These cool nights of early autumn unwrap dream presents,
untying the ribbons of my first deep and restful sleep since
midsummer’s soggy wool blanket of hot and heavy air
smothered the North Country and tucked in for a stay.
Dew-wet dreams of morning bird hunts past and future
soak sodden my boots and pants cuffs, rag-mop my dogs,
make rusty-hinged joints scrape and ache on walks that could
be light and wingless flights if real would yield to fantasy.
Maudlin nights I dream about my dogs, the ones gone on,
and wonder if I will see them again; a vexing thought
that leads away from coverts and down toward swamps
some of the dogs would rather not hunt – with me, anyway.
Not all canine reunions are a pile of happy puppies.
Peg and Annie never liked me; best we go our own ways.
Zeke was the sad-eyed house guest that refuses to leave until
you call a cab, give him twenty bucks, and slam the door.
Pete, the all-star-talent on your team, breaks your heart,
blows your gasket: always a happy drunk on game day.
Put the rest of us together one night in bird camp, though,
and there’d be yipping and barking and hugs all around.
Fleck, Suzie, Molly, Herco, Jessie – we’d have us a time.
Real in dreams, these cool nights and, I hope, for the long sleep.
Our time on this Earth is a momentous gift. For each of us, deciding how we will use that gift is an enigma.
What will you do with your three seconds? How well will you fare with your fleeting speck of time in the procession of humankind’s pageant on Earth?
Three seconds. That is all the time we have, in a relative sense. Human beings appeared in a flash of evolution and dominated the Earth as fast as the minute hand could sweep the face of the anthropological clock. Our survival was something of a miracle for two million years, and then the miracle became a swarm. We became preeminent, populous and capable of altering the natural forces of this world. This power seemed a godsend for a time, and then it became a runaway engine. We have much to account for, and we each have our three seconds to try to balance our debts.
Homo habilis, the first creature that many anthropologists regard as human, sweated under the Sun and looked up in wonder at the Moon 2.4 million years ago. Compared to the age of the Earth – 4.5 billion years according to the best estimates of geologists, astronomers, and mineralogists – mankind’s story is not long.
Naiveté is the headwaters
of all rivers of adventure.
The Nelson Place. That is where I should go, I’d been told.
I do not remember his first name; maybe Duane. But as promised on the directions hurriedly written on a bar napkin, the Nelson family name was roughly lettered on the bottom rung of a ladder-like stack of thin boards nailed to a sign post, each board painted with the name of a ranch that could be reached only from this two-track road meandering across the treeless Montana prairie.
Each name board included numerals – 3 or 5 ½ or 8 – to warn the unwary how many miles of unmaintained road their vehicle would have to traverse to reach the ranch house. The Nelson sign board displayed a faded red 16. Or maybe it was a wind-worn 18. Eighteen miles over dirt roads that had never been graveled, and were graded by a county maintainer only after two or more feet of snow accumulated in the depths of winter.
Aye: A folktale of a dog, and her master
The story comes from Scotland, a hundred years ago, and the dog is a border collie. The lesson, and the sentiment, however, go to the heart of every bird dog owner.
A hard-headed Highland Scots tenant farmer was known for his long line of good border collies, but the best of them all was a wee bitch he named Anna, and at two years of age she was his pride and his joy and his fame.
At the Highland Days sheep dog trials in County Argyll she ran away with every honor and every word of praise the judges could find to grant her in their rough manner. Kin pleaded with the old farmer to take her on to the Scottish National Sheep Dog Trials, and with misgivings he dug deep in his purse for entry fees and travel money.
After 31 years of spot mowing for Canada Thistle, this summer there was less than a quarter acre of thistle infestation to mow. But thistles always come back. Maybe it’s time for us to get a flock of Canadian goats.
Botanists tell us that Canada Thistle (cirsium arvense) did not actually come from Canada; it originated somewhere in southeastern Europe or southwestern Asia. Personally I suspect, with no basis in fact or research, that it was bio-engineered by 13th century botanical necromancers working for Genghis Khan as part of his plan to despoil all parts of the world that he could not conquer.
Canada. I like Canada, I really do, and most things Canadian.
