Tag Archive: Recreation

Take A Breath

I stood outside late last night and took in long breaths of frost-rimed air. It is in the 30s-40s here at night now and the air quality is amazing. Maybe because I spend a considerable amount of time each year stuffed up due to allergies, but when both nostrils are clear at the same time…whee! I get a little giddy. Probably from the extra oxygen. The air tasted pure and sweet like water from a mountain stream. With each breath it felt like I was cleansing my lungs…my mind, my heart. Clearing out all the crap that creeps in throughout the day and starts gathering in dark corners.

photo by amjwriter

The air reminds me of my childhood when I spent some time in the Adirondacks. I stayed at what was called ‘Camp’ by my relatives. It was an older wood house without electricity, water or plumbing set back from the banks of a river. Camp had been shared by my extended family for a long time. My grandparents especially adored the time they spent there and I love looking at their old photos from that time. It was an idyllic place it seemed, both a refuge and a playground. Images of swimming, fishing, reading, talking, playing cards, and  laughter, especially the laughter, are all captured in these now fading photographs.

I came in on the tail end of this time period when my grandparents were much older and there had been some losses already among the group who had gathered there so joyfully in the 30s, 40s and 50s. I spent relatively little time at Camp yet it left an indelible impression. My  love of nature and the outdoors most likely had its genesis there. My childhood was primarily  in a suburban environment, yet the few visits I made up to the Adirondacks remain vibrant memories. Not whole memories, just glimpses. Almost like when you look through a frosted window. A few swipes with a sweatered elbow and you clear a circle barely large enough for a glimpse of the other side. That’s my memory of childhood, a blinkered look into the past. I am not sure if I envy those with more fully realized memories or not. The really good, happy memories I carry close to my heart are sometimes bittersweet in retrospect, carrying with them after images of change, loss and broken promises.

But those times in the Adirondacks had a magical quality predating a lot of that. I remember the amazing air, the night sky dazzling with stars, the smell of the sandy path through scrubby pine down to the river. That scent in particular is linked to a wealth of memories. They sweep over me if I smell something similar. It happens rarely but when it does I am transported back for a few sweet moments. I can feel myself wanting to linger, to sit down with my grandparents just one more time. But then the memory just wisps away like mist in the rising dawn.

There were some fearsome aspects to my time at Camp. The outhouse comes vividly to mind. There were spiders in there that were monstrous, especially in the dark. I seem to recall rustling and glittering eyes as I tried to rush through the process and return to the safety of the kerosene-lanterned house.

Cougar / Puma / Mountain Lion / Panther (Puma ...

One morning we found bloodied paw prints of a mountain lion tracking across the porch. A scary thing, yet thrilling too

in its wildness.

I also remember going down to the river for water, the sound of the old metal pails as we walked   through the woods.  The shock of how cold  the water was. It came straight off the mountain and I’ve never tasted anything as good.  The quiet was remarkable, broken only by one of my favorite sounds to this day, wind moving through the trees, brushing branches aside, rustling leaves.

It is not as quiet where I live now but not too bad. As I stand breathing in the night air I hear an owl hooting softly in the distance. After a moment, another owl answers. I listen and wonder what they are saying to one another. Perhaps it is as simple as ‘I am here.’

The groundhog (Marmota monax) is a rodent of t...

Image via Wikipedia

Time for me to stop talking to the wild animals I encounter in and around my backyard. I’ve had a couple of weird encounters recently that have led me to believe that they are becoming entirely too comfortable with me.

There was the baby bunny who sat noshing on weeds just a few feet from me as I trimmed some bushes. I did talk to the bunny as I worked. I think I may have commented on the weather and what a nice bunny he is…you know, the usual. Every once in a while he would get a pensive look on his face and I thought that he was about to critique my pruning job. But no… We spent a few peaceful minutes in each other’s company as I worked, basking in the autumnal sunshine.

Then there was the groundhog. If you’ve read my previous posts you’ll know that this creature has created problems for us before, choosing, as he has, to make his home base under the shed. Of course that drives the dogs crazy. A few months ago we had a bad incident when they chased him and then got stuck under there. Frantically I tried to get them out. I was especially scared as it was a very hot day and I only heard one dog whimpering, then…silence. I couldn’t reach them and was pulling off sideboards and digging with all my might. My fear, aside from how hot it might be in the burrow, was that the groundhog was in there with them and there had been a terrible battle. I really thought I might have lost them. Thank God I was able to corral a neighbor to help out and he did a masterful job of breaking through the shed floor. The dogs were in there alone, dusty, scared and shell-shocked. But safe and unharmed.

So you can see why spotting a groundhog in the backyard was not a thrill for me. I left the dogs inside and approached it hoping to scare it out of the yard. He watched me get closer and I admit my steps slowed as I realized he wasn’t going to go easily.  A few yards from him he did finally make a run for it…actually more of a slow, ambling mosey. I followed him around the yard urging him to leave, wanting to see if he was headed back under the shed. I felt more than a little foolish as it was a very, very  slow pursuit on my part.  Finally he found a hole in the fence he could squeeze his considerable girth through. After a final frenzied look back at me he kind of just tumbled out of the yard. Unfortunately there is no doubt in my mind that he will be back.

 And then there is the deer family who hangs out next door. They are becoming just a little too familiar and jaded for    my liking. I don’t want them thinking humans are safe…I don’t want any of our wilder visitors to feel that way. On    the other hand I do tend to talk to the deer when I see them by the apple tree. Especially when there are fawns with    them.

Anyway, late one afternoon I was doing dishes when I spotted the parent deer in our backyard. As I slipped quietly  outside I realized that there were actually 4 deer in our yard and two fawns lying down in the next yard.

The fawns’  presence was what made this encounter take a  different  turn. Instead of running away as usual the parent deer  faced  me full on and stamped her foot. I was a little taken aback. Could she hurt me? She didn’t have any antlers but still if she ran over me or knocked me down…I wasn’t sure. I mean deer are  prey animals right? She should have been long gone before I even got close. But no, here she was stamping her foot at me again, for emphasis. I told her I meant no harm but  she wasn’t  buying it. I eventually backed down since I didn’t want any of the deer family to get hurt in a panicked rush for safety. Let me clarify, that would be their panicked rush, not mine. However, I did retreat back into the house  and was greeted at the door by the dogs who clearly though I was a wuss of the highest order. I thought about explaining to them, but nah…

This evening I leashed the dogs and started to take them into the backyard when I spotted one of the neighborhood deer wandering around next door. This particular deer is usually alone and has a perpetually worried look about him. I imagine his inner dialog to sound a bit like Woody Allen (the earlier comedic genius version). So I thought I would give him a few minutes to feast on the neighbor’s apple tree without being disturbed by canines making rude comments.

I led the now protesting dogs (who had been awakened from their daylong naps and were cranky) through the house and opened the front door. A small bunny was sitting on the sidewalk chewing away on some foliage.

Right  there on the sidewalk, not ten feet from where I stood. For a brief moment I felt trapped by good intentions. Then I closed the door leaving the bunny in peace and pulled the now seriously pissed dogs through the garage and out onto the driveway — mercifully free of wildlife.