About Me

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I am a mother, a teacher, and a nature lover. I grew up on a mountain we called Owls' Knob in the Ozarks of Arkansas. The first seven years of my life were spent living in a log cabin, far from a store or streetlight, without electricity or running water. After twenty years of travel, I returned to the abondoned homestead. Now I live and work in the Ozarks and visit the mountain often. These are stories about the Ozark Wilderness written from a women deeply influenced by this special place.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"Bad" Weather

Today I watched the rain and listened to the radio while sipping coffee. I looked out at the water coming off the mountain, how it could not be absorbed by the dusty soil, how it pool and made mud. I watched chirping birds fluff their feathers and sing to the clouds. The surviving patches of greenery—the ivy, lambs ear, and iris leaves—glowed with joy. The forest, rivers, and fields welcome the rain.
The weather man announced that there was a chance of rain in the morning, but not to worry, it would soon stop.  The DJ commented on the precipitation as well, calling the much needed water “dreary weather.” He too wished the rain would go away.
            All I could think about was the disconnection. People, like the DJ or even the weather man, who lived in the city saw precipitation as nothing more than an inconvenience. Hadn’t they heard about failing crops? Had they not seen the arid soil in the medium of the highway? Did they ever look over a bridge into the dry riverbed and wonder what filled it with water each spring?
No. They were oblivious to the drought. The fact that it had not rained more than an tenth of an inch in the past three months did not bother them. The dry weather was nice weather. Rain, by definition, is always bad weather.
I love the rain, the mist lying low over the hills, and the sounds of the forest when the drought is finally broken. I pray that when you stop to smell the roses, you will appreciate the rain that makes it all possible.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

White Christmas

Overnight, snow sprinkled the brown and grey landscape.



Though it wasn't much, I got my white christmas.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Frosty Eve

Today long awaited water fell from the sky. It formed ice on the pale leaves still clinging to the beech and maple trees. While walking along the road, I saw the ice forming before my eyes. It reminded me of the ice storm of 2009; when frozen shields cocooned every twig on every tree until they bent and broke. It had looked like God came out of the sky with a whim-wham and mowed the forest.
But as the icicles dripped, I signed. Darkness brought more rain but there is talk of snow.
Still, I am dreaming of a white Christmas. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Solstice and the Total Lunar Eclipes

It is the solstice, the shortest day of the year, in which darkness rules. I stayed up until four in the morning to watch the total lunar eclipse. I wanted a glimpse of light emerging and retreating in a tangible moment, during these dark times. But the sky was blacked out with think clouds and fog. Staring up into the murky darkness, I was reminded how nature only reveals what it wishes, everything else if left a mystery.   

Taken as the moon emerged...

Friday, December 17, 2010

South of Owls' Knob

I drove south towards Little Rock this morning. I watched the sun rise over the valley below the rolling hills that descends between the peaks of the Boston Mountains and the valleys of Dardanelle Lake. The stark contrast between the northern and southern parts of Arkansas is what makes the Ozarks unique. Up on the mountain, at Owls' Knob, ferns line the hollers and huge oak trees stand tall on the hills and every step is a hike, up or down. But in southern Arkansas the land is flat and soft. Crops cover the plains and marshes fill in the wild gullies in between. Coming out of the mountains, I always feel exposed. Like the trees had protected my privacy and now I stand naked before the world.


The Arkansas River outside Little Rock
 Then I approach the city. Little Rock has that big city vibe, unlike other small towns I frequent to buy groceries, it is filled with fast Mustangs, slow Smart-Cars, rude semi-trucks (which are anything but semi), and rage. Even when I manage to ignore the road rage, the signs confuse me. Being that I am from the countryside, I do not know the language of signs. Cities are so full of signs, telling you where to shop, what to think, where to go, and, oh yeah..., what exit is yours to follow. I am lost, even if I am on the right track. It seems as though my confusion only complicates the situation. A timid, bewildered driver is pushed aside and laughed at. I drive in the city like a gangster would identify Wild Comfery.  

