Thursday, March 31, 2016

food for squatch

We found some unexpected happiness on Easter Sunday. A spontaneous visit from grandparents added to a few hours of dyeing eggs. We experimented, we laughed, we created something beautiful together. All healing for the grievous emotions felt at the funeral on the day before. It didn't matter that we were a bit late with the dyeing. It lent a fluid harmony to a day that needed joy. We loved.

We know our dyed eggs are destined for the woods. A reversal of the city activities. These eggs are left out for the animals of the woods. Hours later after the eggs have disappeared, there is no sign of them. No shells lying around. No splatter of yolk. No bright spots within the grass or in the tree branches. It's also seems to bring some harmony to the woods. We offer eggs once a year and I can't help but speculate on the animals that had a taste. Was it shy deer, little ground squirrels, rambunctious raccoons, hungry bears, ducks, geese, chickens? Did the frogs get a taste? Did the coyote fight for a morsel? Doubtful. No shells to indicate a tussle. 

Or was it squatch? Delicately picking the eggs from the forks of tree branches. If so, I hope she reads English and knows the symbol for our heart.

I don't know if squatch is out here in the woods. She could be. I think of how male deer shed their antlers every spring and yet, we never find them. And there are many, many deer in the area. So the lack of physical evidence does not belie the possibility of squatch. I am willing to accept that there might be somesquatch out there or there might not.

Soon enough I'm distracted by the fungi blooming out from the dead, decaying tree trunks. A fairy could climb them up to the sky, to the top for a good launch. 

I love this time of year in the woods. The leaves are still buds so not hindering our view of the stars above. The toads are emerging, the migrating birds are gathering. Wood needs to be chopped but it not so urgent to have some piled up. The air temps are comfortable and light stays late into the evening. Life is grand for those few hours out in the woods.

Late into the night, Dave starts with his squatch wood knocks. I fail to see the difference from the sound of my wood chopping. But as I am doing the chopping I also think that in a better world we would have been closer to Dave's nephew and he might have come out here to the woods, sat by the fire, perhaps with a few of his musician friends, drinking under the stars, making music. In a better world there are so many possible paths clear, yet all gone for good. Death is utterly uncompromising.

After the wood knock we hear honky geese, some wonky ducks, an OWL hoo-hootin, coyote, the waking warbles of a toad. There is piercing unknown high-pitched whistle from a ways away so not too alarming, just steady and incessant, could be bird, could be toad. Could be all around us in the surrounding spring wet lands.

I spotted a few star constellations tonight. The Big Dipper started pouring down the blessings at 11:30.

I thought I knew Draco but was put off by the twist of the form, the angle shift from how I studied it last summer.


The next morning I see crows in the trees above the eggs. A horde, hover, muster, parcel of crows. There is at least a dozen. The murder of crows descend upon the eggs. The drama unfolds early morning in the woods. Do I know their sounds well enough to distinguish between a crow and a raven? I feel as if I should know this tiny thing. There are many and loud and flying in through the tree branches, all daring and graceful, squawky and calling for all to hear. Later we look for bits of shell and find very little. The eggs are gone, eaten presumably by the crows.

P.S. We have decided to more open and intentional about exploring the squatch. She could be out there, or not. In any case, this experiment makes out woodland observations sharper. At the very least, we hope to learn more about the activity in the woods around our Airstream retreat.

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

signs of life

I took these photos and started this post on Saturday, on the Equinox. While searching for these signs, we encountered death. Later that day we discovered that Dave's nephew passed away. I've been debating all week whether I should post especially considering the title. I think Zach would have wanted me to carry on. He was only 23-years-old. I can't fathom the amount of pain a parent goes through after losing a child. It is like the end of the world. It is the end of their world.

I realize now that these photos capture what I want in my life, what I have achieved, what I hope for in the future, what I have now. And these are all good things. AND I hope they all will be with me for a very long time.

