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I started for the daily walk. Today, November 30th, is the last day of Hunting Season. Tomorrow we woods-lovers can return to tramping through the forest without fear of getting shot. (Except I think some other kind of hunting season starts December 1st. But it’s not the kind of hunting season that has lots of visitors from downstate and Wisconsin and Illinois and Ohio.)
Headed to the mailbox, humming a little, pondering all the outdoor suggestions you folks have offered (my poor mother experienced a few minutes when she could not sleep last night worried about what her daughter would write for the remaining days of the outdoor adventure, can you imagine that? Note to self: quit complaining! Something always comes up. And look at all these good new ideas.)
When suddenly. Several feet away. A deer. A doe. Staring at me eye to eye. We considered each other.
I fumbled with the shutter. The camera sang its little greeting song, but the deer didn’t move. Snap, snap, snap! The camera shot its photos.
You see, the deer wanted badly to cross the road. But I stood too near the road. We waited at an impasse. The camera kept shooting. Snap, snap, snap.
“You better be glad this isn’t a gun, dear Deer!” I said. “I’ll bet you’re glad it’s the last day of hunting season, aren’t you?”
The deer flicked its ears and looked impatiently at the other side of the road, bored with my conversation.
Let’s take a short commercial break before we see what happens. Will the doe move? Will Kathy get another shot? Will deer season end with a trophy photograph on the wall?
Yes, indeed, this is the stop sign I told you about yesterday. Our neighbor AJ had spotted the bullet hole which threatened the letter “T”. Someone obviously felt a little frustrated because he or she couldn’t shoot a deer. So they shot a stop sign instead.
Back to the exciting final moments with my deer.
The camera is shooting wildly! The deer’s white tail is up in the air! She’s leaping! She’s crashing through the brush! She’s running to escape the shutter lens!
And the final photo, in dream-like haziness:
I proudly returned to the house with my photo-trophies. The deer happily bounded into the woods to meet its compatriot.
Hunting season is over!
Until, of course, the next deer crosses the path of this camera. 🙂
It finally happened today. Three hundred forty-four days into the outdoor commitment and the Moment came.
The Moment I had always feared.
I opened the door, walked outside, aimed the camera at… Aimed the camera at… Aimed the camera at… And there was nothing interesting in front of the camera. Nothing. Not a darn thing.
Everything looked too ordinary to even focus the lens. I peered everywhere. Up close and far away. Up close all you can see are the following: dried reddish leaves, smatterings of snow, dried plants and flowers, leafless bones of trees and… Well, that’s it.
I marched down the road in a tizzy. What to photograph, what to photograph?
It was getting more desperate by the moment. How can you write a blog when there are no photographs? Why oh why have I put in five to seven photos a day recently? What stupidity! I should have only posted two a day, and then there would be plenty of leftovers to make it through the November/December stark days of gray and white.
I met our neighbor, AJ, a blog reader, on the road. He was dressed in his hunter-orange jacket to avoid getting shot by errant guns during hunting season. I was wearing red plaid. (Why oh why didn’t I think to photograph AJ?)
“AJ, there’s nothing to photograph, nothing in the world!” I moaned pathetically. “Everything has already been photographed!”
“Yes, there is,” he replied patiently. “You could take a picture of the stop sign at the end of the road.”
(The stop sign at the end of the road? The stop sign at the end of the road?)
But then he explained.
“There’s a gun hole through the stop sign at the end of the road. Somebody shot the stop sign.”
Now I suppose I could have gone up to the end of the road and taken a photo of that stop sign, but I was walking the other way and already planning a blog about how there was nothing to photograph. We said our goodbyes and I continued my mental fretting, “There’s nothing to photograph. I have photographed everything in this county for 344 days…how in the world to get through the next three weeks?”
Of course when I got home Barry then had to offer sixteen suggestions during the rest of the afternoon. How about this? How about that?
So now I’m not stumped anymore but because the only available photo was a stump…
P.S. And since the majority of readers tend to drop in on Monday, all I can suggest is this: If you want to look at photos, how about review some of the older blogs? As Barry just said, even Jay Leno has re-runs.
