Background Switcher (Hidden)

Pictographs and Hoodoos

Monday, November 30, 2009


One of the campsites along Montana's Missouri River where we stayed was also one that Lewis and Clark had used on their epic exploration of the West. I like to think that they also gazed on the canyon and explored the pictographs on its smooth rock walls.
They do beg to be written upon.
And there were graceful horses, shot with bullet holes by later, less gracious intruders.

This one, with a rider and a flowing tail.

I don't know how old these pictographs are, but they are very old.

Above them, rock formations called hoodoos look down, guarding, watching.
A fitting phalanx of guardians for treasures so rare.

Tipi Ring Magic

Sunday, November 29, 2009

There are magical places that we come to in our lives, places that leave a print on the soul. Such was one promontory over the Missouri River in Montana, last June.

Somewhere along late September I lost the Montana thread, so caught up in the splendor and hubbub of the fall that I couldn't go back. But as I look out at a fine sleety drizzle falling on gray twigs, I need a little sunshine, a little remembrance of Montana.

I need a Western White, bobbing in the warm mid-June breeze.

And a horned toad, delighting the kids with its existence, sending me into a reverie of the first one I ever found, in my uncle's hedge in Iowa. Such a dear little lizard.

The weird and wonderful wildflowers that nodded in the breeze on this promontory confounded me.

This one I know: Gallardia, or something like it.

And scarlet globe mallow. I know you.

But oh, what we didn't know could fill volumes. Who made these rings of rock, and when? Plains Indians, weighing down their tipis with the rocks at hand, leaving them in perfect rings, undisturbed for centuries.Left there, for children to wonder at.

We touch these rocks, that they touched so long ago. We imagine roasting bison over a campfire, vaulting on our paint ponies for another hunting expedition, flensing hides with flint and bone.

The clouds roll over us in an endless summer parade and we listen to what Bob knows.
And the rocks and the wildflowers are the same as they were then

But we are forever changed, having been here, having seen what they saw, having touched the rocks they gathered and used.

We will always long to return.

Wildlife Banquet

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Those kwazy kawdinaws. This is a November baby cardinal, photographed on the Day of the Dead, November 1, 2009. Not more than two weeks out of the nest, he is, and begging like mad for some sunflower hearts. Cardinals are the most prolific birds on our place. They nest from April through October. Think it has anything to do with the sunflower subsidy? Me, too. I have a hard time believing cardinals living on the edge of a woods miles from any human habitation are still feeding babies in November. I'd love to be corrected on that, by the way.

I enjoy offering a variety of foods to wildlife. We welcome squirrels, and enjoy seeing them try to get past our baffles. Squirrels very quickly get the picture, and figure out ways to circumvent mere baffles. However Chet Baker, our own Offisa Pupp, soon sets them straight and sends them packing, tails fuzzed to the fullest, for the trees. No squirtle gets by Offisa Pupp. He busts 'em all.

This squirtle ate a grape or two, but he was really trying to figure out if he could jump from the birch snag to the feeders, bypassing the baffle. He made it, but in the end he moved on. Too much heat from Chet Baker, crusin' around in the black and white.

An eastern chipmunk enjoys the grapes, too.

Who's that with the gentle eye, back in the woods?

The button buck moseys out and samples some Russian prune leaves.

View from the Tower

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

For those new to this blog, we have a 42' tall birding tower atop our house. It lets us see incredible things, opens up our eyes to the glory all around us. Many of our 184 species of birds have been seen first from this tower.

The tower is in its prime in May, September and October. Not only can you hear for a ridiculous distance all around, but you can see flyovers for miles. And oh, the trees. The beautiful trees.

Before it's too long gone, I have to show you some of the fall splendor we enjoyed from the birding tower on Indigo Hill. I look at these pictures, with the leaves now gone nearly a month, and can't believe what a feast it was. But it's gone until next October, and I'm glad I took so many photos.

The gold trees in the foreground are mostly sassafras, with some tupelo (red) worked in.

I suppose I could work on some kind of tourism board for southern Ohio, a place that probably does not spring to mind as a prime fall destination. But it is. It is achingly gorgeous. And it is in spring, too, except that the golds are replaced by filmy reds and greens and yellow.

The north view off the tower. All our weather comes from here.
Now panning northeast, turning clockwise:
East view, the front yard and vegetable garden (with Liam on a tire swing):
and looking south, down the meadow.
The sumac in the meadow was spectacular this year, painting a tapestry of reds and golds.
While the sunshine shots are lovely, I really dig the way autumn foliage looks when skies are leaden.
That same north view looks so different on a blue-grey day, especially when some of the leaves have fallen.
There's a fairy tale quality to the landscape.

I click and click, hoping to capture those qualities of light. Oh, my.
Oh, my oh my.

