Storm Approaches
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Winter Storm Approaches

"...when we don't live with birds or weather or waves we lose the opportunity to think hard about ourselves, to discover from nature important facts about human nature."
(excerpted from Nancy Lord's, Fishcamp)

Snow Squalls And Saffron

November 5, 1998.I'm savoring some toasted saffron bread smothered with thimbleberry jam as I watch the season's first snow squalls crawl along the Keweenaw ridge. (What? The spell checker from Silicon Valley says it never heard of saffron or thimbleberry! No wonder the computers designed by these technocrats are so cranky!) The squalls are certainly a harbinger of things to come but for now, just a tease. Doesn't look like there will be any snow to measure. The "snow capitol of the Midwest" is still batting zero. Where is the much herald La Nina?

Abby and I hiked the Harbor cross-country ski trail yesterday. Sure is brown and dry back there. Despite some showers in early fall, the evidence of a driest summer in years is everywhere. Lake Eliza looks pathetic up against the dam. Its surface barely able to reach up to the bottom log in the spillway. Long Lake is no longer long, not even a lake - just a caked mud depression surrounded by crispy brown remnants of what was vibrant shoreline brush. Trail ruts, normally a series of goozy water traps, are hard and dry. The ground foliage looks tired, seemingly lacking even the energy to support the fragile and feather light brown ghosts of their summer garb splendor. The evergreen of pine and spruce lacks luster, it too showing signs of a bad, too little water, hangover. One senses that all - lake, marsh, bush and tree alike - are looking longingly at the gray clouds above, hoping they might soon share some of their water burden. The clouds just scoot by, indifferent to the pleadings from below.

If the wonderdog is a reliable census taker, the ground birds seem to have fled the scene. Not a bird flushed in over two hours of frantic searching. Perhaps, like her trail partner, she is just showing the effects of retirement, each of us having lost some of the sensory skills honed in our "working years" - hers in golden fields, mine in corporate jungles. More likely, at least for her, it was just the lack of birds. If birds are about, she would have certainly stumbled upon one given the several miles of her scampering about. My guess is that the birds just got thirsty and took early flight for their winter sojourn among the marsh cattails in the Republican south (or, so it was before Tuesday.) We did encounter a couple of pesky crows. They are not so easily discouraged.

I wondered about the deer - the UP cash crop. We didn't see one, although there were a few of what appeared to be fresh tracks in the sandy soil of the pine stands. I suspect they have moved upland, searching for water, something fresh to nibble upon, and safety from the hoards of gun hunters who will descend upon them on November 15th. Their nemesis are already busy "seeding" their hunting stands, hoping the bait of apples, pumpkins (including the former stars of the Harbor's Pumpkin Fest), etc. will lure the usually wary deer within gun shot. Seems unfair, although as a non-hunter I have what I'm sure is just an unrealistic and probably romantic notion that hunting means stalking, not luring. I suppose it's no different than baiting a fishhook. Oh well, I wish them all, deer and hunters alike, good luck! (Perhaps the deer a bit more than the hunters.)

The snow squalls have now moved down to the harbor. The still warm and thirsty earth laps at the offering, leaving just the glisten of wetness. A light white dusting creates a momentary sense of order to my sagging woodpile. The wood fire across the room feels, looks and smells especially cozy on a day such as this. Abby, stretching muscles tired by yesterday's hunt, rolls listlessly from her starboard to port flank as she snoozes on the warming hearth. It's time for some more saffron!

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