P.S.S. Anyone else have any ideas? Any outdoor adventures left undone? Please?
This may be a low point in the outdoor blog.
Why am I writing a blog entitled, of all things, “Don’t you eat that yellow snow”?
It’s a long story.
WordPress, the lovely host of this blog, tells you the results of top searches for your blog. For example, someone could type in “opening the door, walking outside” and that appears as one of the top searches. This week’s top searches include firewood pile, Ojibway park leafs (?) and the Huron River. All fine and dandy. However, recently, a few times one of the top searches for this blog has included the words “yellow snow” and “Don’t you eat that yellow snow”.
Honestly! Tell me, people, have I ever written six words about yellow snow? Ever? In this whole year? Why do searchers looking for the elusive yellow snow get to MY blog? Honestly!
I’m sure some of you know that this is a reference to a Frank Zappa song. We listened to it at dinner. Polite dinner music, as you can imagine. The main refrain is: “Watch out where those huskies go, and don’t you eat that yellow snow”. In fact if you’re in the mood for a little Frank Zappa with your blog-reading, do click here.
Anyway, I’ve decided to give some of you blog searchers your due. You can see some yellow snow. It may not be huskie-yellow-snow, but it’s bona fide yellow snow. Get your fill.
Yes. it’s official. The yellow snow at this time of year is caused by tannin in leaves seeping into the snow. Or so I’ve been told. I really am not an official source on the subject. But it sounded plausible. You can click here to learn about tannin and determine if you agree.
There is yellow snow everywhere! Orange snow, yellow snow, brown snow, stained snow. And there are not that many huskies in the woods, I can assure you. Not even that many deer. It’s the tannin. Take my word for it.
And can we get one more close-up view of the culprit, please?
I have a lot of other more meaningful things I could share with you today. But they were all indoor adventures. I’ll bet you’re sorry this in not an indoor/outdoor blog, aren’t you?
A terrible thing did happen this morning, though. A very sad thing. I was headed to Marquette before the first light stained the horizon. It was pitch dark. Blacker than black. The headlights suddenly spotted a white rabbit running crazily across the road and I swerved the car praying not to hear that thump…please, rabbit, don’t…but sure enough the tire thumped against the rabbit. (However, I looked on the way home and there is no dead rabbit lying in the middle of the road, so it’s hard to say what happened. Two family members dared to ask if I got out of the car in order to bring home rabbit booya, which is the local name for rabbit stew. I don’t know why these particular family members would ask, considering our mostly-vegetarian status.) In honor of the rabbit we listened to Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit. Go Ask Alice, when she’s 10 feet tall.
Later in the day a white seagull almost crashed into the front window of the car. At this point I started feeling like a potential mass murderer of white animals. Fortunately the seagull flew upward at the last minute.
Here ends my Yellow Snow blog. I promise not to write about it again this year.
Dear Friends, Black Friday has come and (almost) gone. We’ve all decided to give natural items for the holiday this year, haven’t we? Especially for our virtual friends. Because most of us only know each other in cyber-realms, we shall have to exchange cyber-gifts. This avoids the prohibitive cost of mailing. Please sit down at your computer and prepare to open your gift. I suppose you can have more than one. You don’t even have to wait for the holidays. Please be considerate of the other cyber-recipients, though.
I shopped for gifts for all of you today. Oh my, there are too many of you to name with insulting at least dozens of you. But I am going to throw out some names at the top of my head. (All of the names not mentioned are at the bottom of my head, which doesn’t mean I love you less, it just means that for some reason you were waiting patiently at the bottom of the head and didn’t funnel out first.)
So here are gifts for the Susans, Cindy, Gerry, the Amys, Joanne, Dale, Kiah, Christopher, Craig, the many Jessicas, fountainpen, Gigi, Sybil, Emma, Julia, Pamela, Sandy, Christine, Carla, the Dawns, Deborah, Jen, Karen, Melinda, Catherine, Yellow Bells, Christie, Scot, Tim, Mom, Dad, Georgia Mom, Patty, Sonya, Kim, Janet, Laurie, Raven, H. Forward, Mrs. Uhdd, Reggie, Maunderer, Kath, Bree, Nature Loving Super Mama, Iris, Tina, Doris, Margo, Nancy…AND IF I’VE MISSED ANYONE ELSE WHO WANTS A PRESENT PLEASE GIVE A HOLLER AND YOU CAN CLAIM YOUR VIRTUAL GIFT TOO! (oh and all you unknown blog readers…please…take a gift. I am so thankful for all of you for stopping to read, even though we might never even have “officially” met in this virtual or earthly world.)
