Turn, Turn, Turn…

IMG_2542 2.JPG

 

We are approaching the Fall Equinox, a time of year that is perhaps more poignant than any other, and also my favorite season. As the days shorten and the trees are heavy with golden or rosy apples, with every kind of maple turning a different shade of crimson, rust, gold and olive green, with papery brown beeches rustling in light wind, and white pines dropping needles in abundance as I prune back the juniper that lines my woodland paths for another year, I am thankful simply to “be.”

 

IMG_2543.JPG

 

IMG_2545.JPG

 

 

IMG_2544.JPG

 

The Datura plant that has now gone into the ground (with my help – I never thought I would get this plant out of its pot!) surprised me with a shower of ripe seeds falling from bright green prickly pods just two days after I dug it in. I covered the windfall with soil hoping that some new seeds will sprout along with their year old sisters after a long winter’s sleep under a blanket of thick mulch and snow. I am still collecting nasturtium seeds from my seemingly impossible patch of ever blooming flowers, whose peppery blossoms I love to eat, if only I can bear to spare them from becoming a riotous bouquet for my table! The last of the scarlet runner beans have giant pods almost ready for harvesting for next years seed.

 

On quiet nights I sleep with my head under the open window closest to the brook whose waters are barely tr, audible and yet the drought seems less threatening because it is normal to see the brook low this time of year (unfortunately this is only illusion). My vernal pool is finally drying up and I am delighted to see that no wriggling tadpoles are left…all have transformed into amphibians that live in two worlds instead of one (rather like me!) Tree frogs trill throughout the night singing love songs and everywhere tiny gold wood frogs hop through grass that I deliberately leave unattended so that they, and the small slower hopping toads, are not killed by a mindless mowing machine.

 

I revel in the spreading carpet of emerald green moss that is gradually replacing the grass in most places because shade dominates my little patch of woodland around this house. My pearl white hydrangea blooms on and is a joy to behold, she is so full of bumble bees. I could stand under her for hours counting different varieties of this one species. After a summer without bees I am in love with these humming blossoms.

 

The squirrels are caching nuts, during this year of acorn and pine cone abundance and even their chittering seems less annoying. I can smell the fermenting apples outside my window and at night listen for the sound of creatures coming in to feast… Last night, the source of the great thud I heard as some animal hit the ground from the apple tree remains a mystery. Why anyone would bother to climb this tree now is a question that remains unanswered. There are so many apples covering the ground that I need to walk under the drooping boughs with care. I note with pleasure that many small native bees like these sweetest of wild apples as they begin to rot on the ground. This year, instead of raking them up I will leave the fruit to fertilize the Earth for next spring. In time, the deer will return to feast on fermented apples and crabapples that pepper the ground under their various trees.

 

What a season this has been! Never do I remember such abundance but perhaps there have been other years almost as good as this one. It may also be that each year my appreciation deepens. I am still waiting for the first partridge to appear in one of their favorite crabapples, and daily I watch for the flock of cedar waxwings that lay over here for a feast on their southern migration. The flickers have yet to arrive for a stopover but two mornings ago I heard the first flock of geese flying over the house. Some Indigenous tribes call this this month the time of the “ducks flying away” and some are already on the wing.

 

The fox grapes are ripening in great globular clusters just outside my window, although a hard frost will be needed to sweeten them for my taste. The birds aren’t as fussy and neither are the foxes.

 

The time of natural harvest is particularly special to me because I know that I am providing much needed food for my non – human friends – a gift to those who have both witnessed and loved me… Every plant and tree on this property was planted with the idea that someday animals/birds/insects would find an abundance of food here, while in other more manicured places, it might become more scarce. I am glad to have lived long enough to experience this dream coming to pass.

 

As I lean into the coming darkness, I do so with gratitude for this season, and for the few moments of balance that we will experience as the equinox moments pass by, moving us from now pale early morning light into quickening dark nights, and the coming of the winter months…I remind myself that moments of balance are always temporary in Nature and in myself and that both need to be cherished.

 

As fall begins so does the hope for soaking rain – precious water that will nourish the earth, fill brooks streams, rivers and dug wells. Trees caching fire and gold in their leaves are also preparing for winter’s sleep. Hopefully high winds won’t take the flaming canopies too soon.

