Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The World Offering Itself

It rained very hard and non-stop for one day, and LC, Kory and I hunkered down in the house, started a fire, took naps and contentedly watched movies under blankets on the couch.
By the second day I was ready to walk and so was my puppy.
By mid-morning I finally bundled up against the damp cold and headed out towards BLM land so that Kory could run off leash.
As we wandered down wet gravel road towards open public lands I looked at the buttes.
The day before they had been completely hidden in the clouds and rain, but on this day they finally began to make their reappearance.
It had been a long while since I had seen them look like this, and as I glanced over at first the Twin Buttes in one direction and then the Big Butte in another I realized that I was looking at the onset of the low cloud cover and inversions that will be a regular visitor to our landscape for many months to come.
The vegetation (both in town and on BLM land) was vivid with color from all the rain.
Well............as vivid as color gets in this desert.................
Still in town I debated briefly whether I should wander to the far left side of the back of town and pick up the trail there, or head to the far back right side of town and pick up THAT trail.
Reluctant to give that decision any more thought than it deserved, I headed to the back right.  
We would pick up the trail, walk out onto BLM land close to the large piece of green and yellow John Deere equipment that had been sitting silently in the middle of nowhere and nothing since mid spring, circle our way back to the far left side of town and pick up one more trail that would lead us back to the road and home.................
As we left the town road and hit the trail I did what I always do when I am walking off road with my dog.
I internally debated when the best time was to let her loose.
Not too close to town because I did not want her to turn and head back into town without me.
Kory running through town has become less of an issue over the past few weeks, but I still don't trust her yet.
We spent far too much time this spring and summer retrieving our dog, apologizing to neighbors, hoping that we would find HER before she found the chickens and the cats.  
So she has some trust to rebuild.
But I think there is progress that has been made, and I hope that my wayward mutt is learning that she can run all she wants inside our yard and out on BLM land.
Half way up the short trail I leaned down, unhooked Kory and pointed her straight ahead, encouraging her to go run and play.
She did....................
By the time I had wandered over to John Deere my feet were soaking wet.  I have rain boots, but in this place I never think to put them on.
No matter.  It was damp and it was cool but it was not freezing, and almost at the same moment that I recognized that my feet were wet was the moment I disregarded my wet feet.
I had raced all over the right side of the country for seven years with soaking wet feet.  Feet that were wet most of the time for days on end.   
A brief walk in a wet desert field filled with greens and yellows and burnt oranges was nothing but a thing...................
My speed demon dog blending almost seamlessly with the terrain...............
I walked.  She ran.  Eventually we turned away from John Deere and headed through the tall and wet grass, both of us enjoying the freedom and the silence of this wide open world we had ventured out into.
As I stood in the now drizzling rain I watched my sweet girl wandering.
They say that one of the great tragedies in life is that a dog does not live as long as a human.
In truth I did not know a whole lot about dogs when I brought Jamie into my home after my divorce.
I had certainly never LOVED a dog before.
But Jamie and I were devoted to each other.  She would have walked into a burning building if I was inside it.  I would have done the same for her.
And we hiked mountains together, crossed creeks together, investigated every nook and cranny on trails from Tennessee to Alaska together.  Shared meals together.  Shared bottles of water together.   Slept together.  
I miss her.
I never imagined that finding Kory so soon after Jamie died would be so cathartic.
I was uncertain and wary of bringing another dog into our lives so soon.
But Kory is the same sweet, loving, caring, adventurous spirit that Jamie was.
I'm glad that we have her.................. 
Later in the evening we walked again, this time in town.................
Now that the weather is beginning to cool down Kory and I are officially in Search For The Deer mode.
Turning onto a side road in the center of town I looked up and realized that there was a good size herd grazing in an open field next to a residents home.
I stopped walking and Kory immediately followed suit.
Slowly I pulled my pup closer to me and spoke softly to her, encouraging my sweet girl to stay calm.
I did not want to get too close or alarm the herd.
They are still wary and skittish and I knew that any sudden movements would send them into a run.