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fallen Skeleton

               The first bitter storm of the year shook the trees, making them dance against a blue sky. Through the night, the temperature dropped while stars shimmered. The wind howled, trees swayed. In the middle of the night a crack and pop woke me. The tree fell and it rumbled the ground. As the sun rose, clouds blanketed the sky. With warming weather, I took a walk in the woods. On the top of the hill I found an ancient long dead, but recently fallen. It lies like a skeleton now and the horizon has changed.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sparrow's Song

Yesterday, the night's rain lingered,
And the dawn's fog painted the morning grey.
Before noon, sun beams cut through the gloom.
Instantly, the chipping sparrows chirped to the day.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Book

For the past year I have been writing a book called Owls' Knob. It consists of stories from my childhood growing up in a log cabin on an Ozark Mountain and recent experiences as an adult returning to my childhood home. While writing this book I took care of a baby, trained a puppy, fixed up an abandoned home, traveled, attended college, and still lived my life. All of this in the past year no less! Yesterday I did the final edits. The book is complete; perhaps not done, but it is all there, rewritten and edited. As I finished editing the final chapters, I dreamed of doing anything but writing. So I am proud to announce the finalization of my book, while excusing myself for not writing on this blog more in the past two weeks. Right now I just want to soak up the silence of a wet winter night.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Frozen Pond


The last few nights have been cold enough to freeze the pond solid.
Ice started collecting around the reeds and rushes along the shore. Every night frost encircled the dull greenery. But as the sheet grew, the same plants that attracted the ice also conducted the daytime sun, melting only circles along the shore. The orbs and crescents froze hard each night and melted each day while a thin layer covered the entire body. The fluctuation surrounding the vegetation created frosty patterns that adorned the perimeter.



I studied the crystalline lace. With a careful step, I tested the ice. Under my weight it creaked like an old wooden floor. Then it cracked. My dog walked upon the water, licking, searching for a drink.


I found a rock that I planned to break the ice with, but when I picked it up I found that icicles hung from the underside, like pillars which were lifting the rock off the ground. Mesmerized, I took the rock back to the house, so my son could share in a fragment of the frigid magic. I took pictures of it with my insufficient camera. The pictures refuse to show the delicate detail, the thin transparent threads. But I saw it, and my son saw it, so the enchantment will shimmer onward.       

Friday, December 3, 2010

Robins

For days, robins frantically flocked through the yard just after dawn. They fought over the crimson dogwood clusters and bright red honeysuckle berries. From tree tops they chirped like arguing in-laws. With their red breast proudly held high, they hopped through the yard. But the smallest noise startled them into the sky, flapping their wings laboriously. They fly with little grace, too heavy for buoyancy. In the afternoon, once they had calmed and found places to perch, the yard felt empty.  I walked to my car to find that they had been sitting in the oak tree above it for hours. Red juices dotted with hard seeds poke-a-dotted my Honda's white paint. A simple rinse would not remove the bird droppings, so for many more days that shit reminded me of the robins.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Black Birds in White Mist

A Flock of Common Grackles


Upon the mountain, the fog is dense, whitewashing the world. Wind blows the last of the brown leaves from their branches. I go for a drive, desperate to escape the gloom. But today there are layers of clouds and even the valley is overcast. I pull into a scenic overlook, knowing the fog is too thick to glimpse even the trees along the bluff let alone the valley below. But beauty is never far. As I step out of my car, a flock of black birds flutter up from the treetops. They blow like leaves in the gusty wind, migrating from one group of skeleton limbs to another. Their chirps, trills, and squawks rise and fall like the roar of a crowd. A few brave males, with their shinny black feathers ruffled, dive low and perch near me. Their white eyes pierce my body, searching my soul. Then they rise into the canopy again. For a moment, there is a great ruckus as the birds discuss my presences. Finally, all goes quite. I settle in as they settle down. Together we watch the dense fog blow over, lift slowly like a curtain, and reveal the beauty all around us

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fog

I live in a cloud forest. The thick, moist air hangs on mountain tops and covers me with fog. Often the dense fog, as think as pea soup, cloaks the morning. Sometimes it lingers all day, drifting like ghosts between the tree trunks. From Owls' Knob, I imagine the entire world is cloudy. But like I have discovered many times, a quick drive to the valley is all it takes to have sunshine on my shoulders again. At a distance, I look back at my home and see how one little grey cloud is sitting on the hilltop amongst a blue sky. And I can't help but recognize my blindness to the rest of the world when I was inside the fog, or my ignorance of the fog from my sunny spot in the valley.