 

Lily B is usually quiet not singing until mid – morning. I sleep late, the mourning doves and finches don’t appear until after 7 AM, and my dogs are reluctant to leave our warm bed. All of us are turning with the wheel as Nature prepares herself for another winter’s sleep.

Advertisements

The Hawk and the Dove

IMG_3446.jpeg

I have had personal relationships with both these birds for my entire life. Hawks were my little brother’s favorite birds, a predilection that escaped me until after his untimely death, after which these birds started circling in the sky over my head. One of these, the Red-tailed hawk became a kind of guide appearing to me at propitious times. I couldn’t help thinking, and eventually came to believe (after struggling with years of self doubt even when extraordinary experiences occurred) that he was somehow the spirit of my brother incarnating through this bird.

I think I fell in love with doves as a small child. I was intrigued by the doves in stained glass windows. The idea that Mary was visited by a white dove entranced me long before I understood Christian church doctrine around the “virgin” birth, a belief that simply repels me today although I still gravitate towards those beautiful stained glass images… Doves incarnated as spirit birds when I was in Assisi Italy. One morning at dawn while sitting on a circular stone table in the church plaza, hundreds of white doves settled around me in a circle. Astonished, I was transported into another dimension.

Mourning doves flocked to my yard as my children were leaving home…

Both these birds have acted as messengers from the Great Beyond in both personal and impersonal ways. For a long time I didn’t understand that they sometimes carried information in both ways which created a lot of confusion as I poured through my journals trying to understand what message was being expressed through various incarnations.

Three days ago, on a still, flaming maple leafed September morning I witnessed a sharp shinned hawk devouring the bloody carcass of a mourning dove outside my door. The night before I had a dream that there were too many doves falling from the sky. Because it is not unusual for me to dream about an animal or bird and then see one I wondered what message was being conveyed by this scene.

I still don’t know. On a collective level I see the dove dismemberment as a metaphor for what is happening in this country, a country I do not belong to. On a personal level I think of my children.

To be sarcastic has roots in “tearing flesh” and I have been the recipient of this behavior with children who disapprove of me as a human being. “I do whatever I want to” is a perennial complaint, as if to do so was some sort of crime.

As a naturalist I do not take a position on any predator that must prey on another in order to survive, although I experience personal feelings of heartbreak, as I did witnessing the hawk dismember the dove. I did photograph the hawk, note the brilliance of his amber eyes, as he peered first in one direction and then another in between breaks of tearing apart red flesh.

September is the month of my birth, a month I used to love until I moved to the mountains and came into close contact with trophy hunting for sport – not food. Now, this month carries with it the poignancy of loss – loss of the lives of innocent animals, and the losses I have sustained as part of my life process.

And yet, each day as I watch the maples lose more chlorophyll, turning yellow and gold, or to crimson fire in the late summer sun, I feel peace enter this body for acceptance of what is. The cycles of abundance and attrition comprise one whole in all lives, not just my own.

That I am part of a great cycle of coming and going is a source of great comfort and containment, although as I think about the hawk sustaining himself on the body of a dove, I also think of the precious life of one young bear who I fervently hope escapes the wrath of the hunters’ gun. That I am choosing life for this one animal is symbolic of my attention/intention to align myself with Life, regardless of the outcome.

 

 

September, the Moon Bear’s Full Moon

IMG_3378.jpeg

 

This morning the sun rose blood red over the trees splashing crimson fire over the ground…The first frost has come and gone and now the humidity is on the rise as thunderclouds float like specters above the mountains. What am I to make of this natural occurrence?

Nature is the mirror in which I see myself.

I have just learned from my friend Harriet that Black Bears are crossing the Border from Maine into Canada, where they, like other refugees, are finding a more compassionate place to live. In Canada bears are not slaughtered (by baiting, hounding, trapping) for sixteen weeks a year like they are in this country.

The only thing worse than listening to hunters target shoot for hours is hearing one or two gunshots and then a sickening silence like I did on this sultry afternoon. Another bear dead?

I call September’s full moon the Moon Bear’s Moon not just because so many Black bears will be killed this month, but because Moon Bears are real Asian Black bears who have also survived unspeakable treatment.

