Reaching Out

1. In spring the surface of an orchard pond is broken into circles as the trout begin to feed. It’s like a fantasy gifted by the kingbird in its flight– away to the pear tree’s pearly blossoms.

a white pine future?

In summer the mother mouse, bulging-eyed, scampers from her newborn in the nest, a morsel for the roving sow. Each season is a teacher with its give and take, but he learns so slowly of what is.

a favorite back-40 pine

In autumn you are driving aimlessly. You pass an Amish man with horse-and-buggy. Blindered eyes, clomping hooves, and billowed breath become a memory… Commitment and direction linger in your mind.

In winter he ascends the snowy hill, looks down to his house and barn and family. Descending slowly through the evergreens, he reads from his bible of the world– growing smaller, stronger, happier, blessed.

culling the invasive, replanting native pine

the home falls, 12/19

the teeth of winter

2. The foresters are marking all the white ash to be cut, removed and sold before the emerald borer robs the great trees’ dollar value. Everywhere, it seems, native species sicken, die and fall. I reach out– not as native as I’d like to be– climbing the winter hill in easy labor, bundling tight the small planted pines in burlap jackets to protect them from the snow-bound deer through the weeks to come.

digging in, fox den, clay & sand

dragged to the den last winter

The new year dawns. I’m hoping for the best while bracing for the worst. The wild voices beckon with a sound suspiciously like my own when wishing for renewal. Lately I have woken in the night to the shrill but pleasant barking of foxes wafting through an opened window from their sand banks in the poplar grove out back. They, too, are keeping house and reaching out. Red fox, white ash, brook trout, white pine, deer. These spirits of the place, these natural energies, call for reasons not quite clear to me, but their reach means every day is new.

reaching out, digging in

Pine Creek, looking south, 1/2/20

Pine Creek, Ansonia, looking north, 1/2/20.

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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21 Responses to Reaching Out

  1. Brent says:

    Invasive species are wreaking havoc all over in our wildest spaces, thanks to exotic introductions and climate change. See, for example, this commentary: https://www.nationalparkstraveler.org/2019/12/travelers-view-invasive-species-are-national-park-systems-worst-nightmare

    I never really consider Norway Spruce to be invasive up in that area because they’re such a ubiquitous part of the landscape. Do they crowd out other conifers?

    • I’ll check the link. [Readers, the preceding link provides an interesting intro to the problem!] Norways are pushing out the other trees. Very fast growing and coming up everywhere. It’s not that I dislike them but I’d rather see the native species.

  2. Bob says:

    Winter makes us all a little melancholy, eh Walt?

    • Hey Bob M., Trying not to let it show, too much. And those hemlocks that Brent mentioned, that’s a sad chapter in itself. If nothing else, we brook trout fishers might miss them sorely.

  3. UB - Marion says:

    Not to further drive any melancholy feeling even more… ‘down’… but it just hasn’t exactly felt like Winter to me – not quite yet. We’ve had more than our share of 40 degree days here this past December and it just hasn’t gotten cold and stayed under freezing for any length of time up to this point. Now this is all well and good for my way of thinking but, the long range forcast from the NOAA guys seem to indicate that we may be in for a heavier than normal January, February and March with regard to snow. (https://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/predictions/long_range/seasonal.php?lead=1)
    That shows slightly or below normal temps and slightly or above normal precip. (sighs)
    So, I am just saying (like it or not), I think the true nature of Winter is still to come for this season. It’ll make for pretty pictures for certain. I might be able to hobble around and try to get a few shots of it when it arrives – I’m walking around better and looking forward to walking without a limp some time soon. Then there’s the fly tying! That’ll keep me busy enough through the snowiest of days!
    A friend of mine (you know him Walt), Harry, said to me a few years ago, ‘the Winter’s shot!’! He said it to me on a December 21st! Ha! You know, he’s right don’t you? The day’s are getting longer now! 😉
    UB

    • Marion, Yeah there’s different ways to look at this, surely. Winter’s “shot” as days get longer but the cold and snow (I’d welcome some of the latter) are yet to be. Good to hear that your legs are getting stronger, that you’re fired up with tying possibilities, so Slate Run be forewarned. Thanks, as always, for your commentary!

  4. tiostib says:

    With the recent loss of my wife, I’ve been struggling with the notion of home. Your heartfelt words of love of place help guide me back.

  5. Jet Eliot says:

    Your moving words and thoughts were a true pleasure, Walt. I, too, enjoy hearing the wildlife around me, contemplating the spirits of the living beings around us, finding their remnants. I have never seen a fox den like this, with the clay and sand, found it fascinating. Thank you.

  6. plaidcamper says:

    Thanks for reaching out, and for hoping for the best – looking ahead, maybe 2020 will close on a more positive note? I don’t think winter has shown too many teeth here (or where you are) and if she does, I don’t mind too much, if it feels right.
    I enjoyed reading about the foxes keeping you company!
    Thanks, Walt.

    • The teeth of winter haven’t really bitten here or there yet but I wouldn’t mind some snow when they get around to chomping. Hopefully it will feel right pretty soon, and yes, wouldn’t it be nice if the next year/this year closes on a more positive note. I’ll vote for it. Thanks, Adam, for reaching out!

  7. Bob Stanton says:

    Invasives – there is nothing like the sight of Japanese Knotweed to set me off. Dead ash everywhere, my precious hemlocks under attack…it feels as though we are living in the last days of something.

    • Thanks Bob. And it’s hard to find a silver lining. Philosophically we could say that in the long run, Nature wins, but it’s still not very comforting.

      • Bob M. says:

        Bob Stanton – Haunting, isn’t it? I pray Walt is right “In the long run, nature wins”
        (this melancholy stuff is haunting as well… or haunting as hell ha-ha) Let’s focus on rising trout in the Spring!
        Here’s to tight lines!

  8. loydtruss says:

    Walt
    Pine Creek looks a great place to wet a fly, just wondering if you have fished it? Thanks for sharing

  9. Ah, I think I recognize that view north in your last photo. Been a while since I was up Pine Creek. I remember hiking to see some old growth Hemlocks around the Hammersley Fork area back in the 90s. There weren’t many of them left in that little hollow and if I recall correctly, they were being eaten by some kind of parasite.

    • Sorry, that didn’t help the mood. I need to get out.

      • No problem, David. Thanks for the comments. The view north is from the rails-to-trail walk along Pine. The Hammersley old growth area is indeed small but inspiring. Unfortunately the hemlocks there & elsewhere are being attacked by the adelgid. Sadly, many of our forest trees are telling us goodbye.

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