Of course this was all Sahlah’s idea. As I posted yesterday, she got the brilliant idea that we should shop for rocks and feathers and twigs and such on Black Friday for all our blog readers.
If we meet face-to-face on the street I will give you a real rock. I swear it. I will carry around that basket of stones in my car until the Solstice. However, I’m afraid that there’s only a handful of you within shouting distance. So the rest of you must be satisfied with virtual gifts. As we’ve only had virtual acquaintance, I’m sure you won’t be dismayed or disappointed.
These are some of my prized possessions and gifts from the woods. But I’m willing to give them away to you in spirit, because I know you will honor them. You readers, I can tell, share a deep love for the earth, for the blessings of the land, for the abundance which surrounds us everywhere.
Rocks, feathers, pieces of woods, antlers, sticks.
As precious as Nintendos, computers (hmmm?), cell phones, iPods?
In the above virtual stone gift you could have one rock or both. It’s up to you. It’s kind of hard to separate them in the virtual world, though.
OK, tomorrow I really do have to hit a few stores for a few small gifts. I’m not a big shopper. (Can you tell? Maybe I could just shop virtually from now on. Tell the relatives, “Just log in on-line and you can see a picture of my gift for you.” Hmmm, wonder how far that one would go?)
Hope all of the rest of you had fun on your Black Friday shopping. Enjoy your gifts! 🙂
Happy Thanksgiving all you blog readers!
Even if you don’t celebrate thanksgiving, I am thankful for YOU.
Today (besides being the once or twice a year our mostly-vegetarian lips touch meat…that’s if you don’t count fish) we ate Thomas Turkey. He tasted quite good. Baked to that fall-apart perfection. Add some mashed potatoes, gravy and homemade stuffing and you’ve got a dinner to be grateful for. We said our words of thanks. I read a poem by Rafael Jesus Gonzalez entitled Grace. We included our family and friends, near and far, into the heart of our prayers. We ate.
It was snowing this morning. A very light snow, dusting the ground and then melting into it. Flakes danced from the sky and melted in odd patterns everywhere.
I was truly fascinated with the way the snow melted on the car. How interesting! What loops, what hieroglyphs, what symmetry! One has a lot to be grateful for when the snow melting on one’s car is more entertaining than a movie or a Macy’s parade, don’t you think?
Barry put up the bird feeder a couple days ago. We’ve been waiting breathlessly for the arrival of the chickadees and nuthatches. They have been calling and chirping all around us in the past few days. They kept singing, “Where is our bird feeder? Where is our bird feeder?” but when we finally put it up, they were nowhere around. Until this afternoon when we put the turkey in the oven. Then there were a dozen of them pecking away in the feeder. I was too busy to photograph their majesties.
Excuse the insertion of this green moss photo. It was taken yesterday, before the world turned white. Isn’t it a stunning color of bright green against the autumn leaves?
Another interjection: Remember when I told you about the NaNoWriMo commitment of writing a 50,000 page novel during the month of November? How many of you placed bets it couldn’t be done? Well, I am here to tell you that 51,214 words have been sprawled across 96 pages and I now have the official “prize”. You want to know what the prize is? I will upload it for you:
However, of course, the novel is not done. Nowhere near done. The characters are still deep involved in their drama, romance and historical fiction. Who knows when it will be finished. This month? Next? I do vow to finish it. Some of the writing is so raw I’m sure you could scrub countertops with it (ha ha, how’s that for a metaphor?) but other passages are almost…almost…fairly decent. The editor would have to utilize an eraser and thesaurus before anyone could ever read it.
Just wanted to let you know the status of this secondary commitment. Which didn’t really interfere with the outdoor commitment at all, did it?