Asian Moon Bears have endured intolerable suffering on “Bear Farms” at the hands of humans who force them to live out their lives in steel cages so small that they cannot stand up or move around – ever. Crude catheters are inserted into their bodies and they are milked for bile until they eventually perish. Some are blinded, or lose teeth, others have paws hacked off. Eventually they die from diseases like cancer around 15 years of age.

Ethologist/biologist Marc Bekoff and primatologist Jane Goodall stepped in and began a program to end this intolerable suffering. Jasper, once a victim of this atrocity became the first ambassador for Animals Asia, and since that time many bears have been rehabilitated although bear farming continues to thrive.

Amazingly, these rehabilitated animals are not only capable of forgiving their tormentors but some even learn to trust humans again, attaching themselves to their caregivers, as well as to others. This kind of Ursine forgiveness and compassion towards humans is astonishing and heartrending. Having witnessed this kind of behavior firsthand I choose to honor all bears during this Full Moon in September when so many will be killed in this country.

Tonight, on the eve of the Full Moon I call on the Power and the Spirit of the Moon Bears to be present for their people, helping Black Bears to live, or to die a death without suffering.

White Deer and Other Stories

nature-768569__340.jpg

White Deer

IMG_3356.jpeg

Skipper at Dawn

 

 

Part 1

I was visiting with my friend Roy (we have been friends for thirty plus years) when suddenly he began talking about the white deer that he had shot in 1953. Roy is 101 years old and his sharp, perceptive memory far surpasses mine, and so when he tells me a new story I am really listening.

Roy spent most of his working years in the local mill where he was part of an assembly line that made pop eye toys and other wooden implements. This career began after he spent four years in the service. In his “spare” time he managed to become a scholar specializing in local history, built his own home, which he still lives in, and later, both his daughter’s homes, managed to keep a huge impeccable vegetable garden in addition to keeping great expanses of field cleared sometimes using a scythe. He was/is also a most dedicated father who took excellent care of his wife Lois, his lifetime helpmate, and their four children.

During those first years the family didn’t have much money, so Roy hunted and fished to keep his family fed during the winter months. Bringing home a deer each fall was a necessity for this family and Roy was an excellent marksman who learned how to use a rifle as a boy. Roy also shot birds – especially grouse for the table. No part of the animal was ever wasted. Roy’s love for animals shines through his respectful and deeply loving behavior towards the cats and dogs he has had most of his life, the birds, cat, and chickens he still feeds. He delights in the antics of squirrels and each time I visit I hear that a skipper (young buck), doe, and a fawn visit him every morning to feast on his apples like they do on mine. He thinks we may have the same deer visiting each house, and maybe he partly is right. But I do not have a skipper.

Hunting is a thorny subject for me until I start listening to Roy telling me how he fed his family with the wild animals he shot. Then I suddenly feel what it’s like to be on the other side of hunting and how honorable these actions can be. Roy never exhibits the characteristic hubris/arrogance, or the hunger for “power over,” – attitudes that are so common today with some hunters. This is not to say that ALL hunters are like this; they are not.

Some local hunters still shoot deer and moose to put food on the table. A few, that are friends of mine, including Roy and Roy’s grandson are extremely knowledgeable about the habits of wild animals and have been a source of on-going education for this naturalist. Some hunters and naturalists have a lot in common, I have learned.

What I object to is mindless slaughter – trophy hunting is repulsive to me (especially for bears who are almost never eaten) – as is the prevailing attitude of many hunters whose “right” to kill for the sake of killing, or the “high” that it brings, has nothing to do with the animal in question and is all about having power over a non – human species. Respect for the animal as a living being is totally absent.

Perhaps it is my Native roots that inform my perspective, and/or my love for animals both wild and tame, but either way I believe the prevailing attitude is corrupting humans in ways that we are not even aware of. We have become a nation of killers. There doesn’t seem to be much difference between slamming an automobile into an innocent woman killing her, murdering those who are ‘different,’ or the mindless slaughter of animals for “fun”. White supremacy is terrifying, and unfortunately in Maine, groups like the KKK have been active since the early twenties of the last century and before. I am ashamed to be part of such a legacy of hatred.

