Last Sunday I found myself high up in the crotch of a large cottonwood tree. I was north of Monticello, east of the airport, on the lip of Spring Creek admiring the view from 25 feet up. The late afternoon light filtered through the remaining leaves, turning them a luminescent yellow as if they were lit from within. Much of the tree trunk retained its coarse crosshatched bark pattern, but there were occasional dead limbs as well, especially upon the top most portion of the snag. These stuck out at oblique angles, something you might expect on a bewitched and aged Tolkien Ent.
It was deer season, but I wasn’t hunting. Instead I was in this quiet and memorable place to enjoy the feel of fall and the creatures that dwell in the area. Although this narrow, deeply cut and rocky bottomed arroyo is dry most of the year, it still attracts a wealth of wildlife. Thirteen years ago, Laurie, our daughters Alyssa and McKale, and I built a sturdy tree stand in the elevated crook of this tree. It was a labor of love for our son, Spenser. Spense had been injured in a terrible accident. He was recovering nicely, but was still a bit unsteady. His desire was to hunt deer, so we built this perch to help keep him upright and secure. Since that time I have often used it as a place of meditation.
The air was crisp and clean, with just a bit of a breeze rattling the leaves and causing the dry ones to drop to the ground. Two white-breasted nuthatches flitted from branch-to-branch in search of bugs, unconcerned with my presence. A couple years ago I was here napping in the warm sunlight when a golden eagle swooped in and landed only ten feet from me. I think it was as surprised to see me as I was it. Needless to say, a full-grown eagle up close is an impressive sight. We stared at each other for a moment, then the giant bird let out a piercing screech, loosed its grip on the limb and sailed across the alfalfa field, sending the local prairie dog population diving for their burrows.
This evening no birds of prey came to visit, but the deer began to stir. I leaned on the edge of the stand and glassed the borders of the oak brush and banks of the stock ponds. I was not disappointed as the deer began to emerge from their hiding places en masse. Does, fawns and small bucks were everywhere. Looking to the east, where a giant, dilapidated barn stands in the middle of a field of winter wheat, I was reminded what Grandpa Clem might have said. “They were as thick as ticks on a dog.” Before long the deer moved into my grove of cottonwoods and started feeding right under my feet. I could see their big brown eyes and even count their eyelashes.
For me, there is nothing on this earth more relaxing than communing with nature. The trading post and cafe are places where Steve and I socialize with people from all walks of life and from every corner of the globe. For certain, Twin Rocks is a stimulating place and more educational as anyone might imagine. However, a trek through the sage and cedar is where I discover peace and tranquility. Sitting in that tree, surrounded by the natural world in all its beauty, helps me balance my world and find peace. The only thing that would have made the experience more enjoyable would have been having my wife and children there with me.
As shadows began to envelop the landscape and the sun set behind Blue Mountain, I knew it was time to leave my hallowed haven. I regretted disturbing the deer, but Laurie would be expecting me soon. I opened the door as quietly as I could and descended the ladder with caution. The deer didn’t seem threatened at all, they simply moved over and kept browsing. Driving back down the dirt road, I thanked my lucky stars for living in this here and now.