Saturday, January 30, 2016


Late Friday evening, Snowdrop returned to her home and Ed carried away the trapped possum. Butter, our white hen was pushed back into the coop and the door was locked tightly behind her. But we spotted a second possum hovering to the side and more importantly, Scotch was missing.

You looked all over the barn? I ask. It's easy to miss something in the dark. There's machinery, there are boards, wire netting, bales of hay.
With a flashlight. Nothing.
How about in the garage? She'd been hanging there earlier in the day.
Not there either.

I'm tired. I need to get some sleep. But I can't leave our girl vulnerable to the predator that seems still to be nearby. Reluctantly, I put on my jacket and stick a flashlight in my pocket.

I search the garage thoroughly. No, certainly not there. I turn toward the barn. It's a beautiful night and I take a moment to gaze up at the sky. The clouds have parted to reveal a brilliantly display of starlight. It's the kind of stuff you see in picture books but rarely in real life.

But in looking up, my gaze wanders to the big crab apple tree. There's something bunched and huddled high up in the branches. An animal waiting to pounce? I shine my flashlight.

It's Scotch.

Honestly, I'd never seen a chicken high up in the tree. I reach for her -- I have just enough stretch to get her down.

Look what I found in our crab apple!

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So the girls are now safe in the coop. The trap is set for the second possum, but by morning, it stands empty. Ed thinks maybe he's run away.

I can't pretend to understand the life and habitat of wild beasts. I'm just glad our girls are safe. For now.

Saturday breakfast. A happy set of minutes.

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That's almost a genuine smile! We're not rushed, there are bands of sunshine -- bliss!

I go out to say hi to the cheepers (and to make sure yesterday's visitor, the one who eluded us in the end, hasn't returned). They're buoyed by the warm temperatures (we're having an unusually warm day -- 40F/4C -- a rarity for January) and they even take a few steps out of the barn to catch the treat they know I always have for them.

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It's a perfect day for a walk along the rural roads. Ed had been studying google maps and he thinks we may be able to veer off our favorite road and eventually come to a lake. It's called Hook's Lake. It looks quite big on the map.

This is not easy on a day where paths -- if there are any -- are covered by ice and snow. But we take a stab at following deer tracks leading off the road and sure enough, we find the lake.

Let's cross it and see where we end up.
Ed, how do you know it's frozen? I'm only a tiny bit worried. Our big lakes are frozen solid. This smaller body of water is probably solid ice to the bottom.
You'll be fine.
Wait, first a photo of me lying on the lake. You know, a parting shot...

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He takes it, then walks forward. I look after him.
If it's so safe, how come there are absolutely no footprints on the entire lake?
No one comes here.
Not a single foot has stepped here? People may know something we don't.
Stay in my tracks. You'll be fine.

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And of course, he's right. It still feels somehow precarious to be crossing a lake in this way, but I know the feeling of vulnerability is irrational.

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Besides, once we move even further from civilization, we do come across prints. Plenty of them.

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They're wild turkey \ foot prints and their patterns are nothing short of splendid.

In fact, it is an exhilarating walk, made all the more memorable because I know many, many weeks will pass before we have such fine weather again.

In the evening (after carting off a load of books that I'm donating to libraries and Goodwill), I spend some time thinking about books I had read and especially those that taught me stuff I hadn't quite grasped about human nature. Like great moments in travel, great reading experiences for me are those, where you say to yourself: this is new... it doesn't affirm anything I thought before. It creates a fresh image of the way people can be with each other. (The book I'm reading does that and I love it to pieces for it.)

It is one of those pleasantly pensive times, when deer romp through your yard, dusk sets in and you are at peace with the world.

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  1. I'd love to get a Redbubble card of that first shot? Jean

  2. Tim Winton's "Island home:A landscape memoir" has been a book I have hated to finish this summer - and think I might reread already. You might like his way of weaving narrative and reflection? Jean

  3. Rarely are your posts cliffhangers but I couldn't get the image of that snarling possum off my mind. I thought they just rolled over and pretended to sleep when confronted. And Scotch in the crab apple!

  4. The chicken rescue was actually rather touching. Bravo!

    The pond trek did look exhilarating. Beautiful photos! I notice in all your photos we never see another soul. Most folks are not quite the outdoor aficionados that you and Ed are. But good for you.

    ..and you are right to be cautious. A sweet girl I knew in college, an artist, such a lovely free spirit, went skating alone on a forest pond, and, well, that was her end. At least, I imagined, how wonderfully happy she was in her last moments.

  5. Jean, I'll take a look at Redbubble later this week. And thank you -- I always like book hints.
    Donna -- Scotch in the crab apple was actually more shocking than a possum in the coop!
    JoyD -- we are mostly alone. We have state parks that are favored on the weekend by a few Madisonians, but these rural spots are never with walkers and even the parks, with the exception of the most popular (Devil's Lake) are never very populated. We are, in the end, a very small city! P.S. -- I knew I could make a chicken fan out of you! :)

  6. Great to see the cheepers heading down their morning path! The possum account brings back childhood memories of one of our bantam hens flying off into the woods, just escaping a dog who pulled off her tail feathers as she barely escaped. Took a while for the feathers to grow back!

  7. I am a little late catching up with your blog.... but I finally dropped in to read a bit and I must ask: what is the book you are reading now that you love?


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