Wood pile

Through the winter months when my friends are going to the gym, taking yoga or pilates, I’m cutting wood. It’s my gym, my church, my movie night. Last year I had a few trees taken down so that from the top of the ridge where my house perches I have a pocket view of the Catskill Mountains. I felt badly about cutting what were mostly beech trees, so like the hunter who decides to take a deer and eat every part: heart, liver, thighs and knees, I decided I should use this wood. The difficulty is that these trees are down a hill and all I had was a little handsaw.

I cut my logs about eight inches in diameter, and about 36 inches long (it is never, however, this precise). This part of the cutting is the most satisfying, a sort of meditation on an outsized game of pick up sticks. What will drop easily? What will I have to support, and what will fall if I take this piece here? I pile these in one place and carry them up the hill. It was during this phase that a young friend, Remi, pointed out I should be using a better saw. A little research later and I had a Silky Katanaboy, a work of art that slices through wood like butter.

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I’d like to think that people who eat Stone Blue chips (as I do) don’t throw the packaging overboard or out the window of a speeding car. But it seems they do. I picked up the wet and silt covered bag along with an empty Gatorade bottle, a plastic coffee container and other stuff that littered the Tivoli landing. The debris washed up on shore shook me and made it near impossible to get my boat into the water. I spent twenty minutes picking up trash before I could slide my kayak into the water on my first paddle of 2017.

In spring, snow melts and the roadsides are revealed for what they are: dumping grounds for people’s stuff. Some is overt, like the trash bag tossed that then bursts or is torn apart by a hungry raccoon. But most are items casually flung from a car window. I like to undertake a thought experiment: I picture myself sailing down the road in my Subaru and I toss a Ginger Ale can from the window. I can’t do it, even in my imagination.


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Baby Pileated WoodpeckersWhen I got the call of the baby Pileated Woodpeckers I dropped everything to drive over and see them. The Pileated Woodpecker is our largest Woodpecker (except for the Ivory-billed, which I am sure is still out there). It cackles its way through Eastern hardwood forests, and was clearly the model for the cartoon Woody Woodpecker. To see babies would be a dream.

When I arrived at Tatjana's house, perched in the woods and surrounded by newly leafed hardwood forest, she was sitting outside on a blanket, her seventeen-year-old cat, a beautiful dark calico, draped calm across her lap. The cat had had a seizure a few days before and since then had been limp, not eating and only drinking a little. Tatjana had done nothing in the intervening days but hold her cat, speak to her, comfort her. Both appeared peaceful.  

“Dying is a long process,” she said kissing the cat’s head.

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Enjoying the Spectacle

Masses of gulls at Reed's BeachI wasn’t ready for the mass of screaming gulls, or for the piles of Horseshoe Crabs along the shoreline, the males riding tight to the females, tails spiked toward the overcast sky. With each wave another batch of horseshoe crabs washed up on Reed's Beach near Cape May, NJ, and what ensued was a wave of  screams and hollers, whistles and hoots, a frenzy of the Laughing Gulls and Herring Gulls, and those remarkable little shorebirds, the Red Knots, fresh in from Tierra del Fuego.

Cape May is always good birding. On my few visits there, I’ve always left a bit dazzled by the sights. Once was a flock of hundreds of Sanderlings swooping the shore, landing, then circling out to the ocean in a choreographed movement that took my breath. Now here I had stumbled onto one of the great events of migration, witness to more feeding gulls and shorebirds than I had ever seen on one slim beach.

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When Birds are Near--Submit to my new anthology

                 Call for Manuscripts


Pygmy Owl, Lee Vining, CaliforniaDear people who read this blog,

I've launched into my next anthology (this will be #13, which seems pretty lucky--kind of like this lucky owl). See below for guidelines. If you read, you are probably a writer. So: please send me your writing. 







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