6:56 a.m. 57 degrees (another *warm* dawn, another cricket nocturne, soft
and dreamy), wind SSE 6 mph, heavy breathing out of the Carolinas. Sky: low
cloud ceiling, nowhere for the heat to go, stays in place all night. Sun
sneaks up, unnoticed behind a bank of clouds. Permanent and intermittent
streams: without chronic evaporation flows holds steady; rendezvous with
the marsh, a peaceful, joyful babble. Wetlands: dormant roots, reeds
moribund shades of brown. Pond: male hooded merganser, decked in winter
attire, swims away from me to the north end, constantly glancing over his
back as if at any moment I might walk on water.
AOR: (dusk yesterday) Plump woodcock lands in front of me; orb head and
whistling wings; knitting-needle bill. Stays for a moment then flies down
the road; long, narrow wings stir the air, a silhouette in the dim light.
Why leave when the earth is soft? (dawn today) Two robins flush. One lands
on a flimsy, horizontal grapevine, a woodland teeter-totter, thinks the
better of it and leaves, the vine bouncing like a springboard.
Scat on the road (SOR): mink, fresh. Dogs and I are interested in the very
same item, which still glistens. The last mink I saw in the valley was
approximately fifteen years ago, a still nursing DOR female. She had given
birth in a derelict beaver lodge, long out of use (by beavers), on the edge
of the bank under a weft of hemlock. Like the otter, mink cross Coyote
Hollow on an endless quest for food. When beavers were in residence,
and food was sufficient, otter and mink took their coats off and stayed
The world awakens. Hairy woodpeckers and red-breasted nuthatches call in
the dim light, everywhere. From the pines, behind the alders, a robin sings
a soft, truncated version of spring song, almost a whisper . . . a
renaissance that echos the temperature, warm and springlike. Female
yellowthroat in the goldenrods, yellow below, olive on top. Slow and
deliberate. One of the first birds described in the Western Hemisphere.
1766, by Linnaeus. Except for myrtles, I don't often see Vermont warblers
on the cusp of November, a Halloween bird, trick-or-treating in the
wetlands. She could have arrived from Laborador or Newfoundland, on her way
to the Everglades or Cuba or Panama. A lull in Coyote Hollow to reset her
And every morning, I have a serious choice . . . get out of bed and walk,
or stay put and miss life's pageant. My dogs, of course, have some say in
this matter. The ease of each morning varies. But once outside, the door
shutting behind me, I am rarely if ever disappointed—a thousand lifelines,
haphazardly and unpredictably, strewn across the valley. Every morning I
grab one or two—distant goose, late yellowthroat, wary merganser. An
itinerant mink leaves a token—the story of life, the story of time. The
price of admission to the inclusive world beyond my doorstep . . . go
outside. I belong here. Don't we all?