6:34 a.m. 34 degrees, wind SW 3 mph. Sky: a bouillabaisse of shape and
color, pastel pink, shades of gray, white, and blue. Highlights and
bruises. Rising ground fog. Permanent streams: bolstered by an all-day
drizzle, the soft voice of rolling water. Intermittent streams: puddles
linked by drizzle, an ephemeral bridge and flow. Wetlands: frostless and
soggy. Yesterday, I crossed the marsh, over the spongy ground, puddle to
puddle, past narrow otter trails, and wider unevenly trampled deer tails.
And oval beds of flattened reeds where deer spent the night . . . drinking
and playing cards and whatever else do where the lights go off. Truancy of
birds. Pond: nano waves, like windrows of sand, a subtle undulation. In the
shallows, drowned leaves blanket tadpoles and frogs, a six-month nap,
metabolism reduced to a tick. Underwater, in the winter, turtles breathe
through linings in their throats and cloacas; frogs and tadpoles through
their skin . . . a seasonal adjustment fined-tuned over two hundred million
years. The unwavering nature of turtles and frogs. There's a lesson there,
somewhere, I'm sure.
Forest floor from crispy to sloshy. A dripping world, beyond bushwhacking.
Woods lightly seasoned with nuthatches, a soft fanfare of toots. In
defiance of Newton, three red-breasted nuthatches wander down a maple sugar
trunk, foraging in tufts of moss and lichen. Then, an encore performance,
flit to an adjacent maple and begin again. And again, on a third tree.
Chickadees keep to themselves, hushed in the wet woods, but blue jays
headed northwest, break through the dreariness, hastily screaming en route
to my feeders.
Today's the first day of rifle season in Vermont. Although I am not a
hunter, I don't own a gun. But I don't post my land for deer or bird
hunters. There is plenty of both to go around. For predators and
furbearers, I do draw a line. Several men who hunt the marsh and hillsides
grew up on Robinson Hill and have hunted here for decades, often with
their fathers and grandfathers. They have a *very *personal history here,
their source of topophilia. I won't disrupt a bond like that because I
could afford to buy the land and pay the taxes.