A little Diego, a little Dracula

When you are on ghost duty, getting away with only a bat encounter comes as a relief. At least, it did for me.

There are other times in life, I’m sure, when a bat encounter would not be a welcome surprise. 

Sitting in the near-darkness in a cabin deep in the woods, I prepared myself for anything that might happen. By prepared I mean I had a pair of fresh undies nearby and a bottle of vodka.

I was on edge. When I began hearing a faint fluttering sound coming from the ceiling, followed by the screech of nails on metal, the hairs on the back of my neck were standing at attention. Louder flapping and then a flash of something inside the wood-burning stove had me off the couch and in my special attack stance. (Quivering, wide-eyed, with hands over my head.)

Since I am most certainly the girl who WILL go in the basement when the deranged killer is prowling for fresh meat, I grabbed the nearby flashlight and aimed the beam in and around the stove. Inside the stove I found a scared and frantic little brown bat, bouncing off the sides of the firebox, up into the chimney and back to the hearth again. When the light hit its face, the creature retreated to a dark corner and tucked its head under a wing.

I tested the latch on the glass door. Engaged. I examined the chimney and cast iron stove body for openings. None.

Next, I wrote a note and secured it to the hearth with a glass candle holder:  Live bat inside. Do not open door.

Then I went to bed and pulled the covers over my head just in case.

The next morning, I checked the stove and found the bat still inside. Feeling all “Go, Diego, Go” we grabbed our animal rescuer gear (fishing net and spatula) and began coaxing what looked like a big-eared, winged mouse out of the coals and ashes. 

wing

The bat, still inside the firebox, clinging to the door handle, encased in netting

It cooperated and flopped into the waiting net. We carried the net outdoors. Knowing the hot sun was probably torture to the nocturnal creature, we overturned the net on a bed of leaves in the shade. It wouldn’t let go. More prodding, poking, and a little shaking and finally it hopped to the ground.

Then it spread its wings and began shrieking, exposing a fine set of teeth, including little fangs. I asked myself: Are these teeth really necessary for eating mosquitoes? At that moment I was immensely grateful the bat didn’t find a way out of the stove last night.

batface

This is NOT a mouse with wings. Mice are much cuter up close.

 

We stood nearby, watching as it shivered and screeched but did not spread its wings and fly away.  Eventually we grew bored and walked away. Within five minutes, the creature had gained enough strength to flap its dark wings and set off on a jagged path deep into the forest. Mission accomplished.

free

The bat looks scary, but it was shivering with fear.

Where’s my drink?

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The opposite

shadows1

Happiness is yours; it grows from the opposite of what you expect.

Instead of control, it grows from letting go.

Instead of stuff, it grows from simplicity.

Instead of the need for 15 minutes of fame, it grows from planting flowers and vegetables in an abandoned city plot, anonymously.

~ Geri Larkin

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It's time to unplug

needle

Last night, there was too much noise. 

There was enough noise and mayhem to send me running for the sleeping bags and outdoor gear.

We’re heading out of the city to unplug, recharge, refocus and relax.

I’ve traveled in too many directions lately, juggled too many balls. This week, I lost my way and dropped all the balls. I feel a little like Humpty Dumpty.  This is surely a sign that I need a break.

I need to get away from a lot of things. Mainly I need a break from the noise.

Yesterday, within a few miles of our home, a home exploded from a natural gas leak, then a tanker truck crashed on the freeway, resulting in multiple explosions, causing a raging inferno, followed by a bridge collapse.

Once I read about the accident online (thank you, Twitter) the wail of sirens, the buzzing of helicopters, which must have been in the background all along, came to the fore.  Toss in the jerk neighbor and his endless supply of illegal fireworks and the marching band practicing two blocks away and you get the idea of the Symphony of Chaos.

Independently, these things do not bother me. I like marching bands. Fireworks, when ample warning is given or it’s a holiday, are dandy.  A random siren, a chopper overhead, are not really a big deal to me. Last night, the cacophony nearly unhinged me. 

I had a hard time falling asleep last night. Too much to worry about. Not much in the way of solutions. Not to mention the thoughts about all the folks involved in these disasters. What traumas are they working through today?

It’s time to escape for a few days. It’s time to get off the grid. It’s time to unplug and unwind.

I know not everyone is into camping or roughing it. It’s a lot of work. But it renews my spirit to follow the rhythms of nature. 

We will not have: television, cable, Internet service, or electricity of any sort. We will not have running water. Phone service will be spotty at best.

We will have: peace broken only by birds calling, deer snorting, assorted woodland creatures gnawing and shuffling and clawing about. We will have the sunrises and sunsets to ourselves. We will have a starry night to take our breath away, complete with shooting stars, and if we are lucky, aurora borealis. 

While I am breaking out in hives and hyperventilating about the idea of disconnecting, I know it’s what my soul needs now.

