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What I Got

Thursday, February 8, 2018

This winter, man. This winter. The challenge has been to focus on what I have, not what's missing. 

Bought myself a peppermint-striped rose to offset the greenhouse blahs. You can't ask for flowers, but you can go out and get 'em yourself.  If I can keep it going until spring it'll be a real feat. Candy striped, and candy for spider mites, too.

The yard has been full of blue jays all winter long. Maybe not the blue jay I need to see, but I have to say it helps a lot to be in their company all day long. It has effected a sort of desensitization which I sorely needed. I see so many jays every day it's impossible to keep expecting one of them will be Jemima. I have surrendered to the void, and now I enjoy jays almost like anyone else does, which is to say like someone who isn't completely obsessed with them. Until this winter, I never realized what a huge component of my intense focus is obsession.  Watching that. But obsession is a powerful motivator. It would be hard to write a decent book about one blue jay unless you were a bit obsessed. 

 I call this member of the 13 Canucks "Frost." As in Robert. Can you see why I call it that?

Frost has snazzy white  feathers just above the bill, on its "front." A marker like this is gold. I've felt quite at sea with this new group of jays, but seeing one I can pick out and identify helps so much to tell me that yes, it's a member of the same group that's been here since Christmas. The group that isn't Jemima's.

February 5 was sunny. I couldn't stay inside, even though cold air makes me cough. I took off for Dean's Fork. Debated about whether to bring the big rig, with all the ice and snow and the possibility of falling on it. Brought it and never took a decent photo. Oh well. There are plenty of times I bring it and get something awesome. I spooked up a beautiful large owl, watched it fly, big and blunt-headed, waay down through the trees. It gave a hook to the left and the upward swoop that meant it was going to land.  Barred or great horned? How to tell?  I couldn't see it at all, but I fixed my binoculars on the last place I'd seen it and settled down to wait for a glimpse.  Look hard where it's hardest to look. Along comes a curious red-tailed hawk, bombing right into the section of woods where I thought the owl had gone. Oh!! The owl revealed itself, spreading its wings like a displaying turkey. It gave a querulous "Whooooaaaaa???" Its head swiveled--big dark eyes. It was a barred owl! I breathed a prayer of thanks to the redtail who'd blown its cover. It had been years since I'd seen a barred owl like that. My photos are a mess of twigs and haze. Never mind. It filled my heart and my eyes.

This day, the sky took center stage. It was Nevada blue, Colorado blue, New Mexico blue. It was the blue of a western bluebird, with some red in it, tending toward ultramarine. The air was rinsed clean. It took my breath away. That doesn't happen much in Ohio in winter. Gray flannel is the rule.

I found a little patch of mountain laurel atop this sandstone outcrop. That doesn't happen much around here, either.

I can hardly believe it, but I'm starting to see grouse again. They've been gone for more than 15 years. A beautiful red-morph grouse came tiptoeing up alongside me as I descended into Dean's Fork, and I was so flabbergasted I couldn't even raise my camera. But I did take a photo of his last two tracks before he whirred off like a warm brown football down into the draw. Oh, joy. To have grouse around again--it's too good to be true. There are some things you have to have faith will come back, some things you must wait for. 

The negative spaces of a winter creek. Water and ice are such free-handed artists. 

The play of sky blue on warm tree tones, the violet shadows on snow.

The sycamores, leaning impossibly out over the creek, throwing out roots to catch themselves in slow-motion. As big as sycamores get, wouldn't it make sense to root yourself farther back on the bank? But a tree doesn't have a choice. It takes root where it takes root, then deals with the consequences of cut banks and underwash, of having the rug pulled out from under it with every spring flood. I feel you, sycamores. 

Perhaps the thing that helps most about getting out is having to climb steep hills. 

I feel my heart pumping, feel my blood being cleansed of the sluggishness that sets in when you sit and think too much.

Soon enough, the sun went back to bed, and it rained and rained. The ground was so cold that ice formed on everything. 

The land took on a peculiar glazed look, the pines drooping with its weight.
At dusk, these deer wandered through a rosy wonderland. 

Worth clicking on these photos to enlarge them. I think this is Jolene and her band, but they're so wet it's hard to tell.

The ice has stayed for two days, stubborn and resolute. I've asked the sun for help and get nothing.

I love the textures of this unruly meadow. There's so much wood in it, but that gives it color, texture and life.

All day long, I've been watching for the tired sun to peek out from under the covers. I finally got perhaps ten seconds' worth, just enough to skid outside and grab a shot. I'll take it. Click on this one. There is glory out there for the finding, if you don't mind that it only lasts a few seconds.

Carry on, February. The woodcocks are on their way.


Are you suggesting you have a different BAND of blue jays, and not Jemima's band minus Jemima? So that he might come back yet?

Yep. Jemima's group left. I hope she traveled with them. I hope they haven't gone far but I don't know whether to expect them back.

The Spirit's Light got you, for sure.

Thank you for sharing your walk. I felt Chet's spirit in some of the photos. I love the birdhouse with what I think was a squirrel sticking out its head, checking on the visitor. And your last photo, enlarged, was breath-taking. (I enjoy ALL of your photos and verse.)

Here where bitter winter weather is a rarity, February's glimpses of spring have me dreading summer! Fall and winter are MY seasons....

I'm surprised you couldn't band her with something for future recognition. Glad you got that candy stripe rose, they are stunning.

A nice pictorial essay about what is going on in your world. Keep warm...

Thank you so much for taking us on your walk with you. Snowing here in Southwest Lower Michigan today. Could end up with as much as 10". The candy stripe rose is beautiful.
Lynda in Michigan

Julie, I have planted the candy stripe roses in my yard and they have lived and thrived through three winters. Boyfriend gets me more each year in different colors. I'm just south of Charlotte, so not sure if they would make it in your neck of the woods, but they just might.......

Wonderful walk! I appreciate you going in spite of the cold air/cough trigger. You saw so much. And that last photo! wow, wow, wow. Sometimes your photos have the aura of a painting -- I'm thinking of a particular tree photo you took along a dirt road, I believe, and now this one. Magical. Thank you! Kim in PA

The narrative today is exceptional, and I want to share it will all my naturalists friends. Thanks for putting into words what I cannot and making me think of good things that I did not. Like woodcocks!

Lovely photos. I too have had visits from deer in my Yonkers backyard and garden - sometimes as many as five, but usually just two. I think they may be a family. The largest of them has no horns and might be a matriarch. Two of the smaller ones are clearly male as they has one point horns. I was wondering if they could be brothers because they graze together (on hellebores which deer are not supposed to like) and then seem to play by bumping into each other and making feint head butts that don't actually touch. The one I think is the matriarch used to like to curl down in the leaf litter behind a garden bench last summer and chew her cud in the late morning. Is a group of deer like this necessarily a family unit? When do the males disperse - I was surprised to see two grazing together. And what do they do when they get rained on and then there are freezing low temperatures later at night? I tried to find info on deer online but most of what comes up seems to be aimed at hunters which is not my thing.

I hear you on the sitting in and thinking too much. Thanks for the inspiration. Looks good from here!

We ended up with 14" of snow by Saturday morning. Then received another 3" by Sunday morning.
Lynda in Michigan

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