Sunday, July 28, 2013

elliott and the deer

8 o’clock Saturday night
I am sitting at the kitchen table. Elliott sits in the west yard on the south edge near the field, staring into a patch of daisies and Queen Anne’s lace. Slowly moving in from the north are two deer, grazing all the way, about ten, fifteen feet out into the field. Elliott is aware of their presence, now and again glancing back over his shoulder. Deer #1 spots Elliott. Elliott hunkers down, sinks low into the grass. Deer #1 now only a few feet away.

Elliott and deer #1.

Deer #2 moves in. Elliott lays low. Deer #1 stamps his left front hoof, his right front hoof, then his left again. Deer #2 closes in. Deer #1 moves away. Deer #2 comes closer—Elliott is up and away! To the porch! Both deer start, stop, lunge forward, back, then move in to sniff around the daisies, sniff all around where Elliott sat.

“Hey Mortimer, where’d he go?”
Deer #1 and #2.

Elliott is safe on the porch.

Hum de hum de hum.

The deer roam the west yard, head out into the field.

Earlier, while eating dinner, I had seen Elliott dash across the yard into the garage. Two deer followed, pacing back and forth, peering into the building. Soon Elliott’s head appeared peeking around the corner. He began walking slowly to the cabin.

Elliott walks, deer watches.

The deer followed.

With deer trailing, Elliott passes through the broccoli patch.

I opened the front door, Elliott walked in, meowed, sat, began his ablutions.

This thing between Elliott and the deer has been going on all week. At first I thought it was just one particular deer, but the deer Friday night was different from the two deer last night, and Friday night’s deer—the one with the fawn—is probably different from Sadie, the deer who came by earlier that day and was here off and on throughout the week and Sunday night, when my neighbor Julie stopped by.

Julie arrived on her magenta bicycle laden with various-sized sticks she’d collected for firewood. The winds late last week uprooted trees over in L’Anse and out this way branches fell. The past several mornings have been in the 40s and 50s and the past few days have stayed in the 50s, which is all rather beside the point, unless it is the kooky weather that brings deer around to stare at Elliott.

Sunday night the deer was in the field, just a few feet out from the yard. Julie and I sat on the porch, talking softly. Elliott lolled around nearby. The deer stayed in place, grazing. I explained to Julie that I thought the deer was hanging around because of Elliott, because she was interested in him, and Julie brought up the idea that maybe there was a fawn nearby. I didn’t know, had not seen one. I told Elliott to go out into the yard to draw the deer in. He paused a moment, then stepped off the porch and walked across the yard, into the tall grass on the far side. The deer, now named Sadie, watched.

Elliott had disappeared, but I figured he was on the edge of the field, close to the yard. Sadie, several feet away, nibbled at the head-high grass and red-headed clover while making her way over to where Elliott had disappeared. Julie and I chatted about people and plants and weather, cats and dogs and things, and then Sadie stopped. Her ears, like big-cupped antenna, rotated forward, and she went into the Elliott stare. After a moment, she took a cautious step, eyes and ears focused, neck stretched low. Elliott emerged from the lush green border walking slowly, deliberately, back to the porch. Sadie moved forward, seemed to investigate thoroughly a vacated spot near the edge of the field.

Sadie showed up now and again throughout the week, standing on the edge of the field, watching the cabin, maybe traversing the lawn, and if Elliott was out she would approach him slowly and he would sit still for a bit before making his way to the porch. Sadie would follow, coming close, but never too close.

Friday morning I was finishing up some candle work at the kitchen table when I noticed her lurking about once again. Elliott was inside for his morning snooze. That evening, as I was filling a pan with water at the kitchen sink, I noticed Sadie in the north field. Then I saw the fawn. My heart melted and my knees buckled. I grabbed onto the edge of the counter. I almost felt like crying. Fawns must be the darn cutest animal on this planet. I could barely see the little guy—he was no taller than the grass and flowers—but in flashes I caught sight of his white-spotted back and his little pale brown head. Just this little head with those big big ears.

Sadie and her fawn.

Elliott was inside for his afternoon snooze, so Sadie and her fawn moved on. I proceeded with dinner.