What else can I tell you about this Thanksgiving night? How about the bald eagle which landed in the tree over the garage and sat there a long time? Barry said he’s seen it there two or three times lately. I tried to grab the camera and capture his majestic wings in flight but he flapped away with his broad wingsweep the very moment the front door opened. Like all good trackers, I followed him up the road. He landed in a tree. I approached; he flew away. I shook my head and wandered back home, photographing ice crystals instead.
As for the front porch: oh my! Very dangerous. An unsuspecting walker, say, someone with birdseed in his hands, could take a sliding dive on the icy steps. Luckily, we maintained our wits. We walked oh-so-carefully. No one tumbled. No one fell.
We were truly thankful as we said our Thanksgiving prayer this year.
Sending you all Thanksgiving blessings, as well.
****Darn! Darn! I almost forgot to tell you THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. Phew. Memory is not always the best. Dawn, Sahlah, had a great suggestion for Black Friday. I will paste her idea here:
I have an idea – we can all give virtual rocks/feathers/twigs/puddles whatever to each other in our blogs!
We could spend Black Friday searching for those “just right” images…
So that’s going to be MY Black Friday shopping. I’m going to officially shop for rocks. And a few other goodies from the woods. Virtual presents for all of YOU!
With bowed heads we remember
the sweet-shining sun under which the turkey strutted
all bold and daring,
the mud puddle where the pig wallowed,
the dark smell of the chicken barn,
the honking of geese.
We give thanks for the loamy earth where grew
that fat potato, the golden orange of sweet potato marrow,
the rooted slender carrots,
the curve of deep green beans.
Our heart remembers the moon which gives itself to wane and wax,
the roaring of tides in and out,
the ripening of acorns on the mighty oak,
the fierce red cranberries in the bog.
The yeast that bubbles water and hearty flour
into something new, something crusty, something tangled
with sweet butter and honey.
We give thanks for pumpkins and apples and walnuts and
maple syrup, drizzled from tree to plate.
Oh Thanksgiving table born of earth and sky,
this day our hearts open to kneel
on a horizon of thanks.
You feed us.
May we remember you this day as we
P.S. oh I better tell you what I did outside today. Walked up the road in the drizzling rain and down the road in the drizzling rain. Later stood in the drizzling rain helping Barry with his garage-addition project. Yep, that was it for the outdoor adventures today.
I have Christmas shopping plans for this weekend. Maybe not for the Official Shopping Day, Black Friday. But at least for Saturday. I’m headed for Marquette (before or after a delightful luncheon with special twins in the Ishpeming/Negaunee area). But there are a few key Christmas items which must be found. I will join the throng of shoppers and…shop.
But I decided to first discuss the matter with the Forest on my walk today. Just to see what the Forest thinks of our Christmas Shopping plans. And specifically Black Friday.
Me: Hi Forest! How are you today?
Me: I know you’re not into talking too much in words. But I have a question for you. What do you think about all of us humans shopping like crazy this weekend? What do you think of Christmas? What do you think of exchanging gifts? What do you think of all the money we spend?
Me: You’re not going to say too much are you? Please? Just a few words? Even if the words don’t really explain too much. Just try. What do you think of Black Friday?
Forest: Look at my red strawberry leaf. Look at my little spruce tree. Look at my goldenrod balls. What do they tell you?
Me: Umm, I think…they are telling me…keep it simple. Don’t make it so complicated. Don’t shop just to spend money. Really think about what we’re buying. Try to buy gifts that express our hearts. Is that it?
Forest: give from your heart. It’s not about the money. It’s about the small things. Spending time with family and friends. Sharing food, drink, beauty, gifts. Don’t try to buy love or feelings or presence. Give simply, from your heart, no matter how much money you spend.
Me: But Forest, maybe we shouldn’t spend ANY money at all. I know that would screw up the economy and everything, but maybe we should just forgo money and not give at all. Then we wouldn’t be taking anything from You. We wouldn’t be cutting down your trees, taking your minerals, using your resources. Don’t you agree? We shouldn’t spend at all?
