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Following the Moss Muse

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

In thinking about why I blog, I have come up with this: I feel greatly blessed to live on 80 acres of land. I want to share it. I want to take people out on walks with me, people who might not otherwise be able to get out on a given day, people who are stuck in offices, people who have too much to do to get out themselves. Maybe they can't hike over uneven ground and leap over streams. I can, although as I get older I wonder what would happen to me if I broke something and was a mile from home. I'm careful. Especially so since I got a nice camera. I walk as if I have a baby on my hip. Sometimes I stuff it in a camera bag and line out, but since Chet's been sidelined I creep along, noticing little things. (One full week into his month-log sentence of rest, Chet's bored to tears but fine, by the way, and today when he saw my sad face, and I said, "Chetty, you have to stay home because of your bad leg," he put his ears back, moved away from the door, and sat down at the foyer window, where he could watch me walk out the yard. Perfect little gentleman. He understands everything. I cannot wait for the day when I can ask him if he wants to go for a walk with me.)

I did five drawings today for this 200-drawing project that seems never to end. 34 to go. Aggh, it's a sentence, it is, and it strengthens my chaotic resolve to write my own stuff and paint my own stuff. Soon come. We all have to work, and my definition of work is something nobody else wants to do or can do, so somebody pays you to do it. I heard about a woman who worked in a slaughterhouse cutting ears off cattle. Now that's work. Drawing birds is a massage by comparison, but after cranking out this many since the end of September, I'm ready for a change. I'm ready to see if following my muse can feed my family.

So I let my inner dog out at 3:30 this afternoon, and walked. I was alert and very quiet, and I saw a pileated woodpecker and a whole mess o' wild turkeys, golden-crowned kinglets and some deer. I saw a lot of gorgeous moss. I spent time on my knees, the cold wet soaking through my pants, admiring moss. Fernlike it a moss, or a teeny fern? In the world of primitive plants, the lines are blurred. The interface of haircap moss and snow was bewitching. Oh my, I love my camera. Although moss doesn't run or fly away, the turkeys, pileated woodpecker and deer would have been denied me had Chet been trotting ahead of me. Sorry, Chet. I miss you, but I like watching turkeys again. Their footfalls in the leaves sounded just like rain. You'd have heard that before I did, and raced after them, and all I'd have gotten was their loud putt calls and sound of them crashing away. Durn dog. (This is how I deal with missing him. Please excuse my forced rationale.)
The pileated was working on this Virginia pine tree, scored and incised with bark beetle tunnels. Ivory-bill fans note: It was quite ably scaling tightly- adhering bark. Don't underestimate those "delicate" pileateds. They're powerhouses.
When I got down to the Chute, a tiny brown winter wren squirted out from under a ledge and disappered in this mossy cave. I couldn't catch the wren with the camera, but I watched it doing deep knee bends and giving its little chimp call, a call that sounds much like a song sparrow's. Lovely little thing. A brown pom-pon on legs. While examining the liverworts in its cave, I found two nice walking ferns, Camptosorus rhizophyllum. Rhizophyllum means "root leaf" and it's an apt name for this ancient fern, which "walks," in a botanical sense, by rooting from its leaf tip and making an offshoot, then sending another out, hopscotching down the rock face with its vegetatively propagated children.
Breaking out into the Cut (a natural gas line clearing), I was delighted to find my first mockingbird of winter, buried deep in a nasty clump of multiflora rose. I love mockingbirds. I wish they would nest on our place. Someday, when our "pygmy" ornamental red barberry is 12' high, we may be blessed.It was feasting on the shriveled, merlot-colored multiflora rosehips. I loathe the plant, but I have to admit that multiflora rose, a noxious Asian exotic, keeps a lot of birds alive, as I point out in my chapter "The Cursed Tangle" in Letters from Eden. I tried hard to get a better picture of it, but the mocker was having none of it.
Four eastern bluebirds were calling softly, and I fired a pointless shot at one male, impossibly far away for my 135 mm. lens. But when cropped, gol dang, it wasn't all that bad, and it captured something of the experience of seeing this musical bit of blue and rust on a sunny winter day. Thanks for coming with me. You always see something good when you get out, even if it's only for an hour. Look at everything, think about why things are where they are, when they are, and you can never be bored.


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