When Elliott was ready to go out for his evening constitutional, Sadie and her fawn were on the far west side of the yard. By the time I grabbed the camera the fawn had turned tail, bouncing and bounding away through the field, little white tail high. But not so Sadie. Sadie had seen Elliott and wasted little time in her approach.

I settled on the west side of the porch; Sadie walked though the yard veering to the south, coming up to us from that direction. I noticed a scar on her left side. The deer I had been calling Sadie did not have a scar, so here was a clue—perhaps there was more than one deer hanging around, interested in Elliott. Also, this deer seemed slightly larger than Sadie, but, nonetheless, I still called her Sadie. The bold Sadie, as she came up to within three or four feet of the porch and stood there, staring at Elliott, all eyes and ears and big black nose, skinny knock-kneed legs, fine brown fur and slender beige neck. Elliott had been moving around the porch in a rather nonchalant way, first behind me, rubbing up against my back, then sitting next to me, my dear pal, then heading back to the door, rubbing up against it, settling down on the mat.

Sadie stared.

Elliott looked off that-away.

Sadie stamped a broad black hoof.

Elliott, it seemed, could not care less.

Sadie stamped her hoof again. Stamped the other hoof. Back and forth, stamping hooves. Then she snorted, the same snort I have heard during the winter when I am walking in the snowy fields and suddenly see white tails bounding away. But Sadie was holding firm. Stamping and snorting and staring at Elliott who was just minding his own business, on the mat by the door.

Elliott and Sadie.

After a bit, Sadie drifted away. Elliott and I went inside.

This morning it rains, holds steady at 45 degrees. Fire in the stove, Elliott snoozing on the sofa. The deer are bedded down in the fields or maybe beneath a clump of trees, or maybe they are grazing, idly nipping off the heads of clover and lace, munching dogwood twigs, pondering a world of such strange creatures as Elliott.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

sixteen tons of gravelly humidity alleviated by damselflies and then along came tom jones ... what, no mention of the cinnamon rolls?!

The heat wave injected with massive amounts of humidity was broken by waves of storms charged with thunder and lightening and a wind that flattened the sunflowers along the garage wall. The next day the day lilies bloomed as did the Queen Anne’s lace, suddenly shoulder high, a spurt or two above all others. This morning it nods gently in the northerly breeze giving a slight, regal wave to the multi-colored minions below.

Queen Anne.

It was upper 80s, 90s, most of the week, with humidity about the same so I candled in the mornings, when it was relatively cool, and in the afternoon went with the flow and shoveled and hauled gravel out to the low spots in the drive. It has become apparent that this graveling-the-drive-bit-by-bit project will be never-ending. The gravel piles (there are two) get smaller, but there are still tons remaining from the sixteen I started with. And there are spots in the 400-some-foot grassy driveway-through-the-field that with gravel and deluges of rain are now small murky pools—which is an improvement over deep mud puddles—but all I can think is that I need to keep building up these spots, need to keep hauling out gravel, bit by bit. Funny that at the top of my Things To Do list a couple of years ago was getting the drive graded and graveled.

Gravel pile, wood piles, the work piles up.

All the gravel-around-the-house projects are complete: the north end of the west side (the gravel patio), the little corner by the back stoop with the busted chair, the north side below the upper deck, and the east side that was already edged with a strip of rocks.

Ye Olde Gravel Patio and The Little Corner by the Stoop.

Tuesday I charted weather statistics as found on The day started at 69º with 84% humidity, no wind, overcast.
11 a.m.
84% humidity
southwesterly wind at 8 mph
2:30 p.m.
91º (heat index)
61% humidity
west wind at 14 mph
scattered clouds
5:30 p.m., after a rain (no storm, just straight-down-dump-on-us rain)
92º (heat index)
57% humidity
westerly wind at 16 mph
9:30 p.m.
87º (heat index)
65% humidity
wind at 5 mph

When I got up Wednesday morning
75º degrees
76% humidity
wind at 10 mph
Until late Thursday dampness hung in the air like a veil, like a scrim of sweat. Late Thursday the heat-busting storms began rolling through and rolled on through all through the night.