This wasn't taken on a foggy day.
It is the view of the mountains
to the south of Owls' Knob.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Overcrowding

Locusts have appeared and disappeared mysteriously throughout history. People wondered where they came from and where they went, until it was discovered that they were never a separate species, but a stage of life. A locust is actually a mad grasshopper. When certain species of grasshoppers become overcrowded, they go through a metamorphous. They turn darker, gather in masses, and grow wings. They transform into a swarming, ravishing plague. In hoards they take flight and reproduce like crazy. Luckily, their offspring are not locusts but solitary grasshoppers.
In light of this, I can’t help but wonder if we too are locusts. Have we been driven by overcrowding to change from our natural state into monsters who rape, pillage, and kill? If so, will we produce more locusts or will our children be grasshoppers?  

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Crackling Lullaby

At Owls' Knob, fire is our only source of heat.  All summer the stove sits cold and dusty. When winter sets in, the flame flares, the iron glows, and a friendship is rekindled. It is a hungry and needy friend. The cutting, chopping, hauling, and stoking is labor intensive. If the blaze dies you must nurse it back to life. Yet, the softest touch can melt your skin and burn your flesh. It has a temper too; the inferno can take your house, your family, and your life, turning it all to ash. But I wouldn't have it any other way. Its warmth heals me. Its crackle is my lullaby.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Taking Turns

Maple trees sprout and prosper best under beech canopies; likewise, beech sprouts thrive underneath maple canopies. The two trees often create maple-beech groves. Then the trees must take turns being the dominate one. Both trees will try to have the highest canopy. Neither tree wants to be part of the under story.  So they oscillate, taking turns being on top.       
In late fall, the brilliant colors of maple leaves drown out the beeches. But as winter sinks in, the maples loose all their color when their foliage drops. Devoid of color, their dark trunk blends into the forest. But beeches get to keep their tan paper-thin leaves. Though beech leaves are not impressive among a show of fall colors, in the drab of winter they add a yellow glow to a black or white world.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Subscribe

It took me a long time to do, and I could never explain how I did it, but I managed to add a subscribe feature to my blog. You can now go to the bottom of the blog, enter your email address and you will receive an email each time I post a new blog.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Butterflies

    In August butterflies swarm the highway. Swallowtails and monarchs flutter along roadside flowers but just as a car approaches they bumble into the way. There is no time to react. Little buckeyes, wood satyrs, and painted ladies are hit unnoticed because their brown wings do not glisten in the sun. After a Friday evening commute or a Sunday morning church migration, disconnected wings scatter the steaming cement—like oak leaves in autumn, they swirl in the wake of passing cars.
            I swerve for butterflies. Tourist following me must think I am drunk. I would stop for them if I it was practical, but then I’d have to creep along at twenty five miles and hour while the butterflies lackadaisically moved aside.
I don’t imagine many people want to hit butterflies just to watch in the rear view mirror as they bounce along the asphalt. The butterfly is a gentle creature and a representation of reincarnation. Butterflies have a childlike way of enjoying life. They flutter carelessly and seemingly without purpose. Then they land and slowly fan their wings, absorbing the glory of each individual moment. The insect shows us that metamorphosis is possible. It gives us hope that we too may be able to become reborn in a less destructive more beautiful being. Because every butterfly was once a caterpillar. There is something cute about a caterpillar. In its helpless grub-like state it reminds me of a baby. But any farmer knows the destruction a caterpillar can bring.
            I have only one fruit tree on Owls' Knob, a young pear tree. A friend of our family planted it years ago as a ritual for his daughter’s fifth birthday. It has never produced a flower or fruit; it's still too young. But every summer I walk down to the pond where it grows and collect the bag worms. I take a long stick and use it to wind up the webbing like a cardboard cone is used to wind up cotton candy. With my cotton cone of wiggling worms, I walk to the edge of the woods. Watching them wiggle, so helplessly, like unborn fetuses inside their womb of webbing, I feel sorry for them. Nonetheless, I hurl the stick, worms and all, deep into the forest where birds probably feast. It amazes me that I can dislike a creature so much in one stage of its life but then love the same creature in another stage. Everything changes inside that magical cocoon. The cocoon turns a troublesome grub into a beneficial angel.


