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Leaving Jemima (She's fine!)

Monday, November 27, 2017

I wrote "The Thing About Jemima" in a long morning session, and by the time I finished it I was in sore need of a long hike. I think of the woods trails as my quickest route to deliverance. There's little that can be wrong with me that six miles won't fix. It's good to have a place to go that makes you feel better.  Truth be told, it's probably the walking that saves me as much as the place. If something's bothering you, get moving. By the time you get back, your primitive brain will have decided you've outrun the cave bear. You'll live another day. You'll look forward again.

It was a rare, sunny winter afternoon, and I could see right away that the animals were all coming to me. The white-throated sparrows were peeping and fluttering in the multiflora rose. A beautiful male eastern towhee sounded his "Joreeet?" then hopped back down into the thicket. I know the secret  towhee word, though, and I whistled it softly through my teeth. Seeureet? I whistled.

That got him back out! Huh? What?! Who said the password?

The afternoon sun caught his eye, and it shone like a garnet. He postured and gave me his good side, then switched around. And then he leapt to another sumac branch, and I caught him in flight. Except that he barely opened his wings. "Flying is just assisted leaping," he said. "Watch me."

I did. And I remembered, watching him, that all Jemima had to do was leap, and flutter some, too, and she could get through the forest just fine.

Thank you, Beautiful.  

It occurs to me that the title of this post may cause some alarm, so I rush to reassure you that Jemima's been in the past three days! She's been coming in the morning with a gang of friends, and she's been ignoring her chicken and peanuts, gobbling corn and seed with the ruffians instead. 

 That's her on the left. The one with no primaries.

 Taking a leisurely breakfast with Maybelline (now he's on the left).  These shots taken November 27 around 7:40 AM.

Hi Ma. Don't worry about me. I have my posse. They're pretty sharp. They look out for me.
It's incredibly hard for me to leave home, knowing she's hanging so close by, but I'm leaving for Ecuador tomorrow. And who knows, being Jemima, she could go on another 8 day bender while I'm gone. I'm prostrate with thankfulness that she decided to see me off this morning. Thank you Jemmy, thank you.

 I'll be away for 10 days, which neatly coincides with the week of whitetail gun season that started this morning. Blam! Blam! My least favorite sound, besides the snarl, crack and crash of logging. There's a beauty to that, for me to just leave the country while my friends go under fire. I can't do anything to help them; can't walk in the woods this week, so I might as well go explore some of the highest bird diversity on the planet, on both slopes of the Andes, with a bunch of beloved friends, right? Right!

Liam is on Jemima duty, and he has a full page list with lots YOU MUST's and boldface and !!!!!'s to refer to. Lucky Liam!

Back to Dean's Fork. We were on a walk when Jemima barged in, all blue and white.

Allis Chalmers was looking fine against a pillowy mackerel sky. As the saying goes, we'd be barely 24 hours dry, for sure--it would pour all the next day. 

I peeked into the upper corner of the canopy.
There was the phoebe nest!

The aging woods behind were looking very thin, but the grass still had an emerald sheen.

I kept hearing winter wrens. They sound a lot like song sparrows, but instead of giving one "Chimp!" note, they often pair them. Little rattles and trills give them away as wrens, too. They're hard to see, these far northern migrants. They come down to southern Ohio and it feels like the tropics to them, because they've been messing around the roots of wind-thrown trees in boreal forests all summer long.  I find them all winter long in stream beds among the tangled roots, popping out from under logs for a moment, then disappearing again. 

I took about 20 lousy photos, and then I got some good ones.  Please click on these to see his exquisite patterns.
I played about two seconds of winter wren song on Lang Elliott's BirdTunes, and this little character came boiling up out of the tangled roots to kick my a-s. His tiny tail was cocked straight up, and he was moving it the way Andrew McCutchen twirls his bat when he's thinking about clocking one out over the stands and into the Allegheny River. 

I really love these shots, the glow of sun hitting the forest floor and tumbled fallen logs behind the bird, the smooth Smilax brambles crossing, none of it fazing this little bird who chooses to live in jumbled disarray. 

He sang, and the world buzzed and sang around me, with the wonder of hearing silvery birdsong in gray November.  

I've split this magical walk into three parts, so you'll have something to amuse yourself with while I'm gone.  Next:   Remembering Hannah. 


Love your bird words. I can just see them!

Lovely writing and photos.

I'm so used to you finding treasure that when you wrote about the Smilax branches brambling, or whatever they were doing, I thought: Isn't Smilax the saber-toothed tiger? And my next thought was: Well, it's Julie, MAYBE SHE'S ACTUALLY GOT ONE. Now I have to go look up Smilax (plant) and saber-toothed tiger.

Okay. Smilodon. Saber-toothed tiger. But you COULD'VE.

I'm glad to hear that Liam is on Jemima duty. I know that she will be in good hands.

Posted by Anonymous November 27, 2017 at 4:41 PM

Your words. Your photos. So exquisite. Will you not write or send photos from Ecuador? 10 days is a long time...

Thanks everyone! You can find me on Facebook under my name, for Ecuador updates. But probably no bird shots as I've got no way to upload pics from my Big Rig Canon. Bugs and flowers and landscapes though will be fair game as I find WiFi. Wish me luck. There's a jay in Ecuador called the Beautiful Jay. And one called The Turquoise Jay and I'm all ate up about seeing them.

So excited for you and the Ecuador trip. Good luck with the Jays. Can't wait to see them when you get back!

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