I need time to wake up with the sunrise and bird calls, to collect fire wood and cook over an open flame.  I need to spread a blanket  on the forest floor, crack open a book, and read or daydream or write stories in long hand. I need meditation time on the banks of a woodsy stream.

I tell myself that I do not need to know what’s going on with everyone and everything at every given moment. I do not need to relive Michael Jackson’s hair fire or  to know whether the Jonas Brothers are still chaste.

So, I’m giving the keyboard a rest. I won’t  be Facebooking; I’ll be facing a book. I won’t be tweeting but I’ll be listening to the chatter of birds.  I won’t be blogging, but I will be gathering logs and maybe even hiking by a bog. Maybe I’ll carry some logs along a bog. 

I hope it’s quiet where you are.

The best remedy

Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.

–Frank Lloyd Wright

buds

red maple buds

 

sign

urban nature preserve

path

following the path

beetle tracks

vernalpoind

vernal pond

 

 

The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.

–Anne Frank

 

sit

happy to be outside

The deer hunter

 

It’s been 13 years since my father’s premature death. 

I think of him often. On his birthday. On his death day. And on opening day of firearms deer hunting season.

It’s a big deal here in Michigan. It was a big deal to my dad. He always set aside vacation days to spend in the woods stalking his prey. It’s ritual and tradition and it’s something I’ll never understand. 

Growing up as the daughter of an outdoorsman meant I posed with every dead thing my dad brought home. Every fish, rabbit, bird or mammal he snared, trapped or shot. And in each picture I have the same expression on my face: a forced smile in response to some off-camera plea-turned-threat.

My dad took his outdoors skills seriously. We had property in the north woods. A rugged plot of land without modern amenities. We were supposed to get in touch with nature and learn how to survive without creature comforts. One of those ways was to get our own food. I think my father fancied himself as a sort of Jeremiah Johnson, just one step ahead of the Indians and starvation. My childhood memories are peppered with experiences of hunting for mushrooms and cattail roots and berries.  One year we even tapped maple trees and made our own syrup.  

There is a story my father told me years ago that may have foreshadowed later events in his life. It goes like this: A man gets to be an expert on survival in the wilderness. He gets a little cocky. He makes a fatal mistake.  Nature wins.

My father had a selective memory. He also made executive decisions about how much information his family needed to know. Like the wilderness man in the cautionary tale, these things led to his demise.

Being an outdoorsman appealed to my father because he loved nature. He also liked the role of provider. He wasn’t really in it for the glory. Our home didn’t feature mounted animal heads or stuffed carcasses. I’m guessing that when my dad hauled in that big stiff dead deer to the butcher, he may have been asked about the head. I’m imagining that he declined the offer all those years but one.

In that particular year he must have given in, imagining for one small moment some use for a deer head. But that moment passed quickly. So fast, in fact,  that when he pulled a cardboard box out of his trunk later that day and placed it on a high shelf in the garage, he must have imagined it was hunting gear or some other seasonal item that could be tucked away and forgotten.

The ghost of that year’s deer would haunt us for quite some time. The last person to ever guess it was my father.

The following spring we began to detect a faint odor outside. Thinking a small animal had died on our property, we began a search in earnest. Several investigations later produced nothing. This prompted spurts of frantic cleaning and clearing and some small amounts of digging in the dirt as the season advanced and the temperature climbed.

Odor turned to unbearable stench and with that came flies in swarms. This made it easier to narrow down the source: somewhere near the garage.  Still, without a corpse, a crime scene, we were stumped.

Finally one sweltering July afternoon, when some errand drove me up a ladder and onto a storage platform in our garage, I accidentally overturned a cardboard box.

The box tumbled to the concrete floor below. The momentum of the fall forced the contents out. Splattered below me was a decomposing deer head inundated with maggots in such large quantity that the whole arrangement looked like a rice stir fry platter smothered in brown sauce. The smell was unbearable.  I managed to scoop up the whole mess and quickly haul it to the curb for trash pickup.

Later that evening, when we told the story to my father, he looked over the newspaper at us with squinted eyes, pursed lips and shook his head as if we were making it all up. A deer head? In the garage? It had simply escaped his memory. 

Dad was like that about some things: He could name very Roman emperor in chronological order, all the U.S. presidents, too. But remembering something like a deer head in a box or that he had a life threatening medical condition, those things were niggling details that took up valuable brain space.

Later, I will tell of his undoing.

It was a good time, really

I survived my date with Mother Nature. Oh, that girl has some sense of humor. Here I was showing up all repentant with bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolate, apparently stepping blindly into her trap. Do you know the sound of Mother Nature laughing? It’s similar to the sound of rain falling at a rate of 1-1/2 inches in 45 minutes.

And do you know what that does to a little tent pitched in the woods? Again, more laughter.

And do you know what the sound of my reaction was?  Tires spinning on the gravel, the clink of cash exchanging hands at the liquor barn, and the satisfying hiss of a bottle cap coming off a 12-ounce bottle of Mike’s