzzz of a kinglet, was basically all that I heard, and that only in the deepest of the hemlocks. Walking by the beech with its dressing of dry golden leaves the sound of the snow was that of a rain-stick tilting slowly and gently. Or, is the sound of a rain-stick that of snow falling on the dry leaves of beech.

I have enjoyed this day. Reading, painting, writing, walking. So in a way I did get yesterday’s extra day.

Leap Day

It is Thursday, but I am taking the time to enter yesterday’s piece. I was home later than usual last night and didn’t get around to posting.
Leap day, I heard on the radio it is a day used to calibrate us with nature’s rhythm. Maybe I will use this day to return to nature.

Glints of yellow
As the goldfinch
Slowly changes its attire
From winter into spring
To spite the cold
The summer’s glittering gold.

12 degrees this morning. Gus, the dog, and I walked the half loop again this morning, in the reverse direction; west through the woods, then east along the river. Last night’s moisture lays silver, frozen on branch and twig; shimmering where the sun rises above the pine. I was not dressed for the temperature. I walked fast and did not stop. Yet, still, the morning crept inside me bringing me to that moment of awe in the quiet still cold.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


I have not written in a very long time. Life happens, so I can just let that go. But I have taken a trip to the west and for reasons not to be discussed here I am now feeling the need to write. I need to find something to ground me, so I think that if I decide to write, maybe I will pay attention more closely again and find that I can have this mix of flight and being grounded at the same time. So I hope to continue, to write about what I see and feel around me, and to pay attention to nature and what keeps me.

Last night, it snowed a gentle quiet snow. It was, just a little, but enough to make the world fresh and white.

Right now, I have the luxury, or maybe the impetus, of dog sitting again. Having another creature to tend, take out to the bathroom, to exercise gives me an added push to get out, where I might instead have chosen to stay in and drink another cup of coffee.
We were out at 7:30 this morning; walking half the loop. The sun was rising over the stand of pines on the other side of the river. Tracks galore, they tell a story as beautifully as braille or the dots and dashes of a telegraph wire, only I do not know the language. I know that I followed the snow shoe hare--two dots two dashes, and the mouse-- long line paralleled on either side by repeating dots. I think I saw a coyote--claws on the toes. I continue to look for signs of the neighboring bobcat, and occasionally I think I see its tracks, maybe even this morning.

I followed the river west so the sun was behind me. Sporadically the breeze puffed snow off the branches, but it wasn’t until I turned east again that I witnessed the gossamer flight of snowy eldils reflecting their spirit voices in a silver hue.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

February 26, 2011

I may be feeling beleaguered by the never-ending chores of winter: the shoveling, the raking of the roof, the bringing in wood, the shoveling, the raking of the roof, the bringing in wood. It seems to be a cycle that just repeats itself over and over. I wonder am I just going in a circle through time…yes in a way I am. Time circles through the seasons, back in upon itself and then reaches out through the years. The changes are highlighted by marks on a calendar, by a child growing up, leaving home, by the first gray hairs, the stiff joints, the soreness doing a chore that never bothered you before.
But I am already getting away from where I intended to head with this entry. Back to the drudgery of winter… and the highlights of the winter passing. The beauty and excitement has worn thin, until just the other day. Last year at this time, my humble home was visited by a barred owl that hung around for days waiting to catch some prey. On Thursday, I happened to be home, doing the mundane chore of folding laundry when I looked up and out my window. There about 8 feet from the edge on my house sat an overly large cat. It took me a second to realize this was no ordinary domestic cat, but the Bobcat my neighbor thought she saw a few days earlier. I got my camera and took many pictures through the window. It was obviously interested in the bird and squirrel activity at my bird feeder. It was hunkered ready to spring at the right moment. It paid no attention to me behind the glass, even when I tapped it gently to see if it would move. I wanted to get a photo of it showing its bobbed tail. I moved to another window to get a different angle. The bobcat accommodated me for a few more moments, then turned away an sauntered off into the woods.
At that point I called Tom, who lives next door. We donned our snowshoes and met on the trail between the two houses. We tracked the bobcat westward, and then it turned north, crossed the road and headed over a beaver flowage up toward the hill beyond. We didn’t follow it over the beaver pond, the snow and ice looked slightly questionable. But, I think I know where it dens. There is a mossy outcropping of rocks near the top of the hill overlooking a thick stand of pines. I may head up there one of these days. But then again, maybe the mystery is enough to hold me ever enchanted, and maybe too I need to respect its claim on a slope that isn’t mine.

