Monday, December 21, 2009

The weekend weather

Last weekend left the world white.

For a while, I watched from the window--as a wave from the west brought wind and fluffy flakes, turning the woods into a wonderland.

I went for a walk along the trails, weaving my way around the wide circle,
the few frosty flakes already wet and melting.

The slightest snow, wonderful
on this first day of winter.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Away from it all

The Getaway

Beside the deep end of our pond, where the stacked rows of concrete pavers line a narrow overflow and the tangled roots of a small stand of locusts wrap the tunnels of a den of muskrats, a few feet of weathered wooden planks extend onto the water, just beyond the edge. Perhaps we are wrong to call it a dock, for neither a boat, nor cargo, nor passengers arrive here.
Nothing is loaded.
And no one ever leaves.
Yet, often I find myself here, waiting—for something.
Passing time on its 23 faded boards has become my favorite getaway.

The pond in spring green

On the first sunny day after winter, I spend the morning here, and wait as tentative turtles of every size emerge, one by one, to bask on a log on the opposite shore. Like them, I seek the warmth of the sun, and lay motionless, under an April sky bursting with bluebirds and apple blossoms.

Red Maple keys of early summer

I visit often in the summer, when the heavy, leafy cover of the surrounding woods and the density of our brick walls topped by their impenetrable metal roofs leaves me missing my contact with the outside world. The cell phone tower just a few miles away cannot seem to find me in the midst of it all. Yet on the dock, everything’s right here—four bars of service, the water yawning before me.

Snapping turtle surfacing

Last summer, I woke from a nap to the sound of swirls beneath me. Face down on the boards, peering with one eye through a crack to the water below, I watched a huge snapping turtle rise from the belly of the deep, and glide from under me to open water. I snapped a picture, and she was gone.

Each fall I look to the branches of the old ash in the pasture behind me, where my barred owl watched me once from behind as I scanned every branch to the front of me. I still remember her with a smile—our game of hide and seek, her victory. Instead, it’s filled with a large flock of cedar waxwings that gathers to gorge on the honeysuckle berries of bushes I’ve yet to remove. Yes, yes, I know--there's already a list for spring.

I walk away from an inbox full of last-minute shipping offers, midnight shopping hours, lines of traffic and cherry-cheeked Santas--to the dock.
My perfect getaway always takes me just where I need it to.


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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The feeder birds

The house is quiet.
From behind a sheer, frosty curtain, the world is waking—while the moon casts the sharp shadows of bare trees in bold lines across the woods beyond my window.
It will be the perfect day to stay inside--watch the feeder birds as I sift and sort.

December has become my month for housekeeping.
Not in the literal sense, although there’s a fair share of that, as well. Closets to be cleaned, the dusty underbed world, a freezer stocked with food wisely packed away, then forgotten--all attempt to catch my eye as I walk past them.
I’m a great one for hanging onto things.
Letting go, is my greatest challenge.

Tufted Titmouse

A generously stocked feeder has brought a frenzy of dawn activity. Titmice and chickadees dash in, one after another, and grab the black oil sunflower seeds, flying off to nearby branches to deftly pry them open. Elbowing past the finches and cardinals who are rolling the seeds around in their thick, nutcracker bills, they quickly return. Showers of shells fall all around.
On the ground beneath them, the sparrows scratch, forward and back. A junco hops up and over a fallen log at the woods’ edge, his belly already the dusting of white he finds on the snow-covered patio.

Slate-colored Junco

After almost 3 years of constant camera outings on new trails to be discovered with new lenses and settings to learn, I’m wading through an increasingly deeper and wider pile and file of photographs—35,000. And it shows no sign of sorting itself.
The mind that at one time could find each fairly easily, now struggles through the rising, swirling tide. Hard drive spinning, fans wildly alive, I’ve started to tag it all, sifting and sorting, in this housekeeping so badly needed.

From beyond the glass, they look at me.
Then all is quiet.
Again, I must run and grab my camera.

