Winter’s Wood

Winter’s Wood

This year the old Silver Maple in the backyard had to go away after an extended stay that probably began in the beginning of last century, a time when trees were few and tortured. It’s ancestors had been systematically consumed by the advance of land-hungry settlers all thinking the forest were endless, and that their God had ordained them to feast upon the land. It was out of self-interest they acted and not that of the earth’s. It is just the way it was.

Now the tree is down, scattered on the lawn, as if so much litter. In its own way, it had become abusive in that our house was being threatened. The winds of November are stronger now, and the tree’s falling would not play well on human ambitions, or or coveted property. The old Maple is now wood in a crude form waiting to be gathered and split.

Each species has its own characteristics that needs to be understood, not just in handling but in storage and burning. It lays there in great round reels, almost intimidating in its mass. Like diamonds rough and uncut each section has to be analyzed, for trying to split it by running a wedge down the middle is a fool’s errand meant only to rattle an aging brain that does not to be rattled. In this maple’s case, blows of the splitting maul must peal sections off the edges avoiding  knots and fissures for they are trouble and very much like to argue.

Maple, unlike white oak, has little appeal to the delicate nose unlike the dense oak which cast a distant smell of fine whiskey or aged wine. A barrel made of maple would lay a cold and unpleasant nose on those sacred nectars. So this maple, this silver maple is destined to become warmth in a winter’s fire.  One would suppose that not being of oaken charm and embedded heat, it could be deemed a disappointment but piled deep in carefully chosen rows of winter’s wood it is a monument to all the years spent guarding the childhood yard and picnic dreams.

Music by Ann Herzog Wright, Tony Albrecht, Ann Huntoon, David Wright

 

Dimming of the Day

This is a small piece I put together after canoeing on the Tomorrow river. We had seen versions of this all summer but as the fall took over there were changes, some subtle others more pronounced.

Dimming of the Day

 

Into the last of the evening light, the canoe slips through the still water of the quiet River. In that dimming, the Kingfisher makes its last half-hearted effort. His world of the transparent water, has been cut off by the disappearing evening light. Eastward on the weedy back bog, the forlorn frogs serenade into the quietness out of habit for it is fall and thoughts of love are distant and not to be fulfilled.

At canoes edge, delicate mayflies cruse in measured pace as if to ride the invisible slipstream of the moving craft. In learning to fly, which one would suppose was many millions of years ago, and now locked in tiny genes among the spiraled DNA, the technique is to bounce in a  rhythmic pattern moving noticeably up and down while still proceeding ever forward. It is as if they take three wing strokes, and for reasons unknown, pause for the time of three more. One has to wonder if this odd pattern is ingrained in this species as a way to avoid some forgotten predator. Does the trout, the ones we have sought, know this pattern or do they simply wait them out knowing their lives are short and soon will spin dying to water’s surface.

Why they choose to accompany the canoe cannot be embedded in those genes, for the boat, in genetic time, is too recent upon the waters.  Are these pulsating flights simply an opportunity to ride the metaphorical rails, much like a dolphin rides the bow pressure of a plowing boat, or the eagle seeks the ever-lifting warm air. It is a quiet music of a visual sort on the river journey home at the dimming of the day.

Dimming of the Day

Here is an effort that has never been done before on this site as we have really never messed with auto/visual undertakings. It is but a small passing that came about one evening on the Tomorrow River, and in truth on may evenings. Take a listen. 

Dimming of the Day

 

 

 

A Cardinal has a bad Day

 

There plopped on the back driveway, among all the fallen leaves and pine needles was a brilliant red-colored form. The cardinal laid there not dead but shaken, rather bobbing his head and seeming to have taken too many drugs. One wing reached out while the other was held in. Clearly, the bird was in trouble and hardly made a motion as it was picked up and held gingerly.

It was a sad thing to see such beauty in trouble and we wondered if it was a victim of some bird flu but Eleonore scanned the surroundings and noticed the outline of tiny feathers, red feathers, attached to the garage window left there as a telltale. The impact had been sufficient enough to dislodge the delicate red colorings and enough to knock the bird to the ground. As we used to say on the field of play, he had his bell rung.

cardinal

We took turns holding the trembling bird making small apologies for the clear glass and the obvious misfortune making note of man’s inventions and how they do not always play well in the natural world. The bird obviously thought the window was an opening and willingly flew into it.

The pathetic bird shivered in trauma. Its head bobbed as if controlling his nervous system was not a possibility. As is said, “He had a six foot stare in a hundred foot forest.” The bird, after examination for broken parts and finding none, was placed in a bed of pine needles where I personally thought it would quietly fly off to the final frontier, but at least in comfort.

As the afternoon passed, the Cardinal remained alive and seemed to become more responsive while feebly and desperately trying to hop and flap its wings, but still there was a haze in those terrified eyes, an unknowing.

I recalled a time in Colorado many years ago when visiting an office building and finding, there lying scattered like dry leaves about the building, a dozen dead Bohemian Waxwings. They had been eating dried miniature apples and then seeing another tree in the window, headed off after it. Silent death. Some observers felt they were intoxicated by the partially fermented fruit and simply ran their cars into the metaphorical light post.

Wanting to wish away a silent death, and reflecting on enjoying the Cardinals this year, I ultimately put the bird, now showing still more improvements, into a cardboard box made comfortable with a nest of the pine needles, and placed it in my studio where the creeping winter frost held no sway. It had occurred to me that one of the silent cats that seem to peruse the area, frequently hanging by our bird feeder trying to take down more song birds, might find the weakened bird and see it as another easy meal. Safety and comfort in my infirmary was the call.

The top was shut, while quietly thinking the morning would find it deceased or still lost in the haze from a serious bird concussion. Still, if I remember right, I always had come out of my concussions and the damage wasn’t real detectable—I don’t think, but I never did learn to fly.

The bird’s pathetic misfortune came up in our household discussion in the evening after our neighbors had headed home, themselves reflecting on the possible loss.

cardina 2l

There is always a certain quilt associated with seeing a life snuffed out by something that is not natural, say a speeding car or even that cat, which was never a part of our real world, taking some hapless unsuspecting bird.  It is one thing to hunt, to be respectful of that process and then consume that game with an understanding we are part of a natural world in that way, but to see things poisoned, crushed or indiscriminately killed by an unnatural process is discomforting.

I walked into the studio this morning thinking it might be a lead-in to a burial, but then just maybe, in the time in quiet repose, his neurons had realigned and all his instinctual attributes had returned. When the box was touched, there was a shuffle that sounded of conviction. There was intent and just maybe the box was not appreciated in its confinement. The  cardboard infirmary was taken outside and opened carefully. Then in an instant the Cardinal lifted straight out of the box and headed out into the sky probably thinking that was one hell of a night. He seemed to look back but I suspect only in confusion and terror.

I put tape on the window and filled the feeder with sunflower seeds wanting very much to see the bird back but if he did not come, I would understand.