The best thing about a heat wave is breaking it; the best thing about hauling gravel in a heat wave is jumping in the river. Wednesday the river was clear, cool and flowing. There is a fallen branch to hold onto that allows floating without floating away, allows gentle jostling by the cool flowing water while hanging in place, and all the length of this branch and the fallen tree trunk it is attached to damselflies were flitting and flying about, refracting shimmers of blue and black light. One then another would alight on the branch in complete stillness then slowly flex its gossamer wings before taking off again. Right next to me a pair mated, their disco-blue toothpick bodies curving in such a way as to form the outline of a heart, and where is one’s camera when one needs it? Not in the pocket of my jeans, so luckily there is the internet.

Mating damselflies. I did not take this picture.

Yesterday’s market was cool and breezy, bustling and sunny, the crowd swelled a bit by those drifting over from the Hiawatha Music Festival. Driving in I heard “I Love A Rainy Night” by Eddie Rabbitt. Have you ever heard Tom Jones’ version? Growl.

On the way home from the market (which, by the way, is involved in a new old controversy) I stopped at The Drive-In for dinner: a root beer float, fries, and a fish sandwich, in that order. I think my father would be proud.

At The Drive-In.

Hope you had a good week.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

it all comes down to miracles

This was the week of the Praying Hands (candles, that is). I sold out last Saturday, including two that were made by special request, those being one cinnamon-beeswax Praying Hands candle and one cinnamon-beeswax Praying Hands figurine (no wick), which means there’s at least one customer out there who fell for my “one to burn, one to keep” slogan. Toward the end of the market the remaining hands were bought by a woman who asked if there were more.

The Praying Hands.

This is what happens with the hands. They sit and sit and then one day they are all snatched up. This time the snatching extended to the Etsy site as Tuesday I received an order for a dozen Praying Hands from a store in South Carolina. They also ordered a dozen Psychic Charmers. (Uh oh—I just realized my first sale yesterday was for all the Psychics I had on hand … )

The Praying Hands are one of my favorite candles, mostly because the mold came from my candlemaking mentor and friend, Bud the Beekeeper. He’d had the mold for years, said he rarely sold the candle so wasn’t making it anymore, and the first fair I went to with him I said: Let’s make a Praying Hands candle and see what happens. Well, as Bud expected, it sat there as jars of honey, other candles, and gift baskets flew off the table. Then, right at the end of the fair, along came a large, bearded guy in a black leather jacket and clunky boots. He picked up the little pair of hands and bought it.

A second absolutely still morning awash in fog and mosquitoes. A second morning of a fire in the wood stove, screen door replacing glass, an attempt to suck moisture out of the air. A second morning of 55 degrees. I was awakened last night by a strange noise that at first sounded like a laughing coo-coo bird. The crazy, slightly evil laughter pulled me from deep sleep and dreams to half-awake and uncertain right on through to fully awake and curious, albeit slightly peeved. Between the damp and the mosquitoes and an uncommonly restless cat, sleep had been hard to come by. The noise drew me downstairs to the kitchen screen door through which I saw smudgy fog and the blurry blinking lights of fireflies. The laughter came from the river.

Lately, also, fire, starting a few months ago when I received an email from a past neighbor: Your old house just burned down. This was the house in Sand River, the one I moved from in 2011. A couple of weeks ago the wildfire in Arizona took the house of one my sister’s friends, and earlier this week the farm I used to volunteer at lost to fire their big, beautiful, old barn, the main hub of their operation. Jennifer, my sister, spent much of this past week in Yarnell with her friend Vanessa sifting through ashes.

Here lies Vanessa’s bicycle.

I saw the Hatfields (the farm, Seeds & Spores, is run by two families, the Hatfields and the Chiodis) at the end of yesterday’s market. If you want strawberries, Jeff said, take some. He shrugged. “We’ve lost our cooler.” Such a weariness in the eyes, but a T-shirt proclaiming: Shiitake happens.

Among other things, Seeds & Spores grows shiitake mushrooms, and because the mushrooms grow in the shade, it was one of my favorite spots on the farm, which operates as a CSA, shareholders getting weekly bins of produce and maybe eggs and fresh-cut flowers. It is also a lynchpin of the farmers market and a supplier to the food co-op and some local restaurants. The Hatfields and Chiodis have helped others get started with farming and have shared immeasurably in any number of ways. My first day at the farm, standing with Jeff Chiodi and others at an outdoor table doing something with vegetables, I was questioned about who I was, how I got to the U.P. from Chicago, all that, and for the first time my oh-my-husband-left-me story made me laugh.