Forest: Don’t be a stick in the mud. I keep telling you. It’s not a matter of money. It’s a matter of your heart. It’s a matter of looking deeply to see: What is your real intent? When you look closely at your real intent, you’ll give simply when simple is required and lavish when lavishly is required. Don’t just give the way you’ve always given before. Look into your heart and intentions and then you’ll know what you’re suppose to buy.
Me: Oh. OK. But that’s still hard. Especially when you’re in the stores and everything looks so good and interesting and entertaining.
Forest: Don’t just give or buy to satisfy the voice inside you that wants more, more, more. That doesn’t help any of us.
Me: So when I go to Marquette this weekend…I am suppose to buy Christmas presents that mean something. That share the love that I feel for family in friends. Maybe I should give them some pretty Lake Superior stones for Christmas? Do you think they would like that?
Me: I wonder what everyone would say if they just got one stone for Christmas. Hmmmm. Maybe better visit a few stores, just in case…
Tonight I am going to come clean. Admit a huge psychological problem. Time to tell you the ugly truth.
And the reason I can share this truth with you tonight is: I am almost cured.
But it’s been a long haul, a long road.
Imagine yourself moving to your Little House in the Big Woods. (I am suddenly fascinated with the parallels between this life and the Laura Wilder Ingall’s Little House on the Prairie books that I read to my children before they could toddle. Well before they started kindergarten anyway.) Imagine yourself building an idyllic little cabin in the woods and raising children who ran wild and free building forts and playing amidst the trees.
Really imagine what this feels like. You are surrounded by trees. Trees everywhere. Trees to the left, trees to the right, trees behind you, trees in front of you. You carve out a space for a house and perhaps garage and lawn, but you’re in the forest.
What does this mean? It means there is no visible horizon. You cannot see the sun set or rise, except through the blanket of tree branches. You are always surrounded. Your sight can no longer stretch infinitely to the north or west or east or south. It stops. It stops when it meets trees.
And you have to learn to live in this forest-world, without the gift of a horizon.
So I must tell you the ugly secret. For much of my life here in the wood I have experienced horizon envy. Envy of those who have a horizon. Yes. It was quite painful. In the early years I begged my forest-loving husband “Please can we move down by the water? I must have a view! I must have a horizon!” But my pleas fell on deaf ears. He loved the woods. He couldn’t imagine what his crazy wife was talking about. And I certainly couldn’t articulate about horizon envy.
The years passed. I scurried on down to the lake as often as possible. The kids and I camped on the doorstep of the neighbors for a long stretch. Well, actually we kept inviting ourselves for coffee. Because they were such wonderful people and because (this gets really ugly, I know): they had a horizon.
Until one day I started looking at the Little Things. The tiny plants. The texture of bark. The mosses. The leaves. Really looking deeply. Appreciating what was there under my feet and all around in the forest. Wow! Details that had never before been noticed. Subtle gifts.
The forest came alive and suddenly, one of those days, I realized I was no longer desiring the horizon. Well, not as much anyway. There still is a little bit of horizon envy. It may never go away. Especially when the best sunset you can sometimes view is a reflection in a mud puddle in your driveway.
Pa Ingalls moved his family out to the prairie. They left the Big Woods and moved to a place where the horizon was all they could see. No more being surrounded with trees. They were on the big wide expanse of endless view.
Nope, not me. I’ve decided. I like this woods just fine. As long as there is a lake you can walk to a quarter mile away. There are Michigan mountains in this county, as well. You can climb ’em and admire the horizon all you want. And some of my friends have farms. Fields stretch in all directions around their house. You can go and breathe deep and feel like you are an eagle, looking in all directions at once.
My friend Melinda visited from California once in the middle of our green and leafy summer. She lives atop a mountain. She couldn’t get over the claustrophobic feeling of being surrounded by trees.
I understood what she meant.
Yet I have learned that sometimes the things we need to see next are given to us in life. I needed to open my eyes and look at the little details, the little things. Some people may need the wider view, to live atop a mountain or beside the sea. Sometimes what we want aren’t the same things we need.
Yep. That’s what I’ve learned from this challenging case of Horizon Envy.
Pardon me, Mr. Tree.
Are you up for a discussion?
Have any advice for us humans? Anything you want to share with us? Any words of wisdom?
