Lake news

The mama chipmunk didn’t know what in the heck to do. She had come around the corner of the house with her kid, and suddenly there was a dog between them and the only two trees they could reach.

It was early morning at the cabin when I saw her make the decision that separated her from her tiny brown baby.  The dog was in the yard doing what dogs do, and by the time  mama chirped “Run! Quick! To the tree!” to the baby, the dog had seen them both. Most of the time, Lilly ignores the chipmunks at the cabin. She isn’t much of a hunter, and even if she was, trying to chase a chipmunk while tethered to a tree is pretty futile. Unfortunately, the baby had climbed a tree well within beagle-range and the mama was frantic. She chirped. The dog snuffled at the base of the tree. The baby circled the trunk looking for mom.  I called to the dog and put her back in the porch. The chipmunk crisis was averted.

Later in the day, a pair of adult loons on the river began their panicked tremolo call when a boat full of curious fishermen came too close. The male dove beneath the water and surfaced several yards away. Then the female did the same, leaving their black puff-ball baby bobbing and tweeting in the bull rushes alone. They cried out and flapped their great wings as the river churned around them. Suddenly, a large bald eagle swooped down upon the trio in an attempt to snatch the baby.  Luckily, for the loons, the eagle’s talons came up empty. A second attempt was no more successful and finally, the predatory bird gave up and moved on.

It’s tough to be the parent of a small and helpless creature. Whether we are covered in fur, or feathers, or just skin, we know this. We do our best to keep them safe. Sometimes, we can. Sometimes, we can’t.

I am spending a lot of time at the cabin this month. We have internet, but no cable television which means no cable news. This is a very good thing. I highly recommend this way of life. Besides, if I want to understand the news of families separated, all I need to do is look up in the tree where the chipmunks have found each other  or out to the river, where life for a family of loons has resumed.

I watch the beagle at the end of a leash that keeps her from causing too much mayhem in lives of other living creatures.

And I scan the tree line across the lake for signs of the eagle, too.


Real news

From 2017…

The Loon Whisperer

He doesn’t know he’s a hummingbird.  At least, that’s what I think.

We have a pair of piliated woodpeckers who arrived in our woods a week ago. They are enormous. Imagine two black chihuahuas with wings and red mohawks.  I am fairly certain they are married because they sit in separate trees and squawk loudly at each other when they aren’t gorging themselves on my suet.

Most days, the one little hummer we have perches on top of the tall shepherd’s hook surveying his kingdom until one of them arrives to eat. Then, he moves to a nearby branch to watch. He seems particularly infatuated with Mrs. Woodpecker. He does not know that he doesn’t stand a chance with her.  It is clear that while she is often annoyed with her partner, she married for keeps.

In other news, we have a major tick problem around here. Lilly the beagle…

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Tree people

Dendrochronology (or tree-ring dating) is the scientific method of dating tree rings (also called growth rings) to the exact year they were formed in order to analyze atmospheric conditions during different periods in history. (Wikipedia)

June. Lovely June.

Thanks to all the new growth, the dead trees that litter our five acres like an enormous set of Pick-up Sticks in March are hidden in June. The big one that split during a particularly nasty thunderstorm last year and fell only part way down before it hung up on a smaller tree next to it doesn’t drive me nuts. The big log that points like an arrow toward the lake has a soft carpet of bright green moss in June. Yesterday, I watched two chubby gray squirrels square off on top of it like Sumo wrestlers. Or maybe they were dancing a jig. In June, anything is possible.

I was a June bride. I stepped off an airplane from Seoul with our son in June. Our daughter has a June birthday.  I get up earlier, sometimes even before the sun does, in June. I go to bed earlier, too, so I can beat the sun the next morning, and the next. I measure the weeks in June by when the grass needs cutting. I tell myself that planning for next’s years courses can wait, because it can. And then, I read books I am not obligated to highlight and plan lessons around.

As a family, we celebrated two different college graduations in May. Two others completed their first year of college. The rest of the trees in our forest are hard at work nurturing their own seedlings or just working hard doing what they do to contribute to society. All of us older trees are happy to see their growth. This is what we all hoped for back when we were wiping their sticky Popsicle faces and telling them to walk, not run, on the boat dock so many Junes ago. One is preparing for a move and new adventures in Chicago. Another is planning a September wedding of fairly epic proportions. Life is good in the woods.

Years ago, we had to have one of the few elm trees on our property cut down near the driveway. After the trunk was hauled away, I looked at the stump to count the growth rings. Something had altered the tree’s growth pattern when it was just a sapling because instead of circles, a heart had formed where rings should have been. A perfect heart.

In June, I think about that tree a lot as I count the growth rings in all the tree people I love.

Not fussy, not fancy

The best time to make friends is before you need them.

-Ethel Barrymore

A handful of us met months ago to decide on a place and a time. Then, we formed a group for the class of ’78 on Facebook and added everyone we could think of to it. We agreed that we’d keep our reunion simple, and that’s exactly what we’ve done. Simple, after forty years, is good. Nobody has the energy for fancy.

The thing about being out of high school this long is that fancy, fussy, affairs seem like more work than fun. This is probably because when we think of “fun” now, the first thing that comes to mind is retirement. We just really want to see old friends, eat potluck, drink a beer and head uptown afterwards for the street dance at the Rice Festival. We will laugh a lot, tear up a little, drink another beer or two and call it a night. Let’s be honest. By this time, that’s about as much fun as any of us can handle.

And so, we are planning. Sort of. Gone are the days when we called the parents of classmates for mailing addresses so that we could send out invitations. Gone are the times when we hired caterers and D.J.’s, collected money, and made up fancy booklets with cute sayings and contact information. We are pretty much over trying to impress anyone with our reunion planning skills. Now, we are just winging it and hoping people show up.

It’s the craziest thing, Time. The life that seemed to stretch to infinity the night we graduated from high school has moved much more quickly than any of us anticipated it would. In four decades, we’ve already lost too many of the sweet souls we once called classmates and friends. They’ll be there, in the stars above us and the stories we tell.

So that’s the scoop. A few of us came together to (sort of) plan a class reunion. It won’t be fussy and it won’t fancy, and on July 7th we might find ourselves with a whole lot of extra potato salad, but that’s fine. We’re not worried in the slightest.

After all, potlucks….reunions…old friendships… generally work out just fine.