Cooper's Hawk, juvenile

Cooper's Hawk watching feeder

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Frosted sky

frosted window

A fast frost fell last night, covering the field and all its grasses, boughs left long since summer, with rows of crystal white. A covering so fragile, so fleeting, that the warmth off my hand as I stood close to it, dissolved them without a touch.
And the rising sun, though the air still frozen and cold, erased them in an instant.

sparrow in frosted field

sunrise on a frosted post

shadow and frost on the dock

frosted window

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Underneath it all

It doesn’t look like much, perhaps even an oversight—the terrarium left sitting on the front porch stoop, while others’ homes are now tidied for Christmas. But, the frosted glass and pile of leaves within are there, just as I like them.
Something’s going on--underneath it all.

Giant Leopard Moth caterpillar

As summer days were waning and butterflies had moved on, I found a hairy caterpillar wearing his woollies for winter—the prickly, black bristles that sprout from bumpy knobs in rings winding around his body. Bands of red skin flashed through them, as he bent and wiggled along. Intrigued, I kept him—and placed him with three more in the terrarium that always waits, ready, for something to come creeping.

Swainson's Thrush watching

For several warm weeks, they ate. And I was happy to bring them their favorite—short stems of that unwelcome honeysuckle, with the tender, fresh leaves at the tip. Then the days turned sharply colder and from the tree above, leaves fell in piles to the ground. Slower and slower, each day, they moved. Until they one day, I found them curled head to tail, resting in slight depressions they’d found or made for themselves in the rich, dark dirt I’d given them.

I peek in on them now, from day to day, as wintry frost lines the windows of their room.
Underneath the leafy blanket, next year's beauty sleeps.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

What a goat knows (SWF)

Autumn Grasses

The heat has cycled on, blowing the first warm breeze of the morning into a darkened room, which, though the clock has declared an hour past sunrise, the dimness outside denies.
A thick, gray cloud hides the Cold Moon.

Yesterday, in an effort to soak in the last warm afternoon before a stretch of colder ones arrive, I walked the field, drawing in the clean, autumn air with each long stride. And stood looking out from the woods’ edge at my favorite spot to stop.

October Barn

From here, the big, old barn looks small.
Phoebes and tree swallows gone, the field seems very empty.
But, I remember a sky, thick with butterflies, before the goldenrod faded to brown.

Summer Fawn

And how the deer, too, would linger in this spot, looking out from the safety of the woods.
Behind me, fallen leaves rustle with the slow and cautious steps of the same, whose footprints I see left on the ground beside my own. I am careful to move slowly along in this season, knowing that those I rouse will circle back and reclaim the space as I leave it. Hoping they won’t, instead, fearfully bound away and on to the next field.

pygmy goat

Behind the tall grass, resting in the pasture, are our goats, now just six.
These days for them, too, are all about drinking it in--contentedly waiting...and chewing things over.
And cycles that remind us that butterflies will fly again—soon.

happy goat

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Sunday, November 29, 2009


We traveled up the highway in the dark, leaving the city lights behind, as flat farmland unrolled around us in every direction. Aside from the occasional cluster of buildings whose pointed cone roofs rose above the faint forms of small homes, their lights glowing warmly within, there was much of nothing to see.

Then against the barren black, one red, flashing light in the distance became many.
And a broad, pulsing bank appeared, hundreds of acres across.
On the horizon, beat the heart of a sleeping giant.

By day, it looks quite different.
The tall turbines of Horizon Wind Energy stretch in lines, or arrays, towering up to 300 feet above the fields in northwestern Indiana. While beneath them, combines and trucks roll like the toys of a child--the season’s harvest, now, both wind and corn.

Operational since October 2009, Meadow Lake Wind Farm’s 121 wind turbines, whose rotors and blades each sweep an area 250 feet across, have the capacity to provide 60,000 homes with clean energy each year.

farm vehicles working beneath turbines (above)
close-up of area beneath turbines for scale (below)


Clean and white, their long arms slowly and silently sweep.
By night, their presence nothing more than a heartbeat.

wind turbines above farm fields
(click to enlarge)

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sunset of the Cranes

For the day's events leading to this sunset, please begin here.

Sandhill Cranes at Sunset
Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area
Medaryville, Indiana

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