Should we be looking up at the sky or down at the earth? Optimistic? Pessimistic? Realistic? Which direction should we look?
Should we look up close? Is the answer in the details or in the wider view? What do you think? Please don’t just stand there with your branches blowing in the wind. Whisper some secrets. Tell us the Secret of Life. Please.
Ahhh, so that’s the language you speak. All the swirls and hieroglyphs. Are we suppose to understand what you’re trying to say in your tree-ness? What ancient Egyptian-like language are you speaking? Do we need to get quieter, Mr. Tree?
You are saying something, aren’t you? Something deep. Something profound. Something miraculous.
What is it?
Oh, yes. I hear you now. You say to us, “You are barely scratching the surface”.
That is your message to us tonight.
We will go deeper tomorrow. Look deeper. Look wider. Keep our eyes wide open.
Please continue to teach us with your bark and leaves and roots and seeds. Help us to look beyond the surface. Help us find our own tree-nature hidden beneath our feeble twig-language. Help us learn to bend without breaking in strong winds, how to let go of our leaves when the time comes.
Thank you, Mr. Tree.
It’s been 336 days now. Three hundred thirty-six days of opening the door, walking outside. In rain, in snow, in sunshine, in happiness, in resentment, in indifference, in delight. The outdoors has opened itself to me, and I have opened myself to it.
One month from now, on December 21st, the Winter Solstice will occur. One year ago on the Winter Solstice we built a big bonfire back behind the house in a clearing in the woods. My daughter, Kiah, was home and we invited a good friend, Catherine, over for the official commitment ceremony. We each stated what we desired to accomplish during the next year and placed our slips of paper in the fire…which carried our intention to the heavens in the form of smoke and ash. If you want to read about that first evening by the roaring fire please click here.
And now the year is winding down, as the hours of sunlight decrease each day. Winter approaches. We’re moving toward the depths of the year, toward the darkest hours. Here is the place where we perhaps dream of next year. Where the seeds of our next movements are born.
We contemplate, we give thanks. We dream perhaps of new directions. Perhaps we’ve traveled west for a while; now it’s time to travel north. (Metaphorically speaking, of course. I am still aiming to travel ALL directions!) We say goodbye to the green grasses and fallen leaves. Snow’s sleep will come upon them soon.
I spent lots of time outside today. How shall I count the ways? Outside helping Barry with his garage-addition project (two or three times). Outside picking stray wet leaves out of the perennial garden. And later on in the late afternoon, Barry and I decided to drive over to Keweenaw Bay to Carla’s Restaurant. I really didn’t need to eat out any more after last week’s eating-out-extravaganza in San Diego. But poor Barry hasn’t eaten out much lately…so over to Carla’s we drove.
On the way there I asked, “Would you like to see the hidden lake I discovered earlier this year?” Yes, he would like. It’s behind the Pow Wow grounds. You can read about the magical day of discovering the hidden lake here.
We followed the almost-hidden path back to the little lake just as dusk descended. He liked it. I was pleased to see the placid waters yet again. Ducks flew up in a squawking flight of wings as we approached. It looked like they were running across the lake as they attempted to rise. The lake was filled with invisible duck tracks that shimmered in the fading light.
We walked back to the car. “Hey! Look at that partridge over there on the fence!” I said. Grabbed the camera, stalked toward it (probably with all the finesse of a large elephant). Triumphant because the partridge was not moving. It would be the best partridge photo of the year! A National Geographic up-close wild animal shot.
But wait a minute. As I got closer it didn’t look like a partridge anymore. It looked like…
…an owl wing.
An owl wing? What was an owl wing doing here on the fence?
But then I got the shivers.
The book I am writing for NaNoWriMo is about an Ojibway medicine man named Kookookoo’oo. (Well it’s partially about an Ojibway medicine man, but he’s a big part of the story.) And you know what Kookookoo’oo means? You got it.
I’m not 100% certain it’s an owl wing. It could be some kind of little hawk wing. (In which case the medicine man might be saying, “Change my name, will you?”) But I have found many owl and hawk feathers over the years and these looked more like owl.
OK. That’s the story of how today’s outdoor and indoor adventures and dreams all merged together.