Sunday, December 23, 2007

Winter Solstice - Random

It is the day after the winter solstice. It was warm, in the 40's, but the cold air has come rushing back. It is snowing hard but the snow doesn't seem to hit the ground. Instead it remains suspended in the air, blowing horizontally making it hard to see trees in the distance.

We go out with our dogs, Luka, a husky, mix and Ali, a twenty pound rat Terrier mix that looks like a German shepherd in miniature. The little dog doesn't belong out here. I feel guilty for bringing her. I can tell she wants to be picked up, but once I do that I'll be forced to carry her the whole way. She sprints around in the blowing snow looking uncomfortable and hunched up.

Luka was born for this, she rolls in the snow with her mouth open in a smile. The wind catches her ears and holds them up even though they are normally floppy. After we walk awhile even the husky is taking things seriously, head low to the ground trotting in a business like way rather than bounding and rolling in the snow.

Humans don't belong out here. I can feel the wind through my Carhartt , my cap and my snow pants. I thought I was dressed warmly, but I can feel the warmth leaking away into the wind. We are in an open field and my face is freezing pretty quickly. I turn around for a minute with my back to the wind. I think of an old James Taylor song and a snippet of it runs through my mind, "Lord knows when the cold wind blows it'll turn your head around".

Normally we would cross the top of the field, you can see more distance that way. This isn't a normal day and we make a quick decision to head for a trail that follows down a ravine into the woods. I doubt any animals are moving in this. They've found some bramble or grove of evergreens and have hunkered down waiting for the wind to pass.

In the woods its relatively calm, but we can hear the wind roaring in the branches of the larger trees. They sway and move like they have woken from sleep. Their limbs creak and crack like they are stiff from standing still for such a long time. It doesn't take much to imagine them pulling their trunks from the ground to walk off swaying and groaning. The little dog looks warmer now but she is nervous and on the alert because of the wind and moaning trees.

Something in me is a little bit afraid as well. Not of the trees falling in the wind --This is not like that. It is more knowledge or instinct that if I stop moving the heat will be drawn from my body in short order. I imagine a husky dog sitting by my frozen body like some Jack London Story. If I fell for some reason I wonder if she would run for help or curl up next to me. I hope so.

It's funny, but the moving trees have put me in mind of something that happened in the summer. I'm not sure if I discovered this myself or read about someone else seeing it first. Perhaps reading it allowed me to see it.

I was walking through weeds and grass. Looking down my eye was drawn to one grassy plant animated, jerking around like it was dancing. I stooped down and watched as the plant continued to dance, the surrounding plants almost still. The more I watched the plant the more I wondered how it could move that way. Delicately balanced and touched in jsut the right way by the breeze.

People can be like plants, moved in unexpected ways by unseen forces. I wonder if the plant moves on purpose.

Eventually we cut up the side of the ravine and headed home across the field with the wind at our back.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Well, we had a bear

The bear came to our area.
He caused a big stir, we don't often see bears around here.
He ate some bird food, left some tracks.
People called the DNR, alot.
"What should we do?" they'd never seen a bear.
They chased it up a tree and shot it.
Now someone has a bear skin and the dangerous animal is gone.

Wow, that was a short visit. I won't invite any friends that look like bears.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

New House in the Country

It's about 4:30 in the morning. I woke up about an hour ago. I was laying in bed wondering why I woke up. I thought maybe I was cold. It's down around freezing tonight outside and we haven't turned the furnace on yet. As I wake up more I know I have plenty of covers and it is something else that woke me. I realize it is an unfamiliar sound that has reached through sleep to wake me.
At first I have a slight panic. The sound is muffled. It could be a voice or music. Maybe it is coming from downstairs where the boy's rooms are. Instinct makes me wonder if one of them is hurt. No, maybe one of them is talking loudly or something in his sleep.

Now fully awake, I wait for the sound again. There it is again, hard to distinguish, it has rhythm. I can't really here it so I get up. There it goes again. It must be outside so I go open a window. It's a familiar sound now, though not common for me. It must be two owls in the trees about twenty yards from the house. The first one starts with a low Hoo Hoo and is joined by a second slightly higher voice HOO Hoo... Hoo Hoo Hoo.

I think this is a horned owl. The night is lovely , clear and crisp, no wind now. The stars are out .


All day it was chilly and windy. The radio is talking about our first frost. We built a house this summer and moved in a little more than a month ago. We have 17 acres of hills woods and field surrounded by state hardwood forest.

We haven't run the furnace yet. We are still impressed by the possible energy efficiency of this new place. Our old four square in town would adjust to the outside temperature in a matter of a few hours. It was 70 degrees in here when we went to bed. Outside its about freezing. We've lost about three degrees during the night.