We will get old here together!

I think I'm just squinty, not angry!

I really wish they wouldn't do this.

We went into town for pizza, our empty stomachs leading us. On the way we saw tundra swans on the river, about twenty of them.

On the way back from pizza is when we got the phone call. It was a very strange evening out in the woods. We decided to stay instead of heading back to the city which turned out to be the right decision. We carried on. Just like Zach would have wanted.

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Monday, March 14, 2016

weird and wonderful

There is a light breeze and we are thoroughly enjoying the very warm temps (upper 60s!). But I am overdressed and heating up too fast as I sweep the pine needles of the deck. It is weird that the snow - piled up in feet just last weekend - is now nearly all gone. It is weird but wonderful.

I get up into the Wisconsin woods and all thoughts of what I have to do leave my head. For city concerns this is good thing. But not so much for the trailer tasks that I need to get done.

It is so incredibly weird that I have this amazing daughter and weird to think there was ever a time when these woods didn't know the sound of her laughter. 

There is a question I get asked a lot in the city usually after they see my daughter in twirly skirts and dresses. 
They ask: "is she a girly-girl?" 
I say this with pride: "yes she is, she's the kind of girl who climbs trees and the kind of girl that knows that skirts give her more freedom to move as she climbs those trees."

Weird questions asked turn out to have wonderful answers.

She goes off the explore the woods on her own after donning her girly pink raincoat. I can just barely see the pink through the trees. The birds are tweeting and all that other good stuff. Crows, sapsuckers, chickadees, a rooster from the neighbor place, and others I can't identify (yet). There are no hordes of swallows here. Eventually she returns and asks for a dvd break in the trailer and I don't mind much. She's a bit sick with cold but for now she's shrugging it off. We are all a little bit sick.

Dave returns with a load of wood. So we all grab our gloves and starting unloading.

Eventually the loads pile up and I have to reach high above my head to toss in a log. Ground down bits of wood and dirt fall down on my face. I have to quit the tall wood rack to start another pile on the ground. I sort logs that can immediately burn pushing off that moment that I need to star chopping wood. Piling and stacking is weirdly meditative. Tossing, lifting, placing logs in a way that won't collapse, a bit like a vertical puzzle I suppose.  The workout is awesome. I'm working muscles that don't get worked in the gym.

There is talk about visiting the deer stand located deep in the woods behind our property. We are lucky in that our few acres border woodland managed by the county. Acres and acres of trees and some wetlands (the great pond where the geese collect and the wolves hunt). That land is also open for hunting so we don't venture far during any of the many hunting seasons. Now it is quiet and we can easily follow deer tracks that are made deeper by the water-soaked, spongy terrain, made so by the recent snowmelt.

As late afternoon approaches I realize I didn't put the beer on ice. Last weekend it would been enough to just leave the beer outside. These days we are drinking New Glarus Spotted Cow, locally brewed in Wisconsin of course. 

After the beer is iced we get the fire stoked for cooking. Sausages, hotdogs, Cole slaw, red bell peppers, hummus and strawberries makes for a fine dinner outside, al fresca and all that. The sun set with brilliant oranges, purples and pinks. There was a crescent moon for a couple of hours but now the encroaching clouds are covering over the moonshine. 

Hazy stars make me yearn for more starlight, a clear sky revealing the universe. It is clear enough to find the constellation gemini for the first time and I feel like I can see something new about myself. Leo takes a leap over Jupiter. That was a wild sight! Later the Big Dipper shines through. This time of year it always seems like the constellation is a dipper full of  blessings pouring down on us, upside down that it is.

Is it the constellation or the planet that is upside down? Huh. I'll have to look into that.

We find ourselves without any tiki oil for the numerous torches that encircle our firepit area. It is going to be a dark night out here in the woods. Forcasted lows of 41 degrees. I'm a bit spooked by the coyotes yipping and yapping, howling and yowling. Keeping my ears open for...for what exactly? The sounds of the woods: hoping that the owl makes his way towards us, the geese returning to the north, perhaps the sounds of sasquatch. Just to kick up the spook factor, we do a wood knock.