Some of the chickens at the farm, circa 2008 or 9.

The other night, through the glass of the loft’s sliding patio door, I saw a crescent moon just above the horizon, a backward C leaning on its heels. The sky was dark aquamarine blue. On the screened part of the door thousands of mosquitoes bounced and latched on, as somebody said yesterday, “like zombies.” What a heavenly summer this has been for mosquitoes! They love the damp, the humidity, the stillness, the rain, the heat—whatever we’ve got. My Animal Energies book by Gary Buffalo Horn Man and Sherry Firedancer instructs that “Mosquito offers us the dubious gift of distraction … a means through which to measure … (one’s) determination and focus.”
If Mosquito has picked you out as food, you can react blindly with distress and imbalance, or you can honor them for their place in the Web of Life and come to terms with the reality that we share the Earth with them.
Har de har har, slap.

Driving to the market yesterday I heard on the radio “Red Rubber Ball,” a song unheard in many a moon, and driving home I was once again listening to Bruce Springsteen: “Countin’ on a Miracle.” Sometimes I wonder if it isn’t a miracle when we just get through a day without shiitake happening. For the most part, we do.

I rolled down the windows for the smell of fresh-cut hay.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

the shifting of fisherman’s island

Walking through the field alongside the river I suddenly looked straight down and became caught up in a little square of grass where I saw more life than I could possibly imagine. I realized all that was there or that must be there, all that could be seen and not seen. The wildflowers and grass, all the vegetation tall and short and compact and leggy and budding and dieing. The insects and microscopic beings and worms and earth and history. The layers of life and death, existence and space, all at my feet. I wondered about the stories embedded in this small patch, and I realized my presence was the least of it, that I was no more than a speck of dust easily flicked away, and if flicked away the grander story would remain and whatever story was to come would come.

I was in the field that morning a few weeks ago because the day had dawned at about 32 degrees and the mosquitoes were lulled, so I walked down by the river to get a picture of Fisherman’s Island to go along with the writing I wanted to do on the shifting of the island. So a sharp, sunny morning with only a few hardy skeeters. A camera. Perfect.

Fisherman’s Island 2012.

A rush of snowmelt this spring lifted the river to great heights, and Fisherman’s Island has shifted, has moved, one could even say has disappeared. The island is now a large, sandy beach on the river’s south bank. Perhaps the island did not move so much as grow as the waterway between it and the land filled with sand. However you look at it, not much has really changed, but by definition all is changed. The island remains, but the island is history.

Fisherman’s Island 2013.

I walked along the river’s wooded steep bank and noticed some birch trees that seemed melded into one another. The outer birch, the one closest to me, had a trunk and roots that wrapped around the trunks and roots of others, as if hugging them in an effort to hold on. So many trees do this, growing around and through and into obstacles, clinging to banks and rocks and other trees, the other trees and obstacles then becoming part of the tree’s foundation, part of what keeps it in place, part of what keeps it alive, part of what bends and shapes it even as the tree leans away, searching for a patch of light.

Birch trees on a slope.

Earlier this week I heard a story on NPR about gravity, Falling: How To Meet Einstein In An Elevator, by Adam Frank. It has stuck in my mind because it took something we all experience and think we know about and made it something else—for me, anyway. I recommend the whole story, but here’s the gist.
Gravity, Einstein saw, is what happens when you take away forces and let things go with the flow — the flow of space. Cut the cables on your elevator and what happens (other than a lot of yelling and panic)? Inside, everything appears to go weightless. During the fall you’d float like an astronaut in a space capsule.

That was how Einstein realized that apples don’t fall because of forces; they fall because that is what space wants them to do. Gravity is space bending and stretching like taffy. Even though you can never touch space you can see it has a shape just by watching how things fall.

After the morning rain.

It’s that time of year when I think of the trip I made nine years ago that moved me from a life I thought I knew well to a life I knew nothing about. And now the funny thing is I don’t think I knew that other life at all. I navigated through and held onto it because it was my life. Then, something shifted.