I didn't feel like we had to move to the country. Our old place was just fine. We already owned the land and the idea got started and just wouldn't go away. Se here we are.

I was working hard to get the yard graded and seeded managing to get that done last week. Just before I seeded one morning I was admiring some raccoon tracks in the soft dirt of the front yard. I started following his path forward from where I noticed his trail. After a few feet I stopped to look at a new track. I haven't seen this before and I'm trying to make some sense of it. It's a big paw. the track is about the size of my hand, the five toes are a little thick than my thumb. There is just one track immediately visible. I'm trying to register what this is. It's in the mud. Could it be a malformed dog track? I circle outwards and find more tracks all around the house and just outside the bedroom windows. Some tracks are shaped more like a human foot with claws.

I realize it's a black bear. Most folks don't think we have bears around here. I guess we don now, at the moment.


The stars are much better out here. I don't know a lot about the stars, but I do have to stare at them when they are out. When people lived out in the elements everyone must have been experts. I recognize Orion and I love the Fall, so I have been waiting for him to make his appearance.

Tonight as I lay in bed with my glasses off listening to the owl duet, I look out our east bedroom window. My eyes are pretty bad. If you asked I would say I couldn't even see a star without my glasses. Well, I guess I can see stars, kind of, and can definitely make out a bright shape framed perfectly in my window sky.

It is the hunter, making his appearance on this night of the first freeze.


I tend to be a hard facts person. I tend not to go to church. Most mystical touchy feely stuff turns me off. I am not a scientist, but that is an accident. I am drawn to science stuff like a fly to fly paper.

I have noticed in this world that if an idea is worth stating, if it is viable enough to have life, it's opposite must exist as well. The opposite is required for existence. If nothing was bad, there would be no such thing as good. To be recognized, pure goodness must be thrown into relief by evil or pain.

Well I am no cave man or ancient Greek. I live in a house and type away on my computer. Today I came home from work for lunch. I walked around the yard looking for little grass sprouts in the uniform blackness of our bare yard. I stepped around the corner of the garage and saw a white bird standing on the ground in the middle of all that black soil, a dove?

It was perfectly white. So white it was striking. It was just 15 feet away. It didn't fly, but it looked at me and walked around. Now if I were an Ancient I would know exactly what this meant. I sensed importance. I stopped in my tracks. Before this white bird in a field of black could turn into some fickle Greek god, I turned quietly around and walked away so as not to disturb it.

It was a pigeon. I wouldn't give it ten seconds in front of a farm boy with a shot gun.


I want oak trees in our yard. I know they will never be big trees in my day, but I would sooner live with the anticipation than bow down to my mortality. I could plant soft maples or basswood or some other fast growing perfectly good tree, but now I want oaks.

A long time ago I was mowing a yard and noticed hundreds of young soft maples sprouting. I took a hand trowel and replanted as many as possible in rows in what was supposed to be a vegetable garden. They got pretty big over the summer. In the fall they got transplanted all over the place and a few still live today as big trees.

But I want oaks. In nature acorns are saved like money. Everything eats them or hoards them. My dogs even eat them when we go out.

Several weeks ago I could hear the acorns falling through the leaves and hitting the ground at night. Now they have lain in the rain and mud. I notice little splits in some of them. If I pick one up it is stuck to the ground by a tap root making ready to put up a small tree in the spring. There will be thousands of new trees!

I have tried planting acorns before. If you take them right when they fall it seems like they won't grow. They need to lay awhile in the weather. I have picked up these acorns that are just putting down roots in a repeat of my maple endeavor. I discovered that the stem that sprouts in the spring is not just a small tree with a leaf or two. In nature it is a billboard that says FOOD!

My little oaks were rooted up and eaten by squirrels. I trust other things eat them as well. Out of millions of acorns, very few become old oaks.

Maybe its best to rely on natural selection. With my shovel I went looking for little oaks around the field edges - they grow in fields, not in the woods. I found several trees only a foot tall. I pushed my shovel into the ground all around the tree and pried the chunk of dirt upward.

My clod of dirt wast at least twelve inches deep yet the dirt came up and the tree stayed put with the sod and dirt pulling up and over the branches like a t-shirt coming off. The tap root on these trees was deeper than I could go with a shovel.

So I borrowed a little tractor with a front end loader and found a slightly larger sapling growing on eroded overhang. I managed to scoop out the tree with about a ton of dirt. Turns out I still broke the tap root. I planted something that looks like a healthy young red oak, but I fear it is just a stick with leaves that will shrivel and fall off. Spring will tell all.

The light is coming. I will say good bye to Orion for now and greet the first cool fall day!