At this time of year I want them to conserve all the energy that they can.
Snapping a couple of quick pictures I knew immediately that I was too far away for my little digital camera to capture anything interesting.
Slowly Kory and I walked a few steps closer and stopped.  
They watched.
Another few slow steps.
They watched.
They slowly began to trot towards the road, and my silent and staring pup and I watched as they one by one crossed over and disappeared into the trees in a yard belonging to one more resident...............
After the last had disappeared, Kory and I began moving again, and we headed up the road to see if we could get some more pictures of our town deer.
By the time we reached the home I realized with delight that there was a herd of 12 all scattered in the grass and among the trees, all happily grazing.
I pulled Kory close to me again, not wanting to startle them.
And began snapping pictures.................
The deer up on its hind legs is a young buck.
This was the second time I had seen him standing on his hind legs in an attempt to reach the higher leaves on the trees.
The first time I saw him I did not get my camera up in time and missed the shot.
This time I caught the shot.
He was the only buck in this herd on this day, even though I saw three young bucks traveling through town together through the summer.
There was an older and larger buck in town last year but I have not seen him yet this year...................
After snapping many pictures I stashed my camera into one side pocket of my rain shell, released Korys' leash so that she could wander out from me and continued walking.
By the time I had reached the next home I was startled to see three more deer.
15 on this day in total.
The three deer were made up of one doe and two youngsters, and I smiled when I saw them...............
I have seen two sets of twins this year, and one single baby.
As I stood for a few moments and looked at the twins in this yard I wondered if they were the same ones that I had seen early in the spring.
It was early in the morning and still half asleep I wandered out into the back yard with Kory.
We walked over to the back fence and as I looked through the bushes into the alley I suddenly realized that there was a doe silently staring at me from the neighbors' back yard.
I did not have my camera with me.  I was still wearing pajamas.  Was still half asleep.  Was silently imploring my dog to just hurry up and go pee already so that I could head back into the house and blindly feel around the kitchen for my first cup of coffee.
And then I saw her face.
I stood looking at her.  Smiling inwardly at the sight of her.
She was standing beside a camper and sudden movement caught my attention.
One tiny little spotted baby deer crawled out from underneath the camper, unsteadily walked the 10 feet or so to her momma, and then plopped down at her mothers' feet exhausted.
A minute later a second baby crawled out from underneath the camper and repeated the same process, and I was instantly in love with these tiny, new, unsteady little things.
They could not have been more than a day or two old at that point.
I enjoyed them for another minute and then gently nudged my dog away from the fence.
All three of them needed quiet.  They did not need the presence of interloping dogs and half asleep women in their pajamas.
I don't know if THESE young deer were THOSE tiny deer or not.
But it pleased me at that moment to think that maybe they were...................
Continuing on, Kory and I walked around the large block and returned to the same place where we had first caught sight of the deer.
Maybe we could catch one more glimpse of them before heading back towards the house.................
By the time we had circled the block and returned to that first open field, our deer were crossing back over the road.
We watched as one by one they reappeared from the security of the treed yard, crossed over the road, and then trotted across another open yard before disappearing yet again...............
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things................Mary Oliver

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Cloudless Sky

By the time we moved to Idaho last summer Atomic City was already deeply embedded in the oppressiveness of late summer.
The weather had been hot and dry for a couple of months by then and BLM land was a beige, crunchy, completely dried out desert environment.
There was little color.  
No more growth for the year.  
And we lived with the unending heat and dryness throughout the remainder of July and the entire month of August, before thankfully seeing a cooler and wetter change in the weather right after Labor Day.
This summer was completely different.
It started as predicted, but August was a surprisingly welcome cooler month with much rain.
All that rain did something different to BLM land.
It brought much growth throughout the month, and that growth in September has brought increasing color.
There is still green in the desert.  There are also reds and oranges and yellows.
All the fall colors that I miss so much from back east.
As I write this it is pouring with rain outside.
But a few days ago I walked with Kory on BLM land in back of the house.
