Category Archives: animal encounters

Coming out of torpor

Last Friday night my son dug two of the last three holes needed to set our remaining fruit tree starts.  We didn’t manage to plant any of them that night because he and my daughter needed to gather their things together for the early start they faced the next morning.  They were to travel to Moab to take tests for advancement in their Shorinji Kempo classes, and I had to get them to the local Chevron at 7:30 a.m. sharp so they could carpool with the rest of their group.

That morning, after dealing with the “gotcha” moment of my key breaking off in the car’s ignition at the Chevron, I arrived home to attend to the trees.  Planting trees by yourself is a bit tricky, especially with the hammerhead winds we had Saturday (again!) but not impossible.  The kids wouldn’t be back till mid-afternoon.  I didn’t want to make the trees wait another minute for return to more natural circumstances, especially since the stock was bare root. Continue reading Coming out of torpor

Earth Day 2009 (Field Notes #4)

Forgive, please, the late, overhasty and not especially informative nature of this post, but I wished to get something up for Earth Day before the opportunity passed.  As usual, consider yourself invited to report on your own Earth Day activities in the comments section.

Here in SE Utah, Earth Day opened gorgeously.  Warm and blue.  To the south, only a few drawn clouds showing, thin as weeds that snow flattened.  Around the Abajos to the north rise those striking cloud formations that always provoke my wonder.  Can’t remember what they’re called, but I think of them as the “jellyfish formations,” because to my eye they resemble man-of-war jellyfish: small, top-heavy clouds trailing long, wispy tentacles of vapor that appear to dangle into lower reaches of the atmosphere.  As I’ve sought to understand those cloud structures, I’ve read what’s actually happening is that the tentacles are water vapor rising out of unstable air, seeking a more settled region of the atmosphere.  Once the vapor finds that more stable region it forms a cumulus cloud, which may in turn provide the seed of a cumulonimbus cloud, a thunderhead. Continue reading Earth Day 2009 (Field Notes #4)

Field Notes #3

April 21, 2009 (pre-Earth Day)

Today, as I head out for the trail into the canyon that will take me past the dead coyote, I decide to call that trail Coyote Trail, or maybe Coyote Way, to remember that coyote mouldering at the trailhead.  As I pass those remains, I try to satisfy my curiosity about the animal’s gender, but the back legs are frozen together in a rigor of modesty.  A cloud of black flies on and around the carcass goes a-buzz at my intrusion into its community feast and fur-lined creche. Continue reading Field Notes #3

What I did and thought, Earth Day 2008

Parts of this entry rise a little above-average personal in nature.  I don’t mean to make this an “alms before men” post.  I want to try to show how easily — for me, anyway — thinking can slide between my experiences with animals and the ones I have with people.   Also, I don’t remember ever having written down the “Hillbilly Dilly” episode noted below, and since the hummingbird called it to mind, after my not thinking about it for many years, I imagined the moment right for the telling.

April 22, 2008

At the cliff this morning, I find a colony of white-throated swifts fully active, hunting the wild blue, tangling into the wind gusts that stream through the canyon’s channel and splash against its rocks.

A vulture passes by, very low, slightly out from the ledge where I sit. 

A swift just cut in quite close, the vrrrrr of its wings as they sliced air sounding like a miniature jet.  A pair of hawks circle high overhead.

Will eagles come?  I barely finish writing the question when I look up to see a golden eagle, juvenile or maybe second year, brown feathers flecked with white.  As I gaze up at the eagle, a black-chinned hummingbird rises like a helicopter into my line of sight, directly between the eagle and me, probably examining the burgundy tones in my shirt, faded overall but most vivid in the cuffs.

Continue reading What I did and thought, Earth Day 2008

Field Notes #2

April 13, 2009

Why do I still do this?  Why, at my age, do I follow as if I were nine years old unmarked, unpaved trails away from what I know into the wilds of what I don’t know?   That’s how this striving creation—part light, part water, part air, part earth, and all aspiring flesh—shows itself to me, in the mutual bodying forth between us. It seems an involvement composed of equal slices revelation and formation, since in discovery, everything changes, the New erupts into being, not just in me, the older wide-eyed child, but in this juvenile Creation.

Today, I begin at the Crossfire Canyon’s cliffs, taking inventory of the birds.  A few days earlier I saw cliff swallows flash between the rims, returning or passing through.  Had they stayed or gone?  To find out, I take to the air myself, or at least to the boundary between earth and air, the rimrocks.  Continue reading Field Notes #2

Horses

 by P. G. Karamesines

Like swallows, each one shapes its path
On the other’s—two horses, maybe yearlings,
So alike in color and conformation
My eye exchanges them as they run.
It’s what they are together my eye
Singles out: twins of movement.
They stop and box the air between them,
Swinging skulls like stiff-armed fists.
They roll apes’ lips to shake formidable
Teeth and lift themselves one above
The other.  Pheasants fly from the strike
Of their hooves.  When these two rest,
They stand brown cheek on brown cheek 
Following sparks of interest
As through a single pair of eyes.
Then one animal shifts weight and they sheer
Apart, jogging to another ring to dance out
Their joke. Is it love or wit, the orchard’s
Flower fragrance wreathed ‘round their heads,
The cooling evening lights? They are
Supple with each other and have quick parts.
The sinew of their laughter runs down the long grass.

Patricia and the beetle

November 2008, I sat in Sacrament Service between my two ambulatory children, daughter aged eleven years, son aged eighteen.  As the program moved into the blessing and passing of the Sacrament, my mind began its shift from observation to meditation.

Movement atop the empty pew just ahead drew my eye.  A beetle about a quarter of an inch long followed the ridgeline of the pew’s wooden back, rear end waggling as its six legs paddled its body along.  It had a dark gray carapace and a rounded, yellowish head with black eyespots.  Two short antennae sifted the air questioningly. Continue reading Patricia and the beetle

The fetish

One of the reasons I moved from Utah County to San Juan County was to provide my oldest son and youngest daughter greater exposure to nature.  Household circumstances have resulted in their being confined to the house more than is natural for children in general but is even more unnatural for children of an outdoors-type like myself.  I wanted them to have a better chance at the kind of engagement in the natural world I enjoyed growing up, a level of deep involvement that has provided for me all my life. 

 But it’s been difficult business breaking up their bonds with interior spaces and tempering their fascination with electronic frontiers.  Until recently, many of my attempts at getting them “out there” into the yard and surrounding countryside were met with grim doubtfulness. Continue reading The fetish

Bird in the hand

First published at A Motley Vision, this essay explores the nature of stewardship by wondering if we understand what stewardship is or if we’ve merely assumed that we understand.  Are we fully conscious of the needs of other creatures, as good stewards ought to be? Are we imaginative enough to visualize the possibilities of faithful stewardship, which may include providing other species with opportunities for … oh, I don’t know … progression, maybe … or perhaps gaining from them insight that endows our own progression?

An abridged version of “Bird in the Hand” was published in 2007 in Glyphs III, a regional anthology containing writings by local writers and visitors to southeastern Utah’s redrock country that Moab Poets and Writers publishes every two years.  I’ve written more about MP&W here.  

In July 2005 my brother Jim and I threw camping gear into his new Toyota 4Runner and headed for a canyon in the San Rafael Swell. The object of our trip: try out the 4Runner on real four-wheel-drive roads and see petroglylphs at the canyon’s mouth. We arrived at the canyon at dusk and as evening fell helped each other wrestle up tents in a whipping canyon wind. Continue reading Bird in the hand