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Magic Bones

Thursday, April 16, 2015

I'd had a rough day. One of those where everything you're facing seems impossible, daunting and endless, and it seems things will be this way forever. I'd lost my way again. I lose it all the time.

When I feel helpless to effect change, to break out of the prison of circumstance, I fight it for awhile, thinking and writing my way, meandering through it. Thinking and writing help me understand my feelings, but they don't actually change anything. In the end, I just have to give up, give under, be thankful for all I have been given and stop yearning for what I haven't.

 I go outside, under the limitless sky. It's always been more home to me than my house.

 Mammatus clouds look threatening, but I didn't think they'd open up and rain. I didn't care, anyway. Let it rain. 

Just moving and paying attention to my breath going in and out helped. I don't have to stay in this feeling. I can't. I have work to do. I can lope it out. 

I never knew the past owners of this abandoned cabin had planted pheasant's eye narcissus! I could smell them before I saw them, the rich pungent perfume carried on the damp breeze. 
Little Ferdinand danced through the row, sniffing. 
It wasn't the first time I'd envied my dog his simple take on life. 
Oh look. Narcissus! They smell good. 

And just there it was, in the wash along a deer trail, of course, just below a barbed-wire fence.
Had he gotten it hung up on the wire, shaken his head in irritation, only to have this bony weight come suddenly free? 

However it had come to me, here it was.

I needed these three
Small points of grace, mine being
Worn down to the bone

Recent torrents had washed mud and pebbles over it, moved it farther downslope. But it can't have been there long. It was perfect, heavy and smooth except where it was nubbled at the base. One point had broken off somewhere along the way, but the buck had smoothed the edge rubbing, pushing through brush, fighting. Who knows. All I knew was joy.

I don't know why shed deer antlers bring me so much delight. For me it's like finding an Easter egg or an arrowhead, a message that someone has been here and left a present for you. 

When we were learning to drive, my wise and occasionally benevolent father used to tuck dollar bills in the seat belt receptacle of our Volkswagen beetle, as instant positive reinforcement for buckling up. It worked like a charm, made buckling up before turning the key a lasting habit in the four girls, until my older brother Bob figured it out and started stealing the bills for date money. 

He cheated at Hearts and Monopoly, too. It makes me laugh now to think how we'd holler when we caught him at it. Wish we could play a round of Hearts and catch him again.

 Finding a shed, as we call them, is like finding one of Dad's bucks before Bob did. The mice and squirrels who quickly chew them to shreds being Bob in this scenario.

Though it went against the Zen principle to which I lazily adhere, I decided to turn my run into a shed hunt. I lay my new treasure by a fencepost where I'd be sure to find it again and headed for a patch of winter rye my neighbors planted to attract deer. All winter long it's been dotted with distant deer, filling their bellies on lovely green salad instead of that damned shelled corn the hunters also feed by the ton. I like to see the does and fawns out at the end of the meadow, eating something remotely natural. 

I figured that where a lot of deer spend a lot of time, there might be a shed waiting for me.

I walked the meadow, searching, finding nothing, and entered the woods at the end. My unbelieving ears picked up the rolling tattoo of a ruffed grouse. I hadn't heard that here at home for probably 13 years. The grouse, once dependable, have been utterly gone. So much development and logging. But when the logged areas recover, the brush grouse like comes back in, and eventually the grouse return. They're cyclic in nature. I hope we're on an upswing. I'm out every day, and this spring I'm finally seeing and hearing grouse again. This was my third...I saw two red-morph males in March. And that is a balm to the soul.

I stood in the evening woods, watching the sun throw gold across the trees and distant hills, listening to the grouse drum again and again. He's just down at the bottom of that slope, where loggers left downed trunks like jackstraws on the forest floor.

And as I stood in wonder and joy, the first ovenbird of my spring darted high over the trees and spilled out his crazy evening flight song.

This is April. This is what she does, every minute. But you have to reach for the buckle to get the dollar. 

You have to go out into the April woods and see what she's got lined up for you.

I turned to see Chet Baker, my guide, always leading me on toward the light. All right, Bacon. I'll leave the grouse and come with you. You know I could stand here forever.

 I walked an odd, meandering path, up and down the flank of the huge bowl that in winter we fill with screams and laughter, sledding. I couldn't tell you why I took the odd path I did, but I walked right to second shed of the evening, a small three point, gleaming and perfect in the evening sun.

Who expects a grouse
gone for decades, drumming now--
Ovenbird in flight
spilling crazy notes--
Quaker ladies' quiet blue--
Or, as if guided
by my father's hand
To stumble on magic bones
when I'd been hoping
Just to breathe again?


A moment of silence and breathing after that awesome trip with you and the Chetster.

Lovely post and poem. Hope the problems melt away.--hart


Posted by Anonymous April 16, 2015 at 7:46 AM

I was just in my basement folding laundry and for some reason reflecting back on your post of yesterday. The book that I am sure you have put heart and soul into along with uncountable hours of labor. I was pondering how prolific both you and your neighbor are in creating works of art. It inspires me to try to go beyond circumstance and find my way to creating again. This post inspires me. Thank you for your honesty in sharing.

Posted by Fritzann April 16, 2015 at 8:03 AM

There is no hurt of the soul that doesn't respond, at least a little, to a long walk. I walk a lot. Never find any antlers, but I did nab a $100 once.

How lovely. I give antler chews to my dogs. They are pricey, though, wish we could go find some :) Sometimes I think the younger dog buries them in the hard, hoping to grow a whole deer. "It'd be a fun toy, mom!" When I put antlers in their stockings for Christmas, I laughed at the thought- kids, don't try to eat Santa's reindeer! You wouldn't get any more presents after that.

I walk with you and Chet and experience what you experience, with your words rather than my feet, and it makes up for not being able to do it myself. Thank you for this and all your posts here!

Aaahhhh. Deep breath. Thank you.

Oh, such a great post. There's bedrock and light in it. And grouse! That photo of Chet with the narcissus made my heart puddle up, it's so wonderful.

Your last 2 posts have spoken to my soul, coming just at the right time. Your poetic stories intertwining life and Mother Earth are magically healing. Thank you.

Oh Julie, I do love your blog. I lose my way now and again. I too love to pick up bones, feathers, nests. My favorite quote of my husband's about me is when he said, "she likes to pick up dead stuff." yes, I do. Long live the science chimp! Our loved ones, friends and furry companions help us get back on the road again and again. Please continue your awesomeness!!
Wendy B.

Posted by Wendy B. April 22, 2015 at 8:53 PM
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