But it is time to return to my story of the white deer. In the fall of 1953 Roy was hunting on Bird Hill behind his house. On a ridge above him stood a white deer amongst granite rock (Often white deer are shunned by others of their kind, according to him). Roy was stunned by the animal’s extraordinary appearance. After a minute or so, Roy took aim with his rifle and shot up the hill. It is difficult to aim accurately when you are shooting an animal above you, Roy informs me. It took four shots to kill this deer, and Roy was so shaken by this experience that he had to sit down; his head ached terribly. Afterwards, he brought the animal home, cleaned it, and the family ate it.

Roy also mentioned that there was a superstition that warned hunters that if they killed a white deer they would not be able to hunt successfully for another seven years. But in his case this superstition didn’t hold true, because Roy continued to hunt for his family successfully each fall.

When I heard this story of the white deer and the superstition around it I immediately thought of the Cherokee myth of Awi Usdi, the little white chief of the deer who came out of the mountain to dispense justice for the animals, if too many were taken by the Indians. Awi Usdi would come to the hunters through dreaming telling them that they must restrain from too much killing/greed or the animals would leave… I was sure that the superstition that Roy had spoken of was a remnant of an Indian mythological story, because the white deer is sacred to so many tribes across this country.

In my heart I am convinced that Roy’s attitude of respect toward animals in general affected the outcome of this particular hunt. That Roy saw a white deer in the first place was an anomaly and quite amazing, that he shot it successfully was a mark of excellent his marksmanship. Perhaps the deer’s willingness to become a sacrifice was another aspect of this unusual story, especially if taken from a Native perspective. The most important aspect of this memory from my point of view was how the deer affected him personally – he was shaken by the experience, and this reinforces what I know about Roy; he has a deep humility and love for all animals…

Part 2

Roy has also been a fisherman all his life. I have always believed that fishing had a greater, perhaps more spiritual significance for Roy that exceeded the practical aspects of feeding his family, since as an older adult he continues to routinely disappear into the forest to reach the best fishing spots at the river’s edge. He always fishes alone. Although he now has trouble walking long distances he continues this life – time habit up to the present even if he has to crawl through the brush. He is still catching brook trout, which are his favorite fish. While I was visiting yesterday he told me that he had been fishing the day before. Shiners weren’t working, but worms were, he told me. He landed a ten – inch brook trout, brought it home, and cleaned it.

In his characteristic off-hand way he suddenly asked me if “I would have any use for the fish.”

“Use?” I responded. “Of course I would!” I have eaten Roy’s brook trout before.

Surprised and delighted, I asked him “How many did you catch?”

“Just the one,” he responded.

“And you don’t want it?”

Roy mumbled something about eating many brook trout and this was when I realized he wanted me to have the fish!

“I’ll take it!” I responded with enthusiasm. I felt honored.

Before I left we talked about how I would cook the fish filling it with herbs (me) and onions (Roy) before baking it. My mouth was watering. I thanked him for the gift as I left, remarking on the startling beauty of the fish with its deep orange spotted body.

When I got home I prepared the fish, noting the sweet scent of fresh water that permeated the air as I stuffed him. When I sat down to my feast, I thanked my friend for his generous gift, hoping he knew how much I had come to love him.

Every Foundation needs a bear den!

image2.JPG

Here is a picture that Iren took after she visited the foundation hole for the new Casita.

I think this is a most creative natural sculpture that only Iren could think of! Iren is a genius and can create art out of virtually anything. Art that leaves me in perpetual AWE.

I think EVERY foundation needs a bear den.

Bears know how to deal with inclement conditions, they sleep without losing muscle tissue, recycle waste, give birth (to young or creative endeavors) in the safety of a den or under the snow.

Bears are powerful plant and root healers having a complex relationship with both.

Bears know how to heal their own wounds.

Indigenous peoples revere the bear as protector and healer.

What better way to create the space for a new home?

I must also include Bruce’s intuition that the bear of the den in question needed eyes. I totally agree! I was surprised to learn that he pulled what he thought were two quarters out of his pocket and added them to the sculpture. Later he realized that he had pulled out one quarter and one nickel by accident! I didn’t realize until he told me that the eyes were made of silver – no wonder they gleam in the afternoon light!

August 28th begins the “official” bear slaughter in Maine (baiting, hounding and trapping). When I look at this picture I imagine a 70 pound shy and reclusive bear digging his own den in a very safe place and send bear prayers his way.

