Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Sidewalk Going Nowhere

There’s a battle brewing—within the walls of my house.
As yet, I have not determined the nature of my enemy, except to say that it is “of Nature.”

The 1835 house we live in was, as many original homes in this area, badly in need of work when we found it. But the land was good. After all, a house can be repaired--the land, less so. With a stand of oaks behind and acres of rolling pastures, we bought the old farm 15 years ago, more excited about what we might find in the pond or be able to raise in the barn, than the challenges the old house would throw at us.

The two small upstairs bedrooms were barely adequate for our family of four--not to mention the closet problem. There were none.

The kitchen was what had originally been added to the brick house as a woodshed. An unfinished dark room, tacked onto the back of the house, with bare rafters overhead, barn-board walls, and a sloping floor—really only a problem, if you had applesauce on your plate, or peas.
An electric heater, plugged in under the sink, would prevent the pipes from freezing in the winter.

Our bedroom had what was probably the feature of which the sellers were most proud—its own toilet, placed in the far corner of a green-floored, attic-like space adjacent to it and situated under the eaves. Beside it, the only window in the room.
The perfect place to sit.
And read.

We wasted no time that next summer, putting on an addition—giving us the best of both worlds.
A house up front, with “character” and “charm.”
An addition behind, with everything else.

It is in this space between the structures, old and new, that strange sounds are heard.

(to be continued here)

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Six months ago today…

“I took a day to search for God,
And found Him not; but as I trod,

By rocky ledge, through woods untamed,
Just where one scarlet lily flamed,

I saw His footprint in the sod.”

~William Bliss Carman

We came across these Wood Lilies clustered in a grassy area at the summit of Sargent Mtn. in Maine, 6 months ago today.
They’re the native lilies, not like the invasive Daylilies that crowd our ditches—and they bloom with their faces upward. In many areas, they’re threatened, but on this mountaintop they’ve remained safe.
Like beacons, they bloom, magnificent in the bright sunshine.

As the rain pelts my window, another gray day is forecast for tomorrow.
But, I recall wood lilies and granite.
I know what it feels like to be on top of the world.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sun-kissed planet

The ice will be gone tomorrow.
Today’s sunshine left a kiss—a now frozen starburst within the mosaic surface of our pond.

We skated here last night, under a starry sky—gazing off to the point beyond all brightness. And savored the moments alone with our thoughts.

A speck of life in this vast darkness.

Where discussions revolve around foreign policy and health care, immigration and gun control, budget and economy.

While all that really matters—
revolves around the sun.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, January 28, 2008

When Nature takes her own

White snow, his blanket,

he rests on the forest floor.
Oaks stand watch above.

Dressed in the richness
of these woods—red, orange, brown.
Lord of air, fallen.

Little feet scurry
to see what strangeness lies here.
Still, they touch him not.

I found the body of a Red-shouldered Hawk, perfect in every way, preserved by the snow in the woods.
He appears to have broken his neck.
I wrapped him well and will carry him to CNC.

He will be admired by many,
but remembered by me.

Please click to enlarge.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Have you seen...

I can see my breath.
With each step, there is a “crunch.” The air is dry and near zero.
I am alone in our field this morning.

Faded grasses, bent and broken, shade pockets of snow and cast them barely blue in the early light of day.
Weathered bird houses stand still on tall gray poles, empty of life.
The scores of deep brown teasel heads have been picked clean. On top, only a dusting of white remains. The birds have gone elsewhere.
It would seem that I am truly alone.

But on the berm of the old pond beside me, there is a crystal palace.
Where pillars of white have wrapped the strands of grass. And feathery cushions catch the sunlight with a silvery flash.

The muskrat lives beneath.
Safe and warm.
Except for her breath.

"Have you seen...." is an effort to discover the unusual beauty in things not usually appreciated for their beauty.

Click on image for detail

This dense hoarfrost structure grown from her breath was like nothing I've ever seen before.
And, as I lay on the ground trying to take pictures of it, I could smell what first, I thought was a skunk.
It was her--just within the burrow.

Before and after

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Making tracks

The perfect winter’s night--full moon casting long shadows while snow fell ever so lightly--had given us the perfect morning for tracking.

Delicate flakes, still standing apart from the rest in the cold morning air, waiting for the sun or the pressure of a step.
I headed off to the pond—now solid from the week’s freezing temperatures and scanned the flat white expanse, where the night’s visitors sign a guestbook of sorts. The lure of the water’s edge--a hunting ground, even in this deep freeze.