This photo was taken last August. This little friend sat on my hand for almost an hour. Around me people were walking by and children were screaming, but the butterfly just stayed put. It licked my index finger intently all the while. Whatever was on my hand that day, made the butterfly very happy. Never have I sat with a wild, winged thing so long.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lessons from "The Lady Who Swallowed The Fly"

                Today, while hunting flies, with my swatter drawn like a sword, I pondered how the fly population exploded. Though the compost pile is a contributing factor, providing food and a place for egg laying, it doesn't explain why this year is worst than the last. The major difference between this year and previous ones is that we have cats now. We got the cats to catch the mice. (Mice that thrived in our abandoned house.) However, cats also caught frogs. By killing the flies major predators, the frogs, we created another imbalance. It ripples onward... from mice, to cats, to frogs, to flies... perhaps we'll die.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fly

Just about the time that all the bugs have died off and you think that you’re in the clear, the flies emerge. They didn’t get the memo: winter is coming. With reckless abandonment flies get stuck in your hair, dive into your drink, and do a quickie on your knee. They don’t care that the nightly freeze will kill them; their life span is short anyway.
Flies are not particularly troublesome; they cause no real harm. They’re just plain annoying. The way they land on my foot over and over again, tickling it with tiny feet, drives me insane. The constant copulation on any surface, from my spoon, to my son’s head, seems awfully disrespectful.
If I’ve had enough flies for one day, I go on a killing rampage. Stalking the flies through the house, wielding a fly swatter like a sword, I kill, kill, kill. But when the red has faded from my eyes and I can not find anymore flies, I feel remorse, sweeping up the bodies. Once the dust has cleared and the fly swatter has been put away, futility sets in, since just as many flies appear as before.   
Early morning is the only time to get away from the flies, before the stove’s fire has broken the night’s chill, when the house is cold. Huddled around a steaming beverage, I can find peace. This time of year, birds no longer call to the sunrise and the hum of insects has faded. Silence can be found. But when such impeccable stillness ensues, my ears begin picking up distant rumbles. Only in winter can I hear semi-trucks on the highway.
After listening to the jake braking in the distant, I am reminded of the annoyances I have escaped from: sirens, car alarms, traffic jams, and trash trucks at 6 am. At Owls’ Knob I must endure some to avoid others. I recognize the compromises I’ve made. By the time I’ve finished pondering city life, the warmth of the fire has awakened the flies. Yet somehow, for a moment, they don’t seem all that bad.  

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sally the Spider

To some city folks, every brown spider is a brown recluse and every black spider is a black widow. Black widows are not common in the Ozarks. They don’t bite unless you are a bug caught in their web or you're about to squish them. Though very few people die from spider bites anymore, a black widow bite can be deadly. But, I’m not afraid of black widows; in fact, when I was young I had one as a pet.
I found her in a shed and scooped her into a wide mouth mason jar. After punching holes in the metal lid with a safety pin, I set the Mason jar on my desk in my room for all to see. I tried to feed her a variety of insects but she wouldn’t eat. Depression must have seized her appetite.
I proudly showed her off to my friends who screamed and recoiled in fear even though she could only peer out at them through the thick glass. After a few weeks, I let her go. I didn’t want her to die. When I opened the jar I imagined she would turn and chase after me, fangs drawn and dripping. But she didn’t. She waited and then timidly tried the opening. Upon finding herself free, she paused as if waiting for the inevitable shoe sole of death. When it didn’t come, she made a mad dash for cover. She was more afraid than any of my friends had been of her.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mothers