Thanks Iren (and Bruce) for providing me with such a wonderful image – one that has a heart full of hope and deep gratitude at its core.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Naturalist’s Maine Summer Reflection

IMG_2313.JPG

Roy Day at 101 – Author

IMG_2128.JPG

Loon sitting on her nest – Author

IMG_3267.JPG

Rose Breasted Grosbeak – Author

IMG_3560.JPG.jpeg

Author on North pond

IMG_3296.JPG

Green frog – Author

IMG_2458.JPG

River walk. Author

IMG_2324.JPG

Pink water lily – Author

IMG_2442.JPG

Mushrooms. Author

IMG_2420.JPG

 

IMG_3325.JPG

 

IMG_3326.JPG

Sacred Datura – Author

IMG_2481.JPG

Friend and fellow hiker Mike smelling sweet Datura – Author

21077239_10209958644337840_6615501171625204224_n.jpg

Loons swimming – Kathy Hurd

20914424_10209958647857928_2891932426028272468_n.jpg

Loon with adolescent chick still catching a ride! – Kathy Hurd.

 

IMG_0002.JPG

Two historians enjoying each other – Author

20953553_10209958642897804_8465766950347475309_n.jpg

Eaglet  – Kathy Hurd

IMG_2433.JPG

Wood frog  – Author

IMG_3454.JPG

Bruce and Sara in front of the Day homestead – Kathy Hurd

IMG_3343_3.jpeg

Fawn – Author

bird_sounds_and_songs2-mourning_dove-us_fish_and_wildlife_wikimedia_commons.jpg

Mourning Dove warming himself in the sun.

I am beginning to write listening to the rain fall on the leaves of the apple tree outside my window, the one the deer and the bear love, the one that I planted as a seedling from Roy Day’s garden the first year I lived here. There is something about the soothing sound of raindrops that whispers softly write now while the rain is falling…

I do my best to answer that call.

Tonight the weather report said that after this watery interlude, sun will shine for the next week, and I know what this means. The silence will be shattered. Once again I will be shutting out “summer” in order to survive the gunners’ assault…

It wasn’t always this way. Now there’s an edge of barely concealed violence that manifests in thundering machines that drown out the voices of every creature who lives here, including the birds and frogs. The only constant is change, I remind myself ruefully, even as I mourn the loss of the peaceful valley I once lived in.

But North Pond is just down the road.

Walking to the pond by the old Day farmstead is something my dogs and I have been doing on a daily basis each summer for a number of years. This June, arriving home from New Mexico after leaving the steaming heat of a steel white blazing star behind in Abiquiu, I was anxious for cooler temperatures and for the sky blue waters of this pond that I came to love long before I moved here 30 years ago – North Pond – a small pristine lake marked by a looming granite hump and ledge, and once, an untouched forest of evergreen trees.

The first few weeks of rain and moisture that sweetened the air kept the gunners and motorcycles indoors gifting me with a few moments in time of summer peace and blessed stillness.

Simple things like leaving my windows open at night to listen to the cacophony of grey tree frogs, the sound of the occasional owl, the nightly chorus of insects – all these bring joy into my life. During the day the sight of so many tiny toads makes me wonder if the toad eggs I brought from North Pond a year ago last spring had matured from tadpole to amphibian here after all, even in the drought. A gorgeous emerald green frog has been sunning himself in the lily pond, and a deep pink water lily spread her lotus like petals upon wind – rippled water. Scarlet runner bean flowers burst into burnt orange splendor as they reach for the sun. The Datura that came east with me continues to sweeten the night air. Curiously, her spiral shaped buds, some still tightly coiled, are the most fragrant of all.

Although at the time of this writing I still have grosbeaks, most of the adults seemed to have moved on, but mourning doves warm themselves in the late morning sun front of the pines outside my door. Returning from a summer spent in the forest, the raucous Blue -jay calls greet me at dawn, heralding the change of the seasons. The adults are followed by many scruffy screaming youngsters! It seems early for the male hummingbirds to be leaving but I note less adult activity and the absence of some of the ruby throated males, while many young ones hover anxiously around the two feeders. Little gold birds, goldfinches in summer attire, perch on my hanging feeder along with the chickadees, nuthatches and purple finches. I have yet to see a woodpecker. A few nights ago I was sure I heard the stark staccato chirp of the cardinal but never glimpsed one on the wing.