I had planned on staying on trail, but 15 minutes after setting my pup free to run and roam, I impulsively stepped off the trail and followed in the direction of my dog.
I had walked this section of BLM land a hundred times.
It was close to the house and I always found this place uninspiring.
There were great views of the buttes and the mountains off in the distance, but the land was flat.
Still, my dog did not seem to care, and I was pleased to be outside on one of the last sunny days before the bottom dropped out and the forecasted rain descended on Atomic City................
Kory is in many of these pictures but disappears into the colors of the terrain.
Click on any picture and it will start a slide show of enlarged pictures.
Back in the spring we had a doggie-vest made for her by a woman in Blackfoot who makes those things.
We met her in a parking lot just inside the city limits, and as Kory happily stood on the tailgate of the truck this woman measured our dog for a vest.
It is bright hunters orange, and Kory will start wearing it now that the weather has begun to cool down.
Hunters are beginning to show up in town, and I know that they are beginning to show up out on BLM land.
From a distance I can see how she might (deliberately or accidentally) be mistaken for a coyote.
I remember reports last year of hunters in other parts of the SE (either using bows or long guns) injuring and killing domestic dogs that had been out with their owners during hunting season.
I am hoping that the orange will help prevent any such accidents from happening to our sweet dog...............
As my dog and I continued to walk and wander on BLM land I began to realize that the predominant green of town had given way to grasses in all manner of fall colors.
There was still large patches of green, but there were now also patches hundreds of acres wide that were filled with orange and brown and yellow and deep red.
I smiled at this realization because I had not expected it.
I didn't know that the desert - that THIS desert - could look like this...............
Kory happily running and jumping in the grass.................
For a few moments I stood in the many colors of knee-high grass, in complete wonderment of what I was seeing all around me.
It was so unexpected.
Thinking back to the electric colors of fall in Tennessee, this was not much to look at.
But compared to the crunchy dried land of a normal early fall in Atomic City, it was magic.
Turning away from the Twins I searched the landscape for my dog.  
And I smiled as I realized that she was frolicking her way back to me..................
Heading back towards town on trail....................
That same day we walked in town late in the evening.
As I approached the little beat up hotel and then walked beyond it, as I approached the little beat up bar and then walked beyond it, I looked past the outskirts of this little nothing town and saw that the sun was beginning to set in the mountains of the Big Lost River Valley 30 miles away.
I can hear it already.
I can hear the silence of this town beginning to settle in for the winter, one small inch at a time..................
Kory and I wandered slowly down each gravel road in town, me enjoying the sunset and looking for the deer.
She just being her simple and loving and curious puppy-self.
I miss Chris.
He graduated from the six month welding course that he was taking and immediately found a job that he seems to like.
Moving into a new place soon and sharing the rent with a guy that he works with.
Doing his thing, and he sounds happy and excited about his life and his future, and I am happy for him.
I miss him very much..................
The deer surprisingly were not in town.
There is still much to eat out on BLM land but I was still surprised to not see any deer at all.
With the realization that we would not see them on this evening walk, I gently pulled on Korys' leash and headed towards the back of town.
Drawn as I always am to the giant butte that towers over the town even though it is 18 miles away, and that silently watches over the desert.
The cloudless sky that had been impossibly blue earlier in the day was now a kaleidoscope of oranges and reds.
The increasing black of the desert floor lay in stark contrast and I realized that it was a beautiful night.
My daughter-in-law has stopped contacting me, and so I have not heard in quite a while how a little boy who I have never met, is actually doing...................
My father had cancer surgery a month or so ago.
They found not only the tumor that they knew about, but also two others that they did not know about.
He is on chemo for the next six months which is serious, but his condition is apparently not as dire as I was first led to believe.
I would have to think for a few minutes just how long it has been since I last spoke to him.
A long time ago.  
A very long time ago.
The boys were very young.....................
It was the farthest she had ever been from home, not only in miles but in feeling. The vastness of the desert frightened her. Everything looked too far away, even the cloudless sky. There was nowhere you could hide in such emptiness.............James Carlos Blake