A mother is a powerful source. We are our mother’s children, our grandmother’s children, children of mother earth. Deep in our past is a woman who gave birth to us, who came from the earth and created life. No matter how much respect we have for the source of our life, we still resent her. We despise all her bad habits because we inherited so many of them. Even her beauty is not appreciated, for it is the beauty within ourselves. We are her, amplified. Our relationship with our mothers, grandmothers, and the earth is complex and much more profound than we will ever admit.
But what happens when our mother is sick, when our grandmother dies. Perhaps it is a necessary event that initiates us into adulthood. Despite our relationship with her, for most of us, until she dies we are not entirely alone. Falling back on our mother maybe shameful, but it is a option for most of us as long as she is alive. Everyone dies, every mother dies, some sooner than others. With death, comes loneliness to the living.
Upon reflection, I see this is all a cycle, of life and death. One day I will die, like my grandmother before me and my grandchildren after. Our great grandmother, the earth, will also pass when her time comes, just as the stars and the sun will one day expire. Such sorrow fills me when I think of the inevitable ending. Yet, it is inevitable, natural, and necessary. If only I could embrace death, life would be fuller.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dead or Missing

I thought my last cat had died. She didn't come back one night. It happened just a week after I found my second cat on the side of the road, no life left in her. I've had three cats in the past year and all had vanished. Once that third cat had been gone a week, I swore off cats. Dogs might be more my style out here in the wilderness. Owls' Knob can be a dangerous place.
Then, the cat came back. I stroked her soft fur and thought of how tricky death can be: taking our loved ones without notice and sometimes returning them, just before the point of no return. She meows differently now, as if her voice is hoarse. I wonder what happened to her out there with the coyotes, bears, and owls. What went through her head when she bolted? What did she think of as she returned?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Osage Oranges and Locust Pods

I took my son to the park. We tried the slide and swings, but everything frustrated him. He fell off the slide and swinging made him sick. Finally, we walked into a black locust and Osage orange grove. I sat the one year old on the ground among spiraling locust pods and green Osage balls. He quickly began throwing the lumpy green balls. Then he took two locust pods and discovered that the seeds inside rattled when shook. Among the leaves, sticks, and seeds of nature, the youngster played.
Yes, joy does grow on trees; and happiness can be found in the dirt.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Trip to Jasper

I went to Jasper, the county seat, the largest town in a 60 miles radius from Owl's Knob. I drove there along highway 16, through the tiny town of Nail and Deer. As I approached the hill that descends to my destination, I came up on a car with Texas plates. Tourist come from all over to see this stretch of highway dotted with the colors of fall. A person from the Rockies would likely argue that the Ozarks are hills and not mountains at all. But I disagree; the rugged country is an ancient mountain range, that has been rounded off by about 400 million years of erosion, reducing them to hills in the eyes of some, but not mine. Along the highway leading to Jasper, the earth drops off. One can stand on the edge of the cliff and see into the valley and over the mountains beyond. This time of year the view is particularly beautiful. For me, it is a view I've seen so many times that I am blind to its beauty. I found myself riding the Texans' tail, wondering why they were inching along at 35 miles an hour. Then I glanced to my right at the view and, for a moment, I saw it with their eyes, eyes that had been staring at the vast desert for years. I relaxed, backed off, and enjoyed the ride leisurely.
The highway curves into switchbacks as it drops into the valley. With less than 500 people in it, Jasper is no metropolis. There are no fast food chains, stoplights, or billboards along its dozen or so streets. I drove past the library and the market where a little old woman sells local produce and delicious jam for reasonable prices. I slowed down to admire her pumpkins.
After the market there is what looks like a yard sale, but it is a store front of sorts. The man who runs it leaves his priced items, a box of envelopes, and some pens out for people to shop and pay. The customer chooses an item and pays for it by putting money in an envelope then dropping the envelope in a slot on the locked shed nearby. Once I stopped in while the owner was pricing new merchandise. I asked him if it worked, didn't people steal? He said, no; occasionally people gave him a little less than what was on the price tag, but people wouldn't steal in public view in a town where everyone either knows who you are or that you're not from around here. Only in Jasper.
In the center of town there is an old courthouse. The highway curves sharply around one side of the square that the courthouse stands on. Along the square there is a great pizza parlor, an authentic Ozark restaurant, a lovely antique shop, a few other stores, and then you are heading out of town again. At the edge of town there is a gas station, dollar store, farm store, and Bob's--the grocery store. The highway continues onward toward Dogpatch, a hillybilly amusement park that was shut down years ago.
But I had a purpose in Jasper, I was there to vote; so I stopped along the square and went into the courthouse. The people there were as friendly as ever. I love doing my business in Jasper. In most cities the revenue office, assessors office, and health department is a nightmare of long lines and grumpy people. But in a small town these offices are empty and the people behind the desks greet you with a smile because they are glad someone came to visit them. Such pleasant experiences should not be so rare.
After voting, I drove back along the senic highway. Again I came upon a slow car. I didn't pass. I took the chance to enjoy the veiw. Yet, I did not stop. I did not take a picture. So often we hurry about our lives, wherever they take place, and don't notice such beauty. We need to adopt the eyes of a tourist or a child more often.



