one single deer walked across this frozen marsh. it left its footprints behind and we could see that it was alone, at least as it crossed. we wondered where it was going, if it would be meeting other deer, if it was young or older, if it had been seeking food or a little open water. we’ve seen many deer on this stretch of trail. they are usually in the woods, gazing out at us as we pass. they stand silently and watch, making sure that we mean no harm. and, of course, we don’t. i always whisper to them how very beautiful they are and i thank them for their quiet presence.
i wonder – after we leave and our boots are printed in the snowy trail – if the deer ponder us. if they wonder where we are going, if we are meeting others, if we are young or older, if we are seeking food or open water.
one of the reasons we love being on the trail is to mutually share that space with wildlife as it surrounds us. we know that there are many creatures, many critters we will not see, though they likely see us. and while we can usually identify them and whether we are in jeopardy – if we see them – we know that identifying humans is harder. for creatures and critters do not know the intent of humans as they pass. they do not know who humans are nor if they are in danger because humans are nearby. the sun rises and sets in their neck of the woods and they must always be vigilant. few natural predators, their vigilance is mostly because of the humans.
they do not realize that it is also necessary for humans to be vigilant of humans. for not all are well-intended and some mean harm. some are singularly focused on hurtful agenda, some are dedicated to marginalizing others, some are dangerous.
i hope that our footprints – now and later – reveal goodness, cause no alarm, are no menace. there’s already enough of that in this world.
it looks like the hubbabubba fairy flew through, magic wand in hand, touching stumps and shredded trees everywhere. it is striking to see and not just a little disturbing. there is blue-fairy-dust-smattering all over the woods. trees have been felled, underbrush torn up, everything ground into rough-hewn mulch. one shade of blue and many shades of brown.
only it’s not magic dust and no hubbabubba-bubble-gum or jolly-rancher-blue-raspberry fairy has been there. instead, it’s an herbicide and part of treatment for the invasive species eradication project on our trail. it’s completely and understandably important, but it sure doesn’t look very nice. right now, it looks a tad bit decimated, but good strong organic matter remains and will grow and rejuvenate, despite the eradication of so many toxic invasives.
we need be cautious. often the invasive stands in the forest, all tall and righteous, and we are convinced that they are a beautiful partner in the woods community. or the invasive is short and squat, pudgy bushes that look lush and, again, we are convinced they are contributing members of this symbiotic woods. careful discernment is necessary, for we can be easily fooled, particularly by those invasives that look mighty or seem healthy. and these mistaken identities can – as we have learned – lead to the detriment of the very lovely and thriving woods.
that’s the thing about invasive species, i guess. you don’t recognize them as invasive. you trust – as you look around – that they are supposed to be there – for the good of the woods or the preserve or the wetland or the lake. here, in this woods, they appear to be a part of it – ever-present, growing and greening up in the spring. according to the national park service, “invasive species—nonnative organisms that cause harm to the environment, economy, or human health—have serious impacts on native ecosystems. they disrupt ecological processes, threaten ecosystem integrity, degrade cultural resources…”. they are not what they appear.
i suppose there are institutions like that as well. invasives choking out the real life, the real growth, the organic nature of the organization – all bent on preserving their own agendas, maintaining control, practicing a generalist survival strategy honed through the years. bobcats and coyotes are generalists and, i must say, i know a few.
the national wildlife federation states, “detecting new invaders quickly, and responding rapidly to eliminate them, is essential to limiting impacts and costs when prevention fails.”“many invasive species thrive because they outcompete native species for food.” i suppose it would be wise to be wary of being outcompeted.
“many invasive species destroy habitat” and “some invasive species do great harm to the economy,” national geographic warns and then adds, “invasive species are almost always spread by human activity.”
“you can treat and dispose of invasive non-native plants by: spraying with chemicals, pulling or digging out live, dead or dying plants, cutting back plants to prevent the seeds dispersing.” (gov.uk)
yes. these are some of the efforts we are seeing in our own treasured woods: the removal of the toxic longstandings – masked as steadfasts participating in the mission of the forest – for the true benefit of that forest and wildlife community.