My first paddle on the pond occurred not long after I got back while my dear companion, Bruce, the physicist turned painter, was still here. Although he has climbed many mountains in Maine, this is the first time he had ever been in a kayak and he liked it immensely.

Kayaking in my little blue otter, exploring the marsh areas looking for bull frogs and my favorite painted turtles, watching and listening for loons, gazing into a mirror of blue glass that sometimes revealed a solitary statue of a vaguely reptilian gray – blue heron stalking his prey and then watching him swallow the fish whole, the fierce yellow-eyed downward gaze of the brown striped bittern, the bald eagles that regularly fly overhead, and me peering down through clear water to watch the sunfish with his distinct black spot gently nip at my toes are siren calls that draw me back to North Pond again and again.

I have been kayaking about once a week or more during the past couple of months. Having my kayak at Blaine’s gives me access to the rest of the ponds and the new bridge allows me to enter the northern end of North Pond without ducking spiders overhead! After a paddle I am often invited in by Margaret for cold refreshments and have the chance to listen to some more of Blaine’s stories as we sit on their porch under towering red pines. I love to munch on their abundant sweet blueberries on the way up the hill to the house.

On my very first kayak ride Bruce and I came upon the loon nesting in the marsh. I was so excited to see her sitting on what I thought were eggs. A week later (and for the remainder of the summer up until early August) I witnessed a pair of loons fishing near the rock in deep water. I concluded that something had happened to the eggs/chick(s) when I did the Audubon loon count in the middle of July. That rainy morning I heard only one haunting loon call out to another at the northern end of the pond.

I was delighted to discover that I had been wrong and that we have two pairs of loons on the pond, after all. Only one pair was nesting. Kathy Hurd, Roy’s niece and I, first saw two fluffy babies swimming with a parent around the first of August (Last year, the solitary chick was killed by an eagle). Just in the past few days I witnessed a loon floating under the shadow of the trees in the shallows with the two youngsters swimming alone in deeper water beyond her/him. I wondered if the young ones were learning how to fish for themselves under a watchful parental eye.

Kathy and Chris Hurd, both friends of mine, went kayaking this past week. When I complemented Kathy on her stunning photographs (loons and eaglet) which appear in this article, Chris chimed in that she couldn’t have taken those photographs without her “guide” who led her to the best places to take pictures of wildlife! Kathy and I laughed uproariously at this remark. What a team those two make!

I love seeing the loons rafting – that is gathering in clusters. The last time I went kayaking I saw four swimming together. They will soon be leaving for waters that won’t freeze during the winter months. I am hoping that the loon chicks are big enough now to discourage the eagles from hunting them, because as Kathy’s photos show, the two chicks have grown a lot and are already scruffy – brown adolescents.

Eagle watching is also a favorite summer pastime of mine. My friend Barbara and I kept a keen eye on the adults flying in with fish for the two screeching young eaglets as we moored our boats at the big rock that overlooks the island where two nests are perched one on top of the other (The new one looks a bit worse from wear). The eaglets were perching outside the nest in early July. The silvery fish were torn to bits in seconds once they were dropped in the nest by the dutiful parents who then escaped to a nearby island, perhaps to be left in peace! The mottled brown feathered eaglets, now almost as big as the parents, fledged early this month (August). Barbara and I happened to be present as one took its first flight from one tree to another on the same island. The parent responded by rewarding the eaglet with a fish for his or her herculean efforts! Within the next month all four eagles will migrate to coastal waters or south for the winter. The young will not reappear until their plumage turns white and they are ready to mate, about four years from now while their parents will return to the island next summer to raise another brood.

The excellent presentation that Blaine gave a few weeks ago on the history of the ponds was illuminating. I had no idea that all the camps that I now see are so relatively new with one of the cabins on the two islands in North Pond being the oldest, built in 1892, two years after the pond waters had risen.

The river walk I took with Blaine, Margret, Mike and his lovely daughter was a thrill not just because this hike is one of my favorites, but because the forest was full of mushrooms that were dressed in the most brilliant colors. On the trail which parallels the Little Sanborn river I discovered the first crimson swamp maple leaves drifting to the ground. Blaine told me that all together, Mary Mac Fadden and Larry Stifler had preserved 10,000 acres (mountains, gorges, mines) with all trails impeccably kept up for people like us who loved the quiet of the forest and who walked the woodland paths that were free of screaming machines. It is heartening to know that there are some people out there with the means to preserve what is left of our wilder areas. The term wilderness, unfortunately, no longer applies because these beautiful places are already sandwiched in between encroaching civilization.

