Very thick fog this morning. I love it when the atmosphere closes in on you like this. Light becomes liquid silver, sound is muffled, and everything is either close, or invisible— no longer important. You feel as if you are in a room made especially for you and the rest of the world is excluded. You are at the center of a muted reality, with heightened perceptions. Fog is a poet.
Our long dry spell broke this week. We had a day and a half of almost steady rain. Sometimes only a slight drizzle but it came down steady and long. Jack chewed the bottom off my rain gauge so I don't know exactly how much we got. (My fault: I left it in reach when he was teething.) Inch and a half I'd guess. We've had far more in lots less time, but it was welcome any way it came. Things are greening at a mighty rate and this afternoon I mowed my front grass for the second time this season. In a normal year I wouldn't have mowed the first time yet.
One day last week a friend in town who had borrowed something from me called to say he was going to bring it back and visit for a while. After a bit I saw a storm shaping up toward town and from the looks of it I figured I'd be getting a phone call. Sure enough, about ten minutes later called. He was on his way, but not far from town, when the storm just about blew him off the road. It came on suddenly and violently, as they often do out here. He said he'd have to run for home and reschedule.
We live according to the weather out here 24/7. I doubt urban folk can completely understand how dependent we are on it and how observant of it we have to be. It can be beautiful and it can also be a killer. And it doesn't care either way.
Actually I guess I'm the intruder. They were here first. I've noticed though s I reclaimed my front "lawn" from the prairie they seem to thrive there better than they do in wilder areas. So that's my good deed I reckon: Making the world safe for dandelions. I reckon I could do worse.
Not to be a johnny-one-note, but I am still enjoying the bursts of new life that are everywhere here on the prairie right now. Just as for the trees and the grasses, it is the same thing for me every spring: time to get out the cameras and start walking aimlessly around looking for... well, whatever. Reassurance? Of course, It's part of the human mystery. And lucky for us, it's everywhere this time of year.
A few years back I lost an older, mostly already dead tree to the wind. I cut up a good bit of the deadfall but didn't get around to removing the whole wreck until winter hit and then it was spring before I could get back at it. By then there were new sprigs sprouting up from it and all around it and so I left it. It wasn't in the way and gradually a little thicket grew up around it. It's in the process of renewing itself once again now.
Eliot called April "the cruelest month," because it bred lilacs out of a dead land. I can't see it that way. It seems to me that April is the bringer of new life, a promise of freshness and regeneration. April here is usually just the near-tail-end of winter, but this year it has been the harbinger month. And nothing cruel about that I can see.
The prickly pear is beginning to perk up. These warm days have greened it up substantially. The other day I cut one pad, processed it, and cooked it up. It was good, but will be better with a little more sun and moisture. The Indians thought highly of it as a food, and it has several medicinal applications.
Just a few days ago a long-time reader of this blog asked me that question in the comments section of one of the posts about the return of my deer.
It's a good question, and takes more than a line or two to answer.
I'm a life-long hunter. Over the years, hunting has put much meat on my table and in my freezer. But I have gone "deerless" for the past two years, and not for the lack of opportunity. This past season, for example, stretching from mid-November thru the end of January, saw me with chance after chance for fine critters. Each time the outcome was, more or less, "Nah, not this time."
The attached image shows one of my many cervidaen visitors. It's an infrared "trail camera" picture of a buck that practically lived on the place all winter— finally depositing one of his antlers in the front yard by the porch, perhaps a gift. (In the picture he is standing a measured thirty feet from the house.) He was in my sights several times and the decision guiding the trigger finger was always a "No." Why?
I'm not sure I can answer that question very intelligently. Perhaps still having venison in the freezer has something to do with it? Maybe. But that's not the whole answer, or even most of it. I think I have just reached a point in my life when I have no desire to kill much of anything. Killing was never the best part of hunting for me. In success there was always a measure of regret along with the satisfaction of having "made meat" as the old-timers used to say.
Nowadays, immersed as I am in the day-to-day flux of nature and her many critters, I feel I have nothing to prove to myself or anyone else with regard to my ability to take animals for food. (Trophies have never interested me at all.) Younger, more eager (and perhaps "macho") hunters would surely call me a wuss. That's OK. I really don't care and I don't need their approval.
Bird-hunting is slightly different. It's not at all a solitary activity. I am in the field with at least one of my dogs, usually both, and often with several other hunters and their dogs. It is almost a communal pursuit. Following behind and watching the dogs work is one of my greatest pleasures. I could easily do it without a gun, but the dogs will have none of that. The point, the rise, the shot, the retrieve— all are at the very center of their lives and it is no rationalization on my part to say that to deprive them of that whole process would be a cruelty I cannot bring myself to be a part of.
If I choose not to take a deer for my table it should not be taken as a criticism of or a rejection of the practice and ethics of hunting. It definitely is not. I believe in the value of hunting both as a means of responsible conservation and a personal pursuit for sustenance, both physical and spiritual. I'm sure I will take deer again, perhaps when the freezer is empty, or when I feel that the time is right. When that happens, the little voice will say "Yes!" and I will act accordingly.
Yesterday I awoke to a glorious, bright, sunny morning. It promised a balmy day of warmth and spring-time bliss. But off to the west it was very dark, a solid mass of dark blue from zenith right down to the ground. Within half an hour a deep, cold overcast had taken over, the wind came up, and it began to hail. In the next half hour the storm had moved on, the sun came out, and the afternoon developed just as the earlier morning had promised. Boredom tends not be a factor where weather in the 'Great American Desert' is concerned.
Thought I'd post this from the mulie sighting the other day. This little guy is "pronking." I believe it is an Afrikaans word for the stiff-legged, prancing run that some antelopes over there, and mulies here, use to cover ground. Whitetails do not indulge. What fun it is to watch a mob of a dozen or so mulies pronking away over the plains like a gaggle of wind-up toys!
A nice gift for the First of April: the return of the mule deer. Ten females. They left early in the fall and haven't been on the place all winter. Plenty of whitetails, but no mulies. It's good to see them again. Even better will be seeing their fawns in a few weeks.
And, apparently, the first day of summer as well: at 245PM today the thermometer topped 97°.
My poor trees, that are now entirely greened with new leaves, may be in for a rude surprise. Normally at this time of year we would still have snow on the ground, nighttime temps well below freezing, and perhaps even a killer storm on the way. Some of our worst weather "events" have come in April
We are still two months away from a safe window for planting gardens and the like. Never saw anything like it.