Friday, February 4, 2011

nine degrees below zero

the hoarfrost glistens
a silver shadow
behind the starkness
of winter trees

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

February 2, 2011
Snow days galore since the beginning of the year. I think last week was the first full week that I went into work. Can’t say I haven’t minded the days to go out and play, or struggle in the snow. Each storm has brought about a foot of snow on average, and wind each time.
Today the birds are greedily working at the bird feeder. I have a new one that the squirrels can’t take over. I don’t mind that they get the seed on the ground, and I have actually begun to put some extra winter rye seed on the steps for them. As I make my rounds in the woods, I come across their caches. Tracks lead to a hole in the snow and remnants of acorn hulls and scales of pinecones litter the area.
On the new loop, I go by the den of the beaver (I think, as the only tracks I saw from it led to and from one of the mighty oaks they have been chewing). The warmth of their bodies keeps it open, and the snow crystalizes in lovely patterns. It is now a long way down to the actually entrance in the earth. It looks like they are taking an extra-long slumber; it has been three weeks since I have seen tracks.
This morning I went out while the snow was beginning to fall. It is very quiet during storms like this. I hear the quality of the snowflakes as they land upon my nylon parka, the pines, firs or still hanging oak and beech leaves. Each object the flakes fall upon affords a different tone and volume.
The river and even the waterfall is almost completely enshrouded in snow. There are no dark pools showing against the stark white of winter. Only just under the base of the fall and some of the surrounding rocks shows any hint that something is moving under the snow. I dare not try walking across even still, although the lure of the hemlock grove on the other side of my swimming hole is enticing. In the summer, I would think about swimming across to then walk in those woods, but it would have required I transport shoes across too and I was then always just a little bit too lazy. There is always next summer.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

January 9, 2011
I did something today that I haven’t done in years; I went to church. It isn’t quite the typical church when you think about church. I went to a UU church to hear a naturalist and friend speak. It was his turn to lead the “worship” (more like thoughts for the day.) Mike, whom spoke, is a scientist, naturalist, educator. He has years of experience behind him, a most profound love of nature and a deep-rooted spiritual connection to the environment around him. He sees perfection in the oddest of places. Today he read a description of winter that he got from an advertisement from Lee Auto Mall, it was beautiful. He read many quotes, said many wonderful things about the beauty-both inner and outer- that abounds in the winter. It is a time of cold, dark, hardship and fragile beauty in the snowflake.
It all resonated so clearly within me. I like all the seasons, but there is something about the winter that I find most captivating. It is stark, it is a contrast between white and black, it is bleak and sparkling, it is deadly and restful. I find it is the time that I sit in retrospection; it is when I feel the smallness of my place in the circle of the universe the most clearly.
Two days ago the temperature was in the single digits, the back drop of Russian novel weather. Here at my home, the trees were grey with the finest covering of frost, not too noticeable, but there. As I drove into work and closer to the ocean with its steamy warmth the trees were covered with a thicker layer of crystalline whiteness. Every branch, dried weed and blade of grass glimmered with magic and I could imagine a million tiny rainbows refracting in the sunlight. Who cannot accept the beauty of winter during moments like that.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

December 19, 2010
Baking cookies and finishing some Christmas presents has kept me more house bound than I would have wanted today. Yesterday, my daughter, her partner and I brought in this year’s tree. I had spied one near my driveway that I thought would be in the way in about five years. The top was comparable to a tree-farm tree. Unlike most that I cut and my daughter complains I always pick “Charlie Brown” trees. This year I thought I had out-done myself. I couldn’t remember how big it was at the base, so had her partner bring the chain saw, we didn’t need it. My daughter took one look at the beautiful tree I intended to cut down and said, “That’s too nice to cut.” She looked around; there were many small firs in the vicinity. “How about this one, it’s too close to that pine anyway?” I replied, “So now you are getting Charlie Brown trees.” She cut it down, pulled it to the house, and we decorated one more Charlie Brown. In spite of its gaps and spindly branches it looks nice.
I did a quick walk of the loop, through the woods to the waterfall and up around. It is cold; there is ice on the rocks where the spray from the falls splashes out. The little eddy has chunks of ice floating in circles. Soon they will be worn down to round pads. We had quite a lot of rain last weekend, then the cold set back in. The vernal pools are clear, etched with air bubbles and a filigree of white crystals, while the leaves underneath are cast with extra clarity.

Monday, December 6, 2010

December 6, 2010

A gift of a snow day today. So with unfettered time, I went for another walk in the woods. Today, no dog accompanied me, so all was relatively quiet. I heard the skreak as the soles of my boots compressed the snow beneath my feet, my heart beating and the puff of my breath. Upon stopping in a stand of firs, I heard the quiet call of a chickaddee or a golden crewned kinglet. I suspected a kinglet because the call was so quiet, and I did not see the bird, another indication that it was the kinglet. The vernal pools that I routinely pass were a steely gray as the snow settled and sank into the warmer water. I wondered about the frogs, tadpoles and salamanders that have dug deep underneath the ground to survive this winter.