Roy recently told me a wonderful story about going fishing when he was only five. Even then he had a cat named Tiger Teddy who accompanied him down to the edge of the pond below the Day homestead. The cat apparently liked to fish as much as Roy did and would appear the second Roy rattled his fishing pole. If Roy caught a sunfish, the cat was happy, but a pickerel was another story altogether! Roy has kept a record of every fish he has caught for 101 years (!), and remembers the day that the biggest fish was brought in. This lake trout  – torgue is the local name used to identify this fish  – the term torgue, according to Blaine, is probably Indian in origin) was caught in South pond and was at least 37 inches long and weighed 25 pounds. The fish was so big that it towed the fisherman and his boat all around the lake until it finally was exhausted. The man then was able to jump out of his boat in the shallows at Littlefield beach with his rod to land both fish and boat on shore! Lake trout of this size prefer water deeper than that of North pond and seem to like to be about 45 feet under water. There is a picture of this creature at the Greenwood Historical Society, a place that is full of meticulously researched photos and local history that has been put together by Blaine over a period of thirty years. Both Blaine and Roy have a love of history and are veritable encyclopedias of fascinating information so I was delighted that Roy agreed to visit to see the photos and to talk with Blaine.

Stories of Roy catching his first fish at 5 with his cat, felling trees with a girth over two feet wide using a hand saw with his father, watching over the cows that grazed in the upper field behind the farm, or catching frogs in the pond and selling them for bait just below the old Day homestead where Roy grew up are just a few memories that come to mind when I walk by the Hurds’ beautiful farm, orchard, and vegetable garden, sometimes stopping to climb to the sky on Chris’s swing, or to visit with Kathy to talk about flowers.

On the Gore road today my Chihuahuas and I met a large snapping turtle who was basking in the sun, and no doubt, also soaking up the warmth from the asphalt. When I heard the truck barreling towards us I put up my hands and pointed to the poor animal as I stood in the middle of the road. The truck was forced to stop as I encouraged the enormous, probably 100 year old turtle to return to the pond. As he slipped into the water, I felt a sense of great accomplishment! I had seen him peering at me with coal black eyes and believed he knew that I was trying to help him.

Two months pass quickly; summer in Maine is a brief interlude but I am ready for the changes that I am already seeing, the golden light, the deepening shadows, the grasses turning to wheat, the first scarlet leaves, wild cherries dropping yellowing leaves, apples that thump beneath my window, and my eventual return to Abiquiu…

I am ready for everything except the beginning of the bear hunt, wishing that somehow local folk could be educated out of this idea that we need to keep on killing these last icons of the forest, our very intelligent, normally non aggressive, tree loving bears. If a bear becomes aggressive the question we need to be asking is who hurt that animal because as many Independent bear researchers know, (unbiased researchers not associated with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife that is backed by the National Rifle Association) bears have to be taught to fear humans. Bears have amazing memories. Once a bear has been shot at or threatened by hounding dogs it becomes frightened and appears aggressive. We need to begin to interpret a terrified bear’s bluff behavior in terms of the bear’s fear and not our own.

I am finishing this narrative on a lovely cool fall –like day, listening to golden apples still thumping as they hit the ground even as I peer out at three red deer who are grazing below Roy’s apple tree just outside my window. When the spotted fawn finally joined its mother and aunt, I couldn’t help thinking how the wheel of the year keeps turning towards a young one’s new life.

Honoring the Animals: The Seeds of Friendship

18557188_10154652123900658_5386138885307644469_n.jpeg

18193679_10154607586590658_4906463656839986563_n.jpegIMG_1184.JPG18403470_10154629271190658_7277426744994072372_n.jpeg14446115_10154030501505658_1082940160639570417_n.jpeg18301982_10154627835435658_5093278084607954192_n.jpeg14502840_10154030501175658_7610013219227540431_n.jpg16681474_10154401854630658_2411475469027345699_n.jpeg

All Pictures taken by Jeff Beeman, except the one of Shawnee taken by me.