Sunday, October 24, 2010

After the Rain

             After a dry spell, cool rain fell. It splashed onto dusty soil, which had forgotten how to absorb such abundant moisture. The droplets collected on the surface, creating rivers until it found grass to channel it into the earth. Slowly the dust became mud again.
            Dry and wilted plants, already given in to winter’s calling, perked up once more. Flora and fauna rejoiced with the rain, perhaps for the last time this season, before the nightly frosts will kill off all annual life. Even the morning glories were blooming; even while the leaves were falling in the background.
            The world seemed particularly alive today. While making breakfast, I almost stepped on a millipede. I stopped to watch how it moved. From the side the millipede’s legs move like a well organized crowd-wave at the baseball game. Its body floated evenly as its tiny legs swam. I coaxed it onto a paper bag. There it stopped and curled its head downward, its face pressed onto the paper while I took it outside. It didn’t move when I set it on the ground, but as soon as I ran in to get the camera, it hurried away.
Once outside, I saw two spiders, both of which I had only seen one other time. The first was furry and grey with huge fuzzy tusks. It scurried and jumped backwards instead of forward. The second had a yellow triangular thorax with two horns protruding off of its rear end. This spider spun is circles and flip upside down on leaves when threatened. I watched these spiders thoughtfully, wondering why I hadn't seen them all summer.
While walking with my son in his stroller, a butter-colored butterfly joined us, fluttering nearby, leading the way. My dog chased off a deer, a few rabbits, and other animals of which I never caught a glimpse. In the woods, I saw a giant white mushroom. I knelt beside it and moved a rock to take its picture. Under the rock a salamander glanced at me fearfully before disappearing into a wet tunnel. 
So much life, bustled about today. Life that had been hiding from the intense drought the day before and will hide away for the winter in a short time. This was a special window just before winter and just after the rain.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Autumn in the Ozarks

Some autumns are better than others. Occasionally, showers are blown in during August and September, providing the forest with a rainbow of colors. But more often than not the dry summer results in an array of browns. Regardless, the trees put on a fashion show of gold and crimson frills which fall into a copper carpet as winter’s chill strips the forest naked.
After the trees shed, walking in the woods is deafening. The crunch of leaves under my clumsy boots masks the scampering of squirrels gathering food and the whoosh of wind under migrating geese wings. Under the blanket of leaves, hide anything that was left in the yard. All summer lawn ornaments, dishes, and toys are scattered about during the warm weather, and if not collected in time, the blanket of dead vegetation hides it for months.
Trickery does not wait for Halloween. The dry rustle of leaves tricks my ears into thinking the clouds have finally busted. Like the infrequent rain, yellow drops cascade from the hickory branches when the wind blows creating the illusion of butterflies. Along with the leaves, hickory nuts barreling out of the canopy, and hitting the tin over the woodpile, causes me to jump imagining a hunter wandered into the yard and shot my prancing dog. Leaves deceive my eyes when they tumbled end over end across the highway, making me slam on my breaks thinking that a brown rodent has darted into my car’s deadly path. A single red leaf fluttering alone in a shrub might fool me into believing a cardinal has come to call.
But it is not a season for arrivals, but of departures. Autumn comes each year like the exiting of in-laws who stayed too long. There is a tinge of sadness as animals prepare for hibernation and insects die after such a short life. But to a bug bitten human, the solitude is appealing. In winter, the forest is empty, like streets on Sunday at 4 am. Of course, by February I will be lonely and those first flowers and pesky bugs of Spring will bring me joy. But for now, I welcome the exodus.

