Monday, May 4, 2015

Catching the Bluebird of Happiness

Caretaker’s Log, Friday, May 1, 2015

May is here.

I take my coffee to the front porch and get some morning sunshine. The cat is off terrorizing birds or something. Occasionally, she comes back to report her misdeeds with evident pride.

At noon, I head out across the field. There’s a path that goes along the foothills of Sportsman’s Ridge and my plan is to follow it to see where it leads. At one point there's a sign. Clear Creek to the left, Upper Gros Ventre River upward. It's like a Robert Frost poem. I choose the way toward Clear Creek. I go until the path dead ends into the water. I'm not in the mood for a swim so I go back the way I came. This time at the fork, I go up toward the river. I guess sometimes you can take both paths in the woods. Some of the way is still thick with patches of snow that have hardened into slippery icy sheets. I make my way with care. I go deep into the trees. The mingling scent of pine and sage rises around me into the air to spell Forest. Birds sing and fuss at me from temporary perches on branches.

The trail seems to go on forever and I'm tired. I've been wandering for two hours now and the river is still out of sight. I turn around and retrace my steps. Unaffected by my presence, a grouse crosses the path in front of me to disappear in the brush to my right. The fallen trees I've stepped over, I step over again. The ice and snow I've skirted, I skirt again. I step around all the mud and go back to the lodge.

I eat a snack. Take a bath. Wash my hair. Call my grandmother. Phinehas calls me on his way home from work. I do the walk around with the cat. She enjoys rolling in each patch of dirt we encounter along the way. I have this feeling she expects me to play along—only I don't know what I'm supposed to do. A killjoy, perhaps, but I'm not going to roll in the dirt with her.

I bring in some wood.

I make salmon and rice for dinner. I have an apple juice, lemon, and tequila aperitif.

As I'm reading, at the end of dinner, I glance out the window just as a northern goshawk plummets from the sky and snatches one of the ground squirrels. Snatches it right up. It squeezes it in its talons and takes off for the trees. I'm in shock. The other ground squirrels are in shock. God only knows where the cat is. Sadness hits me. That was one of my friends. Maybe Sammy even. It's one thing when an osprey gets a fish I don't know from the river, it's something quite different when a goshawk grabs a meal, a friend, out of the front yard.

I raise my glass in the direction of the trees where the goshawk disappeared with the ground squirrel. "To your life. To all the days you lived," I say in toast to Sammy. Life is brief for us all. Briefer for some.

I wash up the dishes.

I record the weather. Close out the month of April.

As I head up to bed, I think that sadness for some is joy for others. That northern goshawk’s triumph means its life will go on longer. Survival of the fittest. The circle of life. All those things. That's what the wilderness teaches.

Caretaker’s Log, Saturday, May 2, 2015

Coffee. Crossword. Front porch sunshine. The wind blows in strong from the north.

I read.

I eat granola for breakfast.

After I reset the ah removed to zero I sit for a while longer on the porch. Clouds move in covering the sun and it's chilly in the wind. I go inside and read on the couch. There I fall asleep, long and deep enough to dream. That was some nap. I feel I could sleep the day away. But instead I put my boots on and walk up to the dam.

I see two turkey vultures soaring over the meadow, looking for dead things to eat.

The clouds are fluffy and crisp white.

I'm back to the lodge in an hour.

I wash up.

I make scrambled eggs and potatoes for dinner. My grandmother calls. I wash the dinner dishes. Read some more. Do the walk around. The cat joins me at the end.

I record the weather.

There's a ground squirrel in the cat’s food dish. It knocks over the water. When I bring out a fresh bowl the ground squirrel is still there and has the water bowl tilted to its face, going to town with drink. It tries to get around me, but the cat is in the way. The cat and I go stand on the porch until the ground squirrel has gotten out and back to the safety of the grass.

I make an early night of it. I'm in bed by 9:30.

Caretaker’s Log, Sunday, May 3, 2015

Going to bed early does good things for me. I'm up before eight o'clock.

It's Sunday so I water the plants.

It feels like a storm is moving in. There's rain in the air.

I start a new jigsaw puzzle. I listen to Jack London's The Call of the Wild while I work on it. It's so alpha dog violent that I have a hard time with the story.

I make up a batch of deodorant.

I eat granola for breakfast.

After the other usual morning things, I go to the incinerator shed and burn the burnable trash and refill the diesel dust bucket. I bring in wood. Then I gear up to split more wood. I chop for two and a half hours. When I’ve got another two or three week supply stacked up on the porch I put everything away and go inside.

For a snack I eat a can of pineapple chunks.

I take a bath.

I upload some pictures to my computer.

There's a bluebird making rounds on the porch, sitting on the arms of the chairs, on the backs, flying up into the openings below the balcony. It must see its reflection in the windows. It keeps gently tapping the glass.

I take a book and my camera intending to sit on the front porch and read for a little while with the bluebird for company.

The cat is getting excited. She would love bluebird for dinner. The bluebird is taunting the cat. Flitting from here to there. But it flits one way too far and gets caught in the screen porch where the cat’s house, food, and water are. It's all fun and games until that happens.

The cat is ready. But so am I. I try to redirect the bird so it flies out the door, but it's too frantic to take my subtle hints. So I go grab the fish net that's on the other side of the porch and bring it around. Eventually, I work the net down enough around the bird to keep it low and still so that I can get it. I catch the Bluebird of Happiness. I catch the Bluebird of Happiness before the cat can. Its heart beats one thousand miles per hour against my fingers. Fear comes with the unknown. "Don't worry, little friend," I say. "It'll be all right." I step out onto the porch and open my hand. The bluebird flies off with little chirps of relief and possibly gratitude.

Now I'm not in the frame of mind to sit and read so I go back inside. Through the window I see a ground squirrel come to get a drink of water and a dinner out at the cat’s expense. It reminds me of the verse: For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.

I wonder what the cat's reward is.

I talk to my grandmother.

I eat salmon and rice for dinner.

A dark storm rolls in. Clouds so dark and heavy that they shroud the land with a soft fog. But still the rain does not fall.

I record the weather. A high of 58 degrees, a low of 29.

Finally, like a chirping breath of relief, when I go out to do the evening walk around the first raindrops begin to sift from the sky.

I finish writing a short story.  It’s titled Swan Song and I don’t know if it’s any good. Even with that in mind, finishing it makes me happy.

The cat is restless, I talk at her through the window and eventually she settles in her house, settles in to sleep.

The moon is full tonight.

With the chopped wood lining the porch and a completed story to add to a pile of completed stories, I can take my night as it comes. I have a couple glasses of wine and watch a show. Once or twice I get up to look at the full moon through the window.

The moonlight glints off the silver chimneys of the cabins making low pinpricks of light like nearby stars. I go outside to look up. Orange tinted clouds creep over the moon. There are owls out. Their voices bounce and echo, calling into the night for things to eat. The cat winds around my legs, purring.

Goodnight fake stars. Goodnight moon. Goodnight owls. Goodnight cat.

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