Jeff Beeman became my first real friend in Abiquiu. I first met him when I walked by his house to wander up the arroyo back into the little round hills. Jeff’s home and business are perched on a rise that overlooks the Chama river valley with the mountain range I call “the reptiles” that hover over the n/eastern horizon with the Pedernal marking the spot from the south. Sunsets are stunning from this location, but the view was not what drew me to this place.

Jeff’s animals were the reason I first stopped by. I noticed that the large and immaculately kept enclosure housed my favorite farm animal, the mini- donkey, and Jeff had three of them so I was anxious to get to know each one personally. When I discovered these animals were equally anxious to make my acquaintance, I was delighted. Shawnee, an older mini – donkey (all three are 16 to 18 years old) immediately stole my heart, and before long seeing them on the daily hikes I took with my two dogs became something we all looked forward to.

Jeff and I had a lot in common, I realized, because of our mutual love for all animals. I was impressed by the way he took such good care of all of his non – human friends, and how much they adored him, following him around and standing at the fence to be noticed the second he popped out of the house!

Jeff also impressed me with his honesty. I gravitate towards folks who are upfront with their opinions regardless of whether I agree with them or not. Over the following months I also met a lot of his guests, who seemed equally impressed with Jeff’s attention to detail as a host. Many of his people have been returning to his Casita(s) for years.

But back to my story… It wasn’t long before the other animals, one a magnificent horse (that became my favorite horse in the world because he was so gentle and sweet natured) captured my affection. I had been uneasy around horses most of my life because they seemed so high strung, but Buster, an American Paint Horse, given to Jeff a couple of years ago, changed my perceptions with his loving and sometimes very humorous attentions. Buster has a habit of pulling shirt sleeves to get more attention! And when I am inside his enclosure he has a tendency to lean on me, which is always a shock because Buster is a very big horse and I am a little person!

All Jeff’s animals except for Buster are rescue animals. The two Llamas, Cinder and Cusco, were a bit introverted at first, paying close attention to us but keeping their distance too. I promised myself that I would make friends with them in time. Sadly, not long after Jeff and I became friends Cinder had to be put down, and the other, Cusco, became even more distant – even depressed. Jeff was deeply concerned about him and I could really feel the depth of that concern on a visceral level. Cusco would watch me intently with his beautiful black pools for eyes, sometimes positioned behind a shredded juniper. He seemed too lonely, even with the other animals close by, and this sense I had made me even more determined to befriend him. To our mutual amazement (Jeff’s and mine) within a relatively short time, Cusco was approaching me at the fence along with the other donkeys (Sunny and Lolita), Shawnee braying the loudest of all.

So many farm animals seem to have lost their souls but not these characters who are clearly people oriented and respond with great enthusiasm to attention once they are befriended. It took a couple of months before all of them started a conversation with me every time I walked by! I had to teach them that I would visit on my way back from a hike because otherwise they wanted me to stop each way, and often I was trying to stay ahead of the heat because my little dogs don’t like to walk in the hot sun except during mid – winter.

When Copper and Forest were rescued I was thrilled because I hadn’t seen any alpacas since I lived in Peru, and I had become attached to one while living there. These two were so friendly and so funny to watch as they cavorted around. When Jeff had their hair shaved off for the warmer months he left each with fuzzy topknots. For the summer they were given what I would call a sail cloth to provide them (and the others) with more open shade to help keep them cool, and they also received fly masks.

With Jeff’s permission I fed them organic carrots last fall (all but Cusco, who could only eat pellets). I think it was around Christmas that Jeff started leaving a pail of pellets for me to feed my friends but I was cautioned to feed only a few to each animal, because overeating was a threat to their health.

I was amazed at how gentle all these animals were with my five and six pound Chihuahuas, and felt safe enough to allow them to interact on a regular basis. Sometimes though, I just wanted to be with one of Jeff’s crowd and that was when Jeff put up a hook so I could keep Hope and Lucy away from their enclosure while I visited.

Leaving Abiquiu for the summer was made so much more difficult because I knew that it would be a few months before I got to see all my barnyard friends again. I miss all of them a lot.

One day soon, I hope, I will be surprising Shawnee, Lolita, Sunny, Buster, Cusco, and the sprites, Forest and Copper with a return visit from me.