Sunday, January 6, 2013

gone for a walk

With the sun streaming in and The Old One—that’s Buster—asleep, I sneak out for a walk. The snow on the porch roof melts and drips, a steady plinking and plunking on the mere six inches of snow on the ground. Flies buzz inside and outside the cabin—only in Michigan's Upper Peninsula have I been bothered by flies in January—and I'm beginning to wonder, what kind of winter can this be? I head out in just a couple layers of T-shirt, old jeans, and hiking boots.

Sun streaming in on a Saturday afternoon.

On the way to the river I see a trail of stories crisscrossing the thin snow, tracks of coyote, deer, rabbit, mice, voles, maybe even the badger. Rabbit and deer tracks are easy to identify, but the rest have variants—for instance, the coyote could also be the dog across the road—and light dustings of snow have obscured some of the prints, like a blurred photograph, a plot with red herrings.

Trail of the Unknown Critter

The river is narrowing, its icy, snow-covered edges creeping toward each other, widening, becoming well-beaten paths for wildlife, or the dog across the road. My neighbors tell of a large, lone wolf in the area, and some say there are packs, but I don’t know. Oh! To see a wolf on the river’s edge, to hear one sing! Mostly I hear coyotes yipping at silvery moons, and occasionally I spy one or two loping across the fields. But all I hear right now is the river’s gurgle and the chatter of crows and chickadees. I pause for a bit, wondering if the bald eagle will show up, but he does not.

Heading up the river bank.

I head away from the river to the clutch of white pine on the southwest edge of the property, following a path I've made on my own and with the help of the deer. It cuts across a marsh that though frozen is yet a bit spongy, then through a thicket of tag alders before reaching the clearing that is dominated by one immense pine, the Mother Pine, as I call it. I cut a few sprigs of long, soft needles and hold them to my nose, so pungent I swoon. My hand becomes sticky with sap.

Branches of the Mother Pine.

It’s a good day for traipsing, but also a good day for chores, so I head back to the cabin to stack wood on the porch and to do a little laundry, hanging it in the sun to dry. Buster and Elliott are now awake, and while trying to coax Elliott out of the cabin, a load of snow slides off the roof with a sudden swoosh-bam. The cat scurries back in. Meanwhile, Buster, The Deaf One, does not hear the news about the sky falling. He walks in and out, in and out, as on this January day the door stays open.

But now I must close it. So long!