Sunday, April 28, 2019

Cliff Edge

Lilacs grow richly on the cliff edge -- and only on the cliff edge! -- and make quite a display for passersby on the highway below. During their brief springtime bloom, I get an armful or so for the house and porch and giveaways to the benighted who do not have lilacs. (How they got up here in a sand glade I don't know.) They rank with bluebirds and crocuses as one of my favorite things and one I will crawl onto a cliff edge for. Who wouldn't? As long as I can, I will, and I would grieve if I didn't.

This time the usual approach to the cliff edge was overgrown, already, with leafy understory junk shrubs and vines. Up a slope of tall grass with bits of sandstone gravel imploding under my treads, shouldering past an electrical pole, stepping over fallen logs and a patch of prickly pear cactus growing in a sandy microclimate one foot square -- never know what you'll find around here! -- keeping my balance, some lilacs were within my reach. The greater part of the display just swayed in the wind and laughed.

Lilacs are not Missouri native plants or even North American. They're from Eastern Europe and Asia. To whoever sneaked them over here, thank you, and I understand you completely.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Dogwood is Dagwood

Dogwood, seen here near the wilderness end of our lane, has no connection with dogs. Its original name is "Dagwood" and you won't believe why: The wood is tough -- legend says Jesus was crucified on a dogwood cross -- and the wood was used to make dagger handles and such, and so it was called "dagwood," and now we know where both the names "Dogwood" and "Dagwood" come from. Proves that life teaches you something new every day.

And those aren't white "petals," either. They are leaves called "bracts," and the corn-colored puff in the center of the bract is the actual flower, and don't that beat all. Photo taken about 7:00 p.m. on my new favorite day of the year: April 27.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Why Are Deer So Elusive?

Pulling the car into the garage in early evening I saw in its rearview mirror a doe in the meadow. I did not say "Hello," even from inside the car, because they are so sensitive. Imagine living with the knowledge that your flesh is so tasty all sorts of creatures want to kill you to eat it. That's why they're sensitive. But this doe kept standing there as I watched, leaving me plenty of time to fire up the phone and ready its camera. The doe stood firm even as I exited the car. I thought for sure she'd bolt at the sound of the car door slamming shut, but she didn't move a muscle.

I've seen similar behavior in female animals guarding their babies. One rabbit would not budge although a gas-powered lawnmower passed her within inches. At this time of year, fawns would be brand-new. The doe was standing exactly where a circle has been cut out of the tall grass so I can pitch my tent there. It's a choice spot. She might have been waiting to catch a scent. Or she hoped freezing in place made her invisible. Even when I lifted the camera and fiddled with the zoom function (actual distance was about 25 feet) she didn't move. I turned and pulled down the garage door. It whined loudly and rattled, and that did it. She leaped away, but not far. I then returned to minding my own business and let her go about hers.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Rainbow Chaser

Thursday afternoon's high winds became a brief thunderstorm about 7 p.m., and as I drove the last lap home across floodplain, a tall, vivid rainbow appeared, visible end to end. Excited, I found and wildly drove up the wrong side of a back road leading to a vista on a hilltop, scrambled out of the car and photographed the rainbow, by then fading. The chase itself was the day's highlight.

There followed a purple and lemon sunset so awesome I thanked God I was alive and outdoors to see it. During some sunsets, I'm indoors, working. It's a crime and I know it. On my one visit to the Grand Canyon I joined the people anticipating and gathering to watch the sunset as an event, as a one-time-only performance, and thought then, "This is the right way to honor a day of our one and only life." Having finished the drive home, I saw the sunset had changed its key, creating a Thomas Kincaid painting of my own dwelling. Sometimes I look at it thinking, "I live here? People can live in only one place. This is my home? The home I've chosen for my one and only life? How -- how awesome!"

When I moved here I was reverent about sunrise and sunset, grasses and moonlight, things that in the city are in artificially short supply. Thursday's rainbow invited me (and everyone) to renew that reverence, and the sunset sent me this letter, written with light.

Monday, April 8, 2019


 Without screens for 19 days the Divine Cabin looked like a skull, or a jaw without teeth, or eyeless, or simply shabby, conked-out, or abandoned until today I retrieved my new screens from the hardware store (again 3 round trips to bring all 7 panels home; for delivery one must buy $300 of stuff and my total was $284). I've had flu for the last eight days and now bothered only by malaise and cough, decided to shower, dress, go get 'em and see if I felt better.
One last time out on the screen-free porch I had to scrape from beneath a rafter a nest built by a persistent house wren (see photo), a nest loosely woven from moss and dry leaves and grass. Could you build a nest using only your bill and natural materials? I couldn't.

Pulled from the closet some army-green jeans at least 15 years old -- I haven't bought jeans since, they don't flatter me -- and darn, they fit; that was a good omen. When my wooden screens rolled out on a cart they looked lovely and although the frames are 80 years old nothing had been broken. All was just as I had handed it over, except for the new pristine and skillful aluminum screening.

Proceeded to cook and eat the most normal lunch I've had in a week, sit, rest, then attempt to install the screens -- a second huge effort that day, didn't know if it was smart. I did it. Here's a photo taken as the sun slanted across, about 6 p.m. I'll find out tomorrow if I've overstepped my recovery. But now I'll be able to convalesce if I have to on my porch. The divine porch! My nest!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Never Too Early

Not too well today, I did read that "Demons hate fresh air," so hauled my rhinitis-ridden self outside to LaBarque Creek where the bluebells (Mertensia virginica) were as yet a bit shy -- but unfolding themselves anyway. Usually healthy as a horse, by now, as early as possible every spring, I would have spent an afternoon on one of the LaBarque's mobile white-sand "beaches" -- each year altered in size, shape and placement by rainfall, beavers and erosion. We don't expect backup flooding from the Meramec River but I'll stay alert. Bluebells love creek and river banks and floodplains so either way, we win.