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Friday, December 30, 2011

Reading Books and Nature at Year’s End


Edge of the Woods

“Thick clothes, thick books,” I thought this morning as I bundled up like a sausage for a morning walk with Sarah. The books I had in mind were The Divine Comedy and The Portable Thoreau. After collecting new e-mail, I had begun the reading day with Thoreau’s essay, “A Winter Walk,” suggested by a friend’s message.
As the day advances, the heat of the sun is reflected by the hillsides, and we hear a faint but sweet music, where flows the rill released from its fetters, and the icicles are melting on the trees; and the nuthatch and partridge are heard and seen. The south wind melts the snow at noon, and the bare ground appears with its withered grass and leaves, and we are invigorated by the perfume which exhales from it....
There was no sun visible as Sarah and I approached the woods, but it was a warmer morning than I had anticipated when adding layers of clothing indoors.
Holes made by snow on branches melting and falling to ground
Old edge marked by line of mature trees
Overnight wind from southeast?
Someone tiny passed this way
My anticipation this December 30 is not for the last day of the year (tomorrow) or the first day of the next (Sunday) but for the first of my outdoor sitting hours. Already thinking ahead to the beginning of my year-long adventure, sounds of this warm December morning seemed more sharply in focus. Crows nearby. Barking dogs at the kennel a couple miles to the east. A little bird in a bush, not singing but uttering a simple cheet-cheet-cheet. What was that bird? I couldn’t catch a glimpse of it.
Later, as I was driving into town, in a yard on the edge of Northport was a large flock of wild turkeys. That, I decided, was worth going back to see. A few hardy bird-souls were starting to cross the road, but they turned back as I pulled onto the shoulder.
Hesitant, wondering if it's safe to cross...
Back to safety! How many can you see?
Wild turkeys make themselves at home
It would be charming to sit in the midst of a flock of feeding wild turkeys sometime. As they relax and go back to their meal, they make sweet little sounds somewhere between chirping and mewing. Very comfortable, comforting, homey little sounds. After all, they are at home out in the snow. They are on their own home ground. I am looking forward to getting closer to my own, to learning it more intimately.

7 comments:

Dawn said...

I think I saw 15 parts of turkeys in that photo...how many did YOU see? Happy New Year, I think you have a wonderful plan...can't wait to read all about it!

Alan Mattlage said...

Hi, Pamela,

I envy the chance to see a flock of wild turkeys. I dearly wish Benjamin Franklin's suggestion of making it our national bird had been followed. I'm also starting to get a hankering for some snow and your photos are only making it worse. A really good snow would be great, rather like the snow in John Greenleaf Whittier's poem Snow-Bound -- maybe something you'd enjoy after Thoreau.

P. J. Grath said...

Dawn, I didn't even try to count the turkeys. The largest winter flock we've ever seen was between 50 and 60 birds. They tend to "gang up" in winter, separating again in spring.

Alan, hi! I was interested in your recent post on the Chinese philosophy book but keep forgetting to go back and leave a comment. If the turkey had been named our national bird, I'm sure it would have gotten more respect all these years. But then--a bird named after another country? In French, as you probably know, they are named for India. I memorized some Whittier as a young girl (my mother loved his poems) but don't remember "Snow=Bound." Must look for that one.

Gerry said...

Turkeys everywhere - maybe there are more turkeys because there are fewer coyotes? But if there are more and more turkeys, pretty soon there will be more coyotes . . . and so it goes. There is always a sea change coming.

P. J. Grath said...

Talked turkey, coyote, cougar, eagle and snowy owl with friends today. Pair of snowy owls up by Woolsey Airport. Seems strange, as it can hardly be a severe winter in the Arctic--or can it? Shortage of food is what usually forces snowy owls as far south as Leelanau.

Sea changes on the Great Lakes! Indeed! Everywhere!

dmarks said...

Be thankful you didn't encounter the Dogman. It's said that he rarely crosses north of M-72, but if Jim Harrison wrote "Wolf" when he lived in Lake Leelanau, that might be evidence of the beast ranging further north.

P. J. Grath said...

I could be wrong but think that Harrison wrote WOLF in New York City. I have no desire to encounter the Dogman. We do miss the coyote chorus of late: the nights don't seem the same without those voices.