“once invasive species become established and spread, it can be extraordinarily difficult and costly to control or eradicate them.” (national wildlife federation)
in that light and with great intention, in one dedication to such efforts, “the national wildlife federation leads the charge to prevent invasive carp from entering and decimating the great lakes.” the national park service explains, “invasive carp cause serious damage to the native fish populations in the lakes and rivers that they infest because they out-compete other fish.”http://www.invasivecarp.us asks fishermen who catch a carp to “immediately contact the appropriate agency personnel for the state you are in.” we are urged to be ever mindful, to be transparent about what we see, about that which is destructive.
yes. watch out for those carp and all the other invasives. the hubbabubba fairy has left the building.
long island’s ice storm of ’76 was a doozy. crunch was over, hanging out at our house when it started. though we encouraged him to stay, his big green four-wheel-drive truck made it to his home through what was heavy slush at the time. in the middle of a snowglobe world, magically coated in sparkle, he was back the next day and we wandered the neighborhood, taking photographs of everything encased in ice. it was stunning. the graceful mimosa tree, tall stately oaks, forsythia bushes, azalea, rhododendron, rose of sharon…all wrapped in crystal, the sun’s glare making sunglasses an absolute.
i can’t remember an ice storm like that here, at least not in the last three decades since i’ve lived here. wisconsin is more of a sub-zero-temps/snowfall state than an ice-storm state. but there was a pretty devastating winter storm in 2020 when everything along the lakefront was frozen, trees bending to the pressure of wind and water.
in predictions for this next week or so, accuweather uses terms like “limited outdoor activity recommended” and there is the emotionally wrought overuse of the word “bitterly” used next to the word “cold”. negative windchills are prevalent and even miracle mittens aren’t enough.
so when you look outside and see blue skies only interrupted by the artful limbs of trees, you are fooled. it may appear to be the perfect day for a walk, but warnings not to be outside – “hypothermia likely without protective clothing” – are pause for thought.
we haven’t walked on the lakefront path past the marina lately. when the water starts churning from north and northeast winds, the lake pounds the shore. ice forms along the coastline – sometimes in those circles called ice pans or ice discs – and the metal railings jutting out over the lake along the walk have collections of giant icicles. we’re not sure what’s there right now.
in this neighborhood of big old trees and above-ground power lines we hope ice storms continue to be a rarity. each time a huge beautiful limb is down or a tree succumbs i feel a sense of sadness. though i believe the soul of a tree is somehow left behind and surrounds us with the wisdom of the ages, i wonder how the squirrels will move about. for here, in our ‘hood, there is a festival of complex travel high above the ground, branching every direction. savvy squirrels scamper from tree to tree to high wires to tree – squirrel highways.
out the window next to me, even now, i catch the shadow of a squirrel running south down the line parallel to the driveway. it makes me smile every time.
the morning dawned crisper and drier than previous days. there is nothing like sleeping with the windows wide open and a blanket on. even dogdog was feeling refreshed. we looked at the weather app. there is a tiny reprieve of the weather of late – yesterday and today. and then it’s going to soar back up into the 90s, with humidity making all the ferns and the basil outside grin.
the fourth of july will be beastly hot – as fourths often are. we may or may not walk to the lakefront. we know it will crowded and this still feels like time to be careful, pandemic-wise. fireworks will culminate the festivities with people on blankets and bag-chairs, with coolers and bugspray. there is a possibility that this plant – on the side of the trail as we hiked – may be our sole firework. and that’s ok.
each morning lately i have awakened around 4. and each morning i hear loud pops. i don’t know what these are. i assume they are fireworks, though i hardly know why someone is setting them off in the wee hours of the night. i hope they are not gunfire, though i’m not sure i would know the difference from a distance. since the violence that erupted in our town last year, merely blocks away from our home, i always wonder now. so i stay awake, waiting to hear if there are sirens. i find it unnerving.
dogdog is not a fan of fireworks; though he does not cower from them, he is clearly nervous. babycat would also be wary, sticking close to dogga and us. i know there are many people who have expressed how nearly terrified their pet is of fireworks. and, in these times we have been through, with the insane rise of gun violence in this country, i can relate to people being wary, being nervous.
i consider this too: fish and foraging creatures ingest the debris from these fireworks, often set off over water or rural areas. loud noises cause wildlife to flee. without plan and disoriented, birds and bees and so many other animals-sharing-earth-with-us panic, bringing undue harm to themselves. they are not celebrating. they are not even understanding. they are in flight mode, scared.
so this year, as spectacular as planned fireworks are, i find myself thinking that it might just be nice to stay in the backyard, quietly contemplating this democracy and all its flaws. we’ll maybe turn on the torches to keep away the mosquitoes and light the firepit tower and watch the flames in the breeze. we’ll play music and maybe dance on the deck. we’ll keep dogdog reassuringly close, sip wine and try to remember last fourth of july and the one before that and the one before that…
we’ll hear fireworks all around us. our neighborhood on the lakefront will be noisy and packed with cars – people who have driven here and parked on all the streets, toting their picnics and rolly-coolers and blankets down the sidewalks.
and i will hope that all will go well all over this country in this celebration of a day – a celebration of things so many seem to have forgotten, things written into the declaration of independence: “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
when i was a child i didn’t know. i watched fireworks with no sense of irony. i was in awe at the spectacle of the parade and the pomp and circumstance.