If you're intrigued by the tower and want to learn more, read the full story of its conception and execution at my web site, under Writings/A Room With a View.

Chet's Angel

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thank you, everyone, for your support, for your shared stories, for testifying to the frightening importance of your dogs and cats and cockatiels in your lives. Clearly, we are on the same wavelength. I had a little white budgie named Edie years ago who I'd caught by hand as he fluttered along I-95 in Connecticut in late October. He was with me only three years, but he carved a little roost in my heart that's never been filled. When I was sick, Edie would fly all the way down the dark hallway to find me, and cuddle up under my chin. He was tiny, but so full of love. When Edie died, I bought a lovely chicory-blue budgie to replace him, and named him Bing. Bing was a little twit, given to biting the inside of my nostril just to hear me yelp, and he lived eight full years before he decided to do a little beak-fencing with Charlie the macaw. You win some, you lose some.

April's comment on "Chet's Fall" about her mom's not wanting to get a kitten after losing a beloved cat reminded me of my mom. We had one dachshund, and he was a doozie, a truly great dog, a solid, stolid character, built like a brick outhouse, not one of those spindly, roach-backed mini's which seem to be all you see these days. And when Volks passed on, Mom said never again. I wonder how it will be for me. I can't imagine living without Boston kisses, but then...I just don't know. His fall certainly made me think about it, though.

Himself looks like a puddle of ink on the freshly-washed, sunshiny fleece blanket after an all-day woods trek that culminated in hamburgers cooked over a wood fire. Baker heaven. He climbed inside many hollow trees and logs, looking for racketycoons and squirtles. Yes, he got half a burger.

Sights along the way to Chet's cliff:

The long, flyspecked face of a curious horse. Horses, their warm sweet breath, hot close hair, their sweaty scent, their kind eyes, always a comfort to me. They seem to like people. I wonder why that would be; like cattle, they don't have to be kind to us, but they are.

The incredible beauty that surrounds us. How is it that we get to drive down roads like these? Could a place be more beautiful than this township road in late October?

How I miss the fiery sugar maples. There are not enough of them to go around. I must visit this one now that it's bare, just to remember.

Chet listens for a squirtle in the leaves behind him. He's in fine form just a week after his accident. Heck, he was fine a minute afterward.

A languid tussock moth caterpillar polishes off a raspberry leaf.

As we prepare to leave, Chet's angel smiles softly.

Back to the Cliff

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A week later, I was still reliving the whump and the dread and the coppery taste of losing Chet over the sandstone cliff. I couldn't purge them from my mind, especially at night. The only thing I could think to do was to go back to the cave with Chet and Shila and try to come to peace with it all. We chose a fine Sunday, maybe the finest Sunday left, with the leaves just coming off full color, falling everywhere. Yes. Having lived several Sundays since then, watching a fine gray rain fall on bare gray branches, I know it was the best Sunday of the dying year.

If there's anything wrong with me, a photo safari with Shila will usually help. We flash on the same things, dig the same things, notice the same things--and appreciate the heck out of everything we notice. Photography is a way of putting that appreciation into action, of saving the things we love.

Decrepitude, collapsing barns, the whaleribs of their siding jutting and folding in on themselves. Sun coming through it, rusted tin, holes, wholes, details, details.

The Tin Man, cracking a private joke

Red maple, tin roof

The back side, toward the woods. It's not a building any more; it's a ruin, an elegaic husk, a monument.

It's the perfect barn on the perfect afternoon, more shadow and space than light and wood.

And the leaves and their shadows ran together.

At last we reached the parking area for the North Country Trail and set off down through the woods toward the cave and cliff.

There: the cliff he'd fallen from.
There: the last place I saw him before he disappeared. Perhaps the worst of all, for the memory of his scrabbling paws, his suddenly frantic eyes pierces me.

There: the vine-draped lip from which Chet tumbled, the leaves and logs that broke his fall, now cast in slanting afternoon sun.
He on a leash, in my arms, safe, both of us here with Shila's healing presence, and her amazement that he suffered no harm.

Going back to a place that holds such awesome power is the only thing to do, I think. Going back to face it again and face it down.
The trees, impassive, arch overhead and I hold Chet close, kiss him, let him off the lead and then let him go on ahead, straight away from the cliff's lip, from the dark cave, from the horror.

If he is thinking of last Sunday, he doesn't betray it. He is in the moment, something the Angel Beast has such trouble being. And he is no longer a ghost, but just my dog, hoping for squirrels in these beautiful woods. And that is just a slippery cliff to be respected and avoided, and I am all right with it all. I won't need to come back again.

And this is my friend who helps me through

And this, the specific honeyed light, light that will never be exactly this golden again until next October.
[Back to Top]