The trailer furnace turns on. An owl's haunted hoot is way off into the distance. A dog. All these sounds coming from the south, southwest of us near the river cabins. 


The crackle of the fire. A toad leaping in the leaves. While first the sounds were distant, now the attention is closer. 



The fire does down. The wind stills completely. The splitting of logs sounds thunderous.

Nothing to the north, out where the woods are acres and acres, deep and dense and expansive.

Maybe she's out there listening for us.

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Monday, March 7, 2016

Everyone gets their Quiet

We found winter in the woods of Wisconsin. The snow is all but gone in the city, the temps will soar into the fifties tomorrow but here in the woods, within its own microclimate, winter is hanging on and doing rather well in its efforts.

Eventually the hustle of arrival wears off. I sit by the fire, sipping hot tea, relishing the quiet moment in the woods. Birds tweeting and all that. The soft sounds of late winter: water dripping, snow showering down for the branches up above, fire cracking, occasional birds, leaves rustling. The sun decides to burst through the clouds at 4:30 pm. Dave is off somewhere in the woods. The kid is in the trailer watching a video. It's cool. We are all finding our alone time, a few moments all to ourselves. Here in the woods we get to spread out, everybody gets their quiet.

Snow has been sufficiently trampled, the fire is built up. I'm only doing my share of chopping today. Every log I chop is fed directly into the fire, I can't get a satisfying pile. The logs are dry and light, sometimes a shower of wood chips flies up onto my face. It stings. Yet other times the axe seem to glide down the wood grain. Last fall I was ambitious enough to chop all the woods necessary for the weekend but today? I'm not feeling it. So I just do my share. And yet I feel a conceit so intense in me. I'm chopping wood! 

And the woods are starting to sparkle now as the sun shines down us. 

During my walk through the woods I'm reminded that there are things ready in preparation for the spring: fungi ruffling up a tree, buds peaking out above the snow. 

After the kid is in bed, the power to the back of the airstream decides to shut off. So now the furnace isn't working. This is a problem. The trailer is warmed just enough. With a small space heater and all of our hot water bottles we should just fine. Yet it is a little bit frightening with not enough power to run the furnace.

Let us not forget: Winter is still here in this region. Where we are spending the night without heat. The forecasted low is 22 degrees.

Dave decides to head into town for a second space heater and I retreat to the trailer. I'm not so bold when he's not around. I wonder how much time I would spend outside if I were here by myself. Would I come in to bed early? Would I be stoking a fire late into the night? Doubtful. I'd likely be cozying up with a book and some tea. Sounds nice, doesn't it? I should try it sometime. Retreating into the woods by myself might just be exactly what I need every now and then.

A chorus of yipping and howling starts up as I head out to pee. Yep. I'm gonna wait it out inside the trailer. Maybe he'll come home and decide to end the night with nachos.


Last night I got to sleep alone on the couch and it was nice. I even enjoyed the deep chill early in the morning. I liked tucking in my head under the covers, keeping all my body heart sealed under the blankets.

As dramatic as it seemed the night before, everything turned out all right despite the lack of furnace heat. The next day when the sun came out the temps warmed even more dramatically. All the snow that had been trampled quickly melted. Another warm day today means even more snow will melt but I concede that it will take weeks of sustained heat for all of the snow to disappear. That's OK. I'll wait. 

I go through this each year. When spring temps arrive in the city I'm expecting it to be the same in the woods. But that is never the case. For one thing our Wisconsin property is further north than the city. And secondly the woods keep some of the chill because the sun has difficulty penetrating the density of the trees. 

This night without the furnace heat only served to make us hardier. There's that conceit again, swelling up from my gut into the rest of my body.

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