Monday, October 7, 2013
This was without question the best summer for running I’ve ever had. I can remember only a few days when it was so humid I felt I needed gills to breathe. And I can’t remember any days that were so hot I couldn’t move. It was a kind, cool, rainy summer and I loved it. But I’m keenly aware it’s come to an end and we’re now in my favorite season of the year. I love everything about fall—its scents, its heightened insect chorus, the hush of everything else. I even love its ephemerality, perhaps most of all.
And so I announced to Liam and, by proxy, the still-sleeping Phoebe on this fine cool Sunday morning that I was going running, and it would be a long one. I didn’t know where I was running to until I took a right on the county road and headed for Dean’s Fork. I’d never run it before, but I figured it’d work out to about a six-mile round trip, and that’s what I felt like doing. I had no water or food with me but it wasn’t hot and I figured I’d be OK, just a little parched and hungry on the return. And I was all that.
I took my phone but there was no reception. It did me no good except as a camera, and what a lovely camera it was. It let me take you along with me.
The first thing I came to was a beautiful beaver pond with actual beavers. I know they're still there because my friend Tim Appleton had seen one sunning on a log just a day earlier. And because the dam is always in perfect repair, no holes or spillways. It is the most epic beaver dam I've ever seen, at least 15' high at its deepest point.
Real water is so darned rare around our house, that it's a delight to see a pond, even if it's all silted in and only a few inches deep in most places.
There are always kingfishers there.
They rattle and fuss and fly from one end of the pond to the other, letting me know I'm intruding.
Not taken with an iPhone. I can cheat sometimes.
Today, there was something even more special.
I had to leave Chet Baker home because he sprained his wrist chasing feral cats (an honorable battle wound) at the Midwest Birding Symposium, and Katdoc told me he really shouldn't run for two weeks. If you think it's easy to leave those pleading eyes and that sweet face every morning, well, it's not.
He had a turrible limp at MBS, and about 800 people came up and asked me what had happened to him. I had to carry him everywhere we went for two days, slung over my shoulder like a sack of peanuts. He's much, much better now, 17 days out. You can barely see the limp. We saw Dr. Lutz who recommended easing him back into running on October 7. Well, that's today!
One thing I found, without having a doggeh out in front of me, is that I could creep up on birds and animals, seeing them before they flushed, before they saw me.
And I peeked through a scrim of vegetation and saw a wood duck peeking back at me. Scanning the pond's many emergent logs, I found at least seven more.
I watched them for a long time as the sentinel decided whether I was friend, foe, or nothing at all.
It wasn't too long before they lost their nerve and took off in sequential squadrons, ten birds in all, giving a low whoooeeek? as they flew.
Wood ducks are tail-heavy, long from back of wing to tip of tail, easy to recognize even in silhouette.
Two were almost perfect fall drakes! Oh what a jewel a drake wood duck is!
They made my day. I hated to make them move, but they got gone, and there was nothing I could do but forge ahead. I couldn't wait to see what other surprises Dean's Fork held.