Through the course of its fascinating history of discovery, exploration, settlement, and development, Canada has forged a vibrant nation in a harsh land where success and prosperity (and sometimes survival itself) is based on courage, strength, daring, and common purpose. Its chronicle includes first the confrontation and clash of diverse peoples and cultures and gradually the acceptance and assimilation of all.
That has made the country an admirable place to live and an attractive place to visit. The international atmosphere and open character of Canadas’ cities surpass that of any of the dozen metropolises in the United States where we have lived or visited. After a three-week vacation that began in Vancouver on the Pacific Coast and took us on a winding tour through the Canadian Rockies I believe that British Columbia is the most beautiful place on Earth and Vancouver the best city in which to live (though frightfully expensive). My opinion may have been influenced by the seafood, neighborhood pubs, and craft beers.
I could compile a long list of positives about Canada.
Evening walks are not so easy or so spirit-soothing these days
on unsteady legs that caution “slowly” for fear of tumbling down
the face of the limestone bluff that plunges into Trout River Valley
several hundred tree-stump-studded and rock-faced yards below.
Hurrying, I fell two springs past, somersaulted and thumped my skull
hard against the toppled bole of an ironwood girdled and poisoned
along with a hundred other ‘trash’ trees as part of my greedy plan
to improve the logging value of this woods which we will never log.
I had it coming, that knock on the head, from that tree, tit for tat,
but I still groused it was unfair. Living fifteen years with the guilt
of gutting out a scrub forest of misshapen but fiercely alive ironwood
and aspen and box elder and elm and cedar with tangled understory
that sheltered a hundred acres’ worth of wildness on less than twenty,
should have been punishment enough, but a good whack to the head
told me to repent again, often, my mistake of pride and ignorance.
This and all other mistakes of pride and ignorance. Well-intentioned,
all for good reasons at the time, but what does a dying ironwood care
for intentions or reasons when the cambium that carries the flow
of its milky lifeblood is slashed open and tainted with blue venom?
The wildness has returned, almost, to what it was fifteen years ago.
Dead ironwoods don’t care to forgive me, but eighty soaring walnuts
don’t care to shame me either, and the young maples are clueless,
remembering none of this, emerging later on from ruptured seed pods
in the thin humus of damp leaves and rotted tree trunks that flesh out
the bluff’s limestone skeleton. Today, in a thicket of stinging nettle,
I find crushed ferns where a doe dropped her fawn, licked it alive
and nursed it in secret a few days before they arose and left together,
knowing nothing of the former trash-tree tangled glory of this place
as it was years back before seven generations of deer family history.
The ironwood knows, and I know. I signed the paper for its execution
and it bided its time and delivered revenge with a brain concussion.
Me and this woods, maybe we’re even-up now and can start over.
The household lawn with its decorative gardens of flowers/weeds is a bitterly contested battlefield in the war between the sexes, and while the male invader with his mechanized equipment and chemical weapons may seem to have the advantage in each isolated skirmish the female insurgent who unceasingly nurtures the hearts and minds of the flora population will always prevail.
Flowers and weeds
‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.’
Or more accurately stated for the purposes of this discussion, ‘A man’s weed is a woman’s flower.’ Take heed of this warning when you mow the lawn, gentlemen, and beware of cutting down any plant that is not obviously a blade of grass or a clump of plantain. And I’d advise you to be dead certain on the plantain identification.
As I have learned from harsh experience, what a man may identify as a noisome cluster of wild oxeye daisy that is encroaching on the yard from the adjacent hayfield will in fact be a carefully nurtured planting of white snowcap shasta daisy, and mowing it down to stubbly stems will cause your status in the marital relationship to plunge to that of an oil corporation attorney at a Nature Conservancy meeting. The household lawn with its decorative gardens of flowers/weeds is a bitterly contested battlefield in the war between the sexes, and while the male invader with his mechanized equipment and chemical weapons may seem to have the advantage in each isolated skirmish the female insurgent who unceasingly nurtures the hearts and minds of the flora population will always prevail. Always. And after cessation of hostilities she will serve as sole judge and juror at your botanical war crimes trial.
So wisely surrender to the inevitable, men, and abide by the following rules of engagement in the lawn and garden wars.