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Monday, August 19, 2013


Another wet Monday with dim light all day. Not many squirrels and birds at the feeders. The traffic at the feeders is so slow in the rain, a coon climbs the post, maneuvers over the squirrel guard that only keeps chipmunks out, throws the roof off the birdfeeder and finishes the day's unfinished supply. I've put hook and eye at both ends of the roof, but raccoon hands have no problem unhooking them. The hooks are primarily to keep the tops on in a big wind. Raccoon throws the roof to the ground and has plenty of room to sit down and have a snack. I don't care. It's easy enough to pick up the roof and sit it back on. Squirrels climb a tree nearby and leap to the roof of the birdfeeders. It cracks me up to see one leap through the air twisting the tail for balance. Like a coon and a possum, squirrels have hands for all four feet. I've seen them leap through the air at the birdfeeder and often in the canopy of trees, from a branch of one tree to a branch in the next tree. The squirrels travel through the trees almost like monkeys. They catch the branch with all four feet. When they land on the birdfeeder, it is all four feet at once. I see a nuthatch darting about.

I enjoy seeing the rainwater drip from leaf to leaf through the rhododendron and leaves of an oak sapling. By this time of summer, the leaves everywhere in the mountains are lush green like in June. Everyone who has seen as many summers in the mountains as I have knows that no two summers are alike and no one of them was predictable. It's the same with winter. People are talking about what this summer of wet shoes almost every day means for winter. I heard my first folk-report yesterday that we're looking at a hard winter. What does hard winter mean? A lot of snow? A lot of cold? A lot of both? Or maybe a not very cold winter that rains as frequently as this summer so we have freezing rain almost daily, ice. If it rains as much in the winter as it has this summer, we'll have ice regularly. That's the worst case look at it. Winter is never the worst or the best. It wavers between the two poles all winter long. I have no argument with the rain because it is bringing the water table back up, which was sinking fast, more springs drying up, due to the new houses all over the mountains, each using an electric pump to get their water from a well and returning it to a septic tank. I suppose the water table by now this summer is up to where it was maybe fifty years ago. I call that a blessing for the mountains and for the people living in the mountains. When fracking comes here, that's it for the water.

I see a towhee at one of the feeders. I go out every morning to fill the two feeders with black oil sunflower seeds. More than one pair of towhees is nesting in the grove of trees around the house. One or more of the towhees will make their distinctive whistle, and I respond with my poorly executed imitation of their whistle. We get a call and response communication going on while I'm visiting each feeder with the day's serving. At the place across the road where I throw seeds on the ground for crows, I call to them with a caw-caw, again, my version of it, which to a crow is obviously not a crow. It tells them it's the giant that puts out snacks for them making an attempt to speak Crow without knowing the language. In the old days when a farmer went out to call the cows, he didn't holler Moo. Come to dinner can be understood in any language once it is established. The towhees know the giant has a terrible accent, but they know what it means when the giant responds to them. Come and get it! The bird chirpings are quiet when it rains. The rain is merely sprinkling all day. I can walk to the mailbox and not get wet above the knees. Jewelweed on both sides of the path to the mailbox soak my pants from knees down and shoes. I don't care. It's summer. If the sky were not overcast, the temperature would be in the nineties. It sits on seventy today.

A moment of stillness outside. The sprinkling has let up, leaves are no longer wiggling, no birds chirping, so quiet I hear the clock ticking off the seconds. It is a momentary calm in the air that brings to mind days at sea when twice I have seen the ocean mirror smooth, not a ripple all the way to the horizon all the way around. Clouds reflected on the surface of the ocean exactly as above. It was one of those perfect as-above-so-below moments. The ship's prow did not break the surface. That point was where the great V of ripples began that spread out from the ship all the way to horizon. I believe such days were called halcyon days. Ships with sails sat in place waiting for wind to stir. Even with the rain I think of today as a halcyon day. Quiet, calm, at peace outside and inside. A day of stillness. A good day for reading and a nap. A fog is coming in, a low-flying cloud crossing the ridge here in slow motion. Silence but for water dripping from leaf to leaf, and visual stillness but for one towhee on a rhododendron branch grooming itself. It's a day that makes me think of Toru Takemitsu's compositions for piano. I don't want to put one on the jukebox, don't want to break the halcyon nature of the moment. I can hear him good enough in my mind.


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