I am reading The Watchers at the Pond, by Franklin Russell. It is an older book, from the 60's, that I found at the Goodwill. I liked the picture on the cover. Russell follows the life in and around a northeastern pond for a year. He writes of the struggles with the cold, heat, predators and unseuccessful breeding. It is bleak, yet extraordinary. I tend to look at the beauty I see in nature, not the hardship. One winter, I found the frozen body of a Golden Crowned Kinglet. I picked it up and admired the shading and the delicacy of its feathers. I did not think of how it happened to be dead under this particular tree. Of how it settled against the trunk of the tree during a particularly cold night and its metabolism slowed and slowed until it stopped all together. Now, I may think differently as I walk my woods. I will wonder about the birds, turtle,and the beavers that I share this space with. Maybe i am lucky that i have come from a species that has developed a brain that can manipulate external forces to survive. At any rate, I sit here cozy in my home as the snow continues to fall.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

December 5, 2010

The first post in a long time, it is accompanied by the first snow that I was able to witness. I had returned home from a Thanksgiving trip to see snow, but today I watched it fall and went out in it.
I have been neglecting this writing through the hectic time of summer and fall; gardening, harvesting, splitting and stacking wood. All those activities that the ant bustles to get done while the grasshopper plays his fiddle. Now I can return to the inner sphere and resume this passion that I have missed.
I went walking with my daughter's dog today. She has returned to her house next door, having been away for two years. Walking with a dog in the woods creates a different experience. The still contemplative musings of a solitary walker are abrubtly altered by an excited, quick footed puppy. He'd prefer that I threw a stick for him to retrieve every ten seconds. Sometimes I oblige, sometimes I don't. When I stop to take a photo of a lingering red partridge berry, he steps on it. But he carries an excitement that is contagious. I find myself smiling, laughing and walking more light-heartedly with him bounding around. As I walked today I realized that the next few trips out will require me to bring the pruners along. The trails are getting narrower as small saplings thicken and grow. I will certainly need to get out before I head out with the skis, I'm already a pretty clumsy skier, I don't need little trees tripping me up!
So here goes to my faithful reader of one! ie: jg. do you still check this now and then?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June 30, 2010

My literary moments are growing further and further apart. I thought this might happen. I use the computer less, and when I do use it, it is to check e-mail at a time when I usually don’t have extended time to begin writing.

Plus, I find that my moments in nature are less frequent, I am not taking long walks, and the moments seem more mundane or fleeting. I am in the garden or walking out to the mailbox at the end of a long day. Does anyone want to read about the mist rising up over the farmer’s field as I drove home from a meeting? Or my seconds long encounter with a doe last night. I met her on the road. She was beginning to walk into the road as I was driving down. I slowed; she turned and went to the edge of the trees. There she stopped, turned and looked at the big beast that slowed for her. Our eyes met: hers a beautiful deep-toned brown of earth, mine green and shielded by spectacles. Could she see into my soul? I did not tarry, I have not tarried watching wildlife on the road ever since I pointed to a partridge to my hunting ex-husband. He stopped the car and shot it. I will never be a point dog again! I find that now it is better to keep those moments brief and secret in my heart, as a treasure for me to carry within.

Parts of the garden are doing great, parts are not. I planted edemame (fresh soybean, as opposed to dry) this year and had four plants come up from a packet of about 30. I was just talking to a friend that planted some too; she had the same ratio of 4:30. Maybe it was a poor seed crop. The winter squashes never seemed to sprout either. The seed was a few years old, but…. There is a farm stand where I can supplement my failures. The rest of the garden is fairing quite well, and I have no complaints. I am battling slugs, as is everyone I know. At our last book discussion group, we talked about our various means of dealing with slugs. Some of the more gentle folks I know get pretty heartless when it comes to protecting their vegetables.
The birds continue to sing, the beavers are enjoying the swimming hole, and the plants are blooming all out of sequence this year.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Today a group of the land trust people met for a hike on some property in the town of Newburg. I must admit, I have not felt at all attached to the property, in fact the other times I went there I decided I didn’t like it. The town owns the land and it appears to have been heavily logged so much of it is covered in young growth. Because of that, there are not many views and the trail is ATV and snowmobile-wide, which I don’t like. I went today with the idea to look for the little things that are beautiful, and I found them.

First, upon stepping out of the truck, I spotted a few ripe wild strawberries. The field abounded in strawberry and raspberry plants. It will be good raspberry picking in a few more weeks. There were many ferns and wildflowers. I spotted Indian Cucumber and we tasted a piece of the root, for those that had never tried it before. I also found some Chaga (sp?)--a fungus that grows on birch which you can boil to make a tea. My sister gave me some for Christmas, and I have been trying to find it in the wild since then. No one wanted to try some, even though I could attest to its goodness; it must be that word “fungus”. As I said earlier, I was looking for the little things; much of the moss had their sporophytes up, little capsules with which they will spread their spores to reproduce. The tops were still tightly on, but it was worth a few photos. We came upon the dry remains of what looked to be a great vernal pool, and a larger view of farm fields and the hills of Dixmont.