Friday, October 22, 2010

How to Raise a Good Mouser

Every county home needs a good mouser. But not every cat hunts mice. There are ways to train a cat to be a killer. First of all, mothers are best. The motherly instinct drives any female feline to protect and feed her babies at all cost. Therefore, a fixed female doesn’t have the maternal instincts of a killer that she would have had with her ovaries intact. As a kitten, if she learns that food is never far, she has no need to feed herself. So if you want a good mouser, keep her at a hunting weigh. And, of course, verbal encouragement goes a long way when training any pet. Once all these elements are set, make sure you’ve disposed of any mouse traps, lay some food out, and wait for the cat to hunt the baited rat.
            The real question is not how to raise a good mouser, that is relatively easy; the conundrum is do you really want a killer. Once a cat has been trained to kill, she won’t discern between a mouse, mole, bird or bat. After the mice population has been all but wiped out, frogs are found lying on the porch without arms or legs, still breathing. Beautiful indigo buddings and endangered bats are found dead around the yard. As the frog, bird, and bat populations decrease, the insects swarm. Before long, in a cloud of mosquitoes, the mice don’t seem all that bad.    
Like the old woman who swallowed the fly found out, any ecological change has its consequences. The cycle of life has a delicate balance and each animal (including humans) keeps or destroys that balance. The mice population exploded out of control because we inadvertently feed and protected them. We got the cats to eat the mice. Soon we need something to eat the cats. Luckily, the coyotes and owls were obliged. I’ve never had a pet cat for more than two years. Though I morn every death, I am beginning to realize that my cats are disturbing the balance of nature here at Owl’s Knob. I must accept the death of a good mouser as readily as I accepted the deaths of the mice.

Among Mosquitoes, Only the Mothers Suck Blood.

At the crack of dawn, a mosquito often wakes me. I carefully scoop my son out of his crib and bring him into bed with me. I lie awake, as light fades into the room, with my son under my arm and my hand hovering in the air, waiting. I am daring and fierce when my baby is in danger.
Sometimes I relax and doze off but as soon as I hear the high pitched buzz of the mosquito’s wings, my senses return. I watch the empty air for a flutter. I listen for her humming wings. All the while, I stay completely still with my chest and shoulders exposed, letting the sweet smell of my skin lure her to me.
She can’t resist. The mother in her drives her to take impossible risks. She needs my blood to feed the eggs growing inside of her. Like me, she can be daring and fierce when her babies are in danger. It is her motherly instinct that draws her to my naked skin. It is my motherly instinct that keeps me awake, ready to kill.
            Finally, she lands. I strike. There is a moment of stillness. I lift my palm slowly, holding my breath. A smear of blood and the remains of her crushed body stain my hand. I exhale.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hiding in Foliage

The garden was a wasteland of rotten tomatoes, gnarled sticks, and weeds. I thought nothing survived August’s heat or September’s drought. But in October, out of the yellowing foliage of a red bud, came a pole bean tendril. It uncoiled like a snake, speckled with white blossoms and adorned with heart-shaped leaves. My one year old son and I ate the tender pods; it gave us hope.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Back to the Land

I decided to return home to Owl's Knob while sitting on a beach off the Pacific coast of Michoacan, Mexico and talking to a young native woman. She was raising her children in the cottage her great grandfather built, protecting their traditions and culture. Her pride gleamed as she told me that her people took care of their old, stayed close to their roots, and kept the family homestead. While she talked of her home, I thought of my own childhood home and began yearning for it.
At age 22, I bought back the land and house, which had lain in ruins for five years. I now live in the house I grew up in and I am letting the mountain--which raised me--raise my son. The same land that taught my bare baby feet to walk, teaches my baby boy to take his first steps.
I have come full circle, but I am a different person now. Yet some things never change. The frogs and whip-poor-wills still sing each spring, the wind still blows thunderstorms out of the west in late summer, and the owls come hunt the mice, living in the old cabin, every night. This is and always has been a magical place. 

The First Blog

I love journals, nice hardbound ones. Often the nicest one stays blank for years. On rainy days, I pick it up, stroke its lovely cover, page through the thick pieces of paper--so nicely bound--and then let the pen hover over the first line on the first page. This seldom results in written words. I'm so nervous about those first entry, the irreversible hook, that I just don't write in the journal at all. A blog is much like a journal. My fingers have been hovering over these keys for months, anticipating this first post. And now that I am here, all I can talk about is the struggle of getting here.