Little footprints—birds, squirrels, rabbits—in clusters, as if they’d lingered safely, foraging here early this morning under the cover of darkness. Then, a trail, skirting the edge, and boldly crossing to the other side, caught my eye. It was fairly large and definitely canine.

Possibly a neighbor’s loose dog, though I thought not. Very straight-forward and business-like, this trail seemed to be—not the wandering of a roving Rover.
And, although I would’ve liked to find we had a fox—I immediately remembered the coyote resting in the cool grass back here last June.
Had he returned?

I checked the dimensions and measured the tracks, —I would be bold, too—and say, with certainty, “coyote.”

By evening, I was feeling very proud of my recently tested tracking skills, and eager to share the find with my husband returning home from work.
“The coyote was out by the pond this morning,” I said, greeting him. “I found his tracks.”

“Oh, I completely forgot to tell you! I saw him back there before I went to work.”

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Closet naturalist

What has 14 heads, 30 legs and 28 arms of differing lengths?

A small board on the kitchen table, where I sorted the piles of fluff ‘n’ stuff—the owl pellets I collected from beneath the perch of my barred owl.

When I gathered the gray, furry pellets last spring, I tucked them away, dried and odorless, in a bag, hidden behind a box of saltines in the back of the pantry—for a time when gardening, hiking and the likes would not consume every bit of waking time. Now, almost a year later, and, having emptied the closet of Christmas cookies and fancy crackers piled high for the holidays, I came across the odd-looking bundle looking dangerously like some no-bake, health food snack.

Winter days are meant for discovery—and a 3-day weekend of frigid temperatures would mean plenty of uninterrupted time for the project. Quiet hours, the wood stove warming the house, crouched over the kitchen table—working a puzzle, of sorts.
My closets go unsorted, the laundry basket spilling over with mismatched socks to be replenished to the drawers upstairs.
But, intrigue wins over order.

Much of the fur washes easily off—as the tiny shapes begin to emerge, becoming recognizable forms not unlike our own.
Delicate, yet strong, preserved intact—bright, white bone.
And, in almost every pellet, a skull—a key piece to this puzzle—unbroken, swallowed whole.

Laid out before me, the little bones, so perfectly clean, become the smallest mammals of our field.

At work this morning, we share stories of our time away.
“It was a nice weekend,” I say. “Relaxed around the fire, worked on a puzzle..."
I left out the 14 tiny skulls lined up on my kitchen table.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, January 21, 2008


Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, January 18, 2008

Revisiting Lake Katharine

It seems hard to believe.
Just last Sunday we walked in warm temperatures through Lake Katharine’s magnificent landscape, a preserve, unusual and strikingly beautiful.

Through hemlock woods, sleeping quietly beneath oak leaf blankets.

This Sunday, our weatherman is forecasting an “arctic front.”

I’m glad for the many pictures I took away with me, and the reminder they are, that even though the rural farmland surrounding me is vanishing, I live at the edge of beautiful places that will remain.
Places I can visit--for a day, and revisit--in an instant.

Sandstone cliffs surround Lake Katharine's protected habitat. Within the rock, rounded quartz pebbles remain—cemented by time, washed into the sea which covered most of Ohio 300 million years ago.
Now, fallen free as a result of weathering, they dot the trails—bright white, easily seen in the darkened preserve.
Pocks, bumps, swirls—sculpted by the elements, smoothed by the creeks have become toeholds for the smallest lichens,

the towering trees.

Could it be, it will be even more beautiful in spring?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A taste of something wonderful

When I think of “preserves,” I imagine something special. A creation standing apart from others similar—made a treasure by the value of its contents. Usually of small size—and, often a gift.

Lake Katharine State Nature Preserve, is just that.
And, although many would save it for a spring walk, set it aside for a warm, sunny morning to admire the many endangered wildflowers within--or a summer hike, under the shade of the bigleaf magnolias, while little waterfalls cascade through patches of mountain laurel and blueberries from sandstone cliffs.
We ventured into the cool, dark hemlock woods on an ordinary winter day—and treated ourselves to its wonder.
The filtered light, even in winter, creates a special place--a special feeling of calm within these walls.

Undisturbed in time, the verdigris on pine bark, its patina.

Fallen trees, their wood now shades of mahogany, are held--feathery fingers of moss, reaching, weaving.

The old stand with the new--sporophytes standing above the dense, mossy bed, crimson threads in the forest fabric.

Mosses and liverworts, thousands strong, building microhabitats for the smallest lives.

Nurturing the next generation.

Young hemlock standing in mossy bed of fallen tree.

Mosses and liverworts are unidentified. The thousands to choose from discouraged me from attempting it--please feel free to help out!

Stumble Upon Toolbar