Friday, April 1, 2016

A Day in the Life

Last Sunday I took an afternoon stroll through the trees on the shoulder of the mountain. It was a gorgeous day, the temperature was in the upper 60s with high, wispy cloud formations looking like finger paint smudges upon an azure sky-scape. The mountains to the west stood high and mighty above me, their snow capped peaks contrasting sharply with the sapphire blue of the upper atmosphere. The purple depths of the thick pine forests on the steep, angular slopes beckoned to me. Alas, I knew the snow would be deep there and dangerous for a solitary hiker. It would be best to wander through the oaks with their winter flattened mat of pale, yellow grass and what looked like tea stained leaves with curled edges. Many northern facing spaces were interrupted with thin, crusty patches of snow. I truly appreciate the quiet places there.

Albeit not all that far from civilization, this near edge of wilderness is one of my sanctuaries. It is an open-air art gallery consisting of ever evolving exhibits that are affected by sunlight, shadow and season. It is also a place to cool my jets and find some peace and quiet. One would not think a trading post and cafe as a place of stress, but they can be. In many ways, these wanderings are my time to stabilize, regroup and reconsider.

I saw turkey tracks in the snow, heard them gobbling across the way and eventually saw their shadowy shapes racing through the underbrush. Later on, I found myself sitting upon a large rock on the edge of a tiny clearing. A stately and fragrant yellow pine stood off to my left, and water from melting snow trickled downhill at my feet. The sun warmed my soul and all was right with the world.

There was a long dead, but still standing quaking aspen just down the hill from me. It towered over the oaks in a forlorn fashion, making me sad at its passing. As I watched a northern flicker fly onto a branch of the tree and let go its reverberating whistle-like call then hammered away at a knot. I thought to myself, "That little dude is going to scramble his brain beating on that stick." Just then an answering call came echoing back at the silly bird.

After several hours of wandering, Laurie called me to dinner. I am especially fond of meals my wife and mother-in-law create, so I exited, stage left, and hustled on down the mountain. It was delicious as usual. After our meal Laurie announced that before dessert we would be going to see the new windmills, up close and personal. Since I have never been near a wind turbine, I thought it a grand plan. We drove out among the whispering giants and stood at their base—they are huge. I realize that there are folks both for and against these behemoths. I guess I am on the fence with this one; I could live with or without them. After touring the windmills we followed the back roads north, looking for the Gordon Reservoir road. Years ago, Grandpa Clem took me there and I wanted to see it once again.

We rolled down the dirt road, trying to stay out of the ruts and take in the scenery. Up the lane we saw a large prairie dog sunning himself at the entrance to his underground tunnel system. The little critter had done himself proud by excavating nearly ten square feet of roadside. It sat there tall and proud, barking at us as we came near. At about 50 feet, Laurie let out a gasp and said, "Look at that!" From the north sped a red-tailed missile. Right before our eyes, a hawk flared its wings and hit the dog. It was great for us, but a tragic ending to the prairie-pup. As the hawk struck it fanned completely out to slam on the brakes and gain lift all at the same time. Laurie, Grandma Donna and I were witness to a spectacular display of feathered finery. It reminded me of a basket Damian Jim designed a few years ago which was executed by Chris Johnson. Incredible!

Navajo Hawk Basket - Chris Johnson (#037)

I stepped on the brakes so as not to run over the poor bird as it attempted to regain altitude. Laurie grabbed my leg with her left hand and her right arm shot-out to hold grandma in place. Laurie say's she didn't yell, but I distinctly recall my ears ringing with her words, "Don't hit the bird!" Grandma had her hands on the dash trying to keep from going through the windshield and laughed merrily. We skidded to a halt as the bird, with his dinner, collided with the fence on the opposite side of the road. Luckily the hawk didn't get caught-up in the barbed wire but it did drop the dog before it regained attitude and flew away, low over the field. We all watched it go, thrilled at the experience, but sad about disrupting the red tail's dinner. It took me a minute to dislodge Laurie's fingernails from my thigh, but we were soon on our way again.

We drove further up the road until we came to a washout and turned around. As we returned to the scene of the prairie dog's demise, we noticed the hawk had regained its prize. It sat off in the field feasting, not happy at our return. Just then Laurie yelled. "Look at that, just look at it!" What appeared to be a badger was shuffling across the road, heading for a small clump of oak brush. Once again we went through the entire skid, slide and claw scenario. Looking down and out, I saw by the raised spines the creature was a porcupine. I slammed the pick-up in park and jumped-out to chase it down. I wanted a picture to prove that we had, indeed seen this wild thing. I jumped the fence and limped after the prickly character.

The porcupine and I entered the trees, it waddling as fast as it could go and me bent at the waist, pushing aside branches trying to keep-up. Before I could get my phone out and capture an image, it climbed one of the skinny trees and lodged itself in the tangle of branches. I took a few pictures then called Laurie and Grandma over to see what I had treed. Grandma opted-out of jumping the fence, she was afraid of becoming high centered. "The Claw" came around though and Laurie and I were but a few feet from the beastie. I wanted to shake it loose and get some better images, but Laurie was having none of it. "Leave the poor thing alone," she said. "Like my old dog, you just might get a face full of quills." Grumbling to myself and walking away, I claimed, "I am smarter than your old dog!" "Humph!" was her only reply.

Having just learned how to group text, I had been sending images and sharing the adventure with our three children throughout the day. They all seemed appreciative, but McKale said it best, "It looks and sounds like you had a wonderful day Pappi." "Yes", I texted back, "except for a bruise and puncture wounds on my right thigh, it was great."

With warm regards Barry Simpson and the team.

1 comment:

Sandy said...

Loved reading about this adventure! You ought to write a book. You're really good. =)