After the trek though the woods we drove back to the president’s (of the land trust) house and had splendid and hearty potluck. It was a nice end to the excursion, with business and laughter on a breezy deck.

I came home after that luncheon feeling a bit lazy. I puttered in the garden pulling weeds with not much vigor or purpose. I began to hear the rumblings of thunder coming closer until it was close overhead. At that I looked up to see ominously black clouds to the north-west. I meandered to the porch to await the storm and watch from the comfort of the chair. The wind did begin to howl and the rain poured down in a deluge, while the thunder continued to rumble. I’ve yet to get that new TV I thought about getting when the world went digital. Who needs it!

Monday, June 14, 2010

June 14, 2010

I have the afternoon off. I was puttering in the garden, planting some seeds and transplanting the too crowded beets in anticipation of some rain. I moved some black-eyed susans from the flower garden into the field to speed up the naturalization process. They are one of those favorite flowers of mine. They were my mother’s too. In her garden/yard in suburban Connecticut she let the back yard go wild and create a lively field of yellow. Some neighbors didn’t like that she didn’t mow her lawn, but passersby often stopped to ask what the yellow flower was in the yard; some people even came back for seeds.

The rain did begin and drove me in. I guess I wasn’t too driven to work in the yard.
So here I write. Last night, I went to take kitchen scraps to the compost and saw what I at first mistook for my cat. Then I realized it was my friend the skunk. I skirted the composter and put the scraps on the edge of the garden. He ambled away, but it looked like he came back as the new scraps were gone this afternoon. Seeing the skunk got me to thinking about skunk tails or is it tales. I am sure everyone has a skunk story or two in their lives. I have at least three very memorable ones. The wildest was probably about a year ago. I had gotten home from work, went to shut the chickens in and stuck my head in through their little door. I can see their heads hanging over their roosting box. They were there and I shut the door. The next morning I went to feed them and give them water. As I opened the two people doors I saw that my girls had had a nightly visitor, wearing black and white, and a very strong perfume. Inadvertently, I left the door between the front of the shed and the chicken’s space open as I quickly fled. I opened their door and ran inside. I figured the skunk would amble out and that would be that. Well….The next morning I noticed that the grain bag had been torn into and corn was everywhere. I did a quiet search and found the skunk sleeping soundly with what was probably a very full belly behind some scrap boards that I was always going to use for shelves. I could not imagine how I was going to evict my unwanted resident. I contemplated setting up a stereo on the further side of the shed and plugging it in at the house so that the noise would scare him out. I opted first for a gentler approach. Since it was sleeping, I very cautiously took the corn out of the shed and into the house. Without the food that night, he decided to go off and look for grubs or whatever. Luckily, when I could have come face to face with the skunk, it was not at the chicken door. Luckily too that I was later observant enough to realize it was still around and I did not bumble in too noisily and quickly. There are other skunk stories to tell, but I will let them wait.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

June 9, 2010

I was driving in to work today and came upon a road-kill. A turkey vulture was sitting atop it and tearing off pieces as I approached in my car. The vulture was not immediately intimidated by the size of my matrix and lifted its wings up and out to “scare" me off. It thought better of it a few seconds later and flew into a nearby tree, to watch me pass. Then as I turned onto route 141 where I can see the workings of a growing gravel pit, I noticed a flock of vultures circling over the torn and scarred earth. How symbolic to have vultures, harbingers of death and destruction hovering over the dying earth.

I remember my first experience with vultures. I was about 12 years old and we were visiting relatives in Pennsylvania. Our older cousin, Jonathan, took us for a hike, through farmers fields, past cow pastures and up onto a nearby mountain. In one of the fields there were a dead animal and a flock of vultures raucously feasting. At that point, they seemed as tall as me. Jonathan led us very close to the birds, which were not the least intimidated by us. They hissed and lifted their wings to increase their visual size. I was thoroughly frightened, but I was not about to show it to my cousin and my sister and brother. I skirted the scene as far from them as I dared without looking like a chicken; but I couldn’t help imagining the vultures plucking my eyes out.

On a more pleasant note: I checked out the swimming hole in the evening yesterday. The beaver was sitting on the sandbar near the opposite bank. I watched it for a few minutes as it ate, then moved to the bank and returned to the sandbar with a twig of alder. As I watched it was oblivious, then I heard a giant smack in the pool below me, the lookout beaver spotted me and let out a warning smack on the water before diving under. The other beaver quickly swam up stream and around the bend. My beaver now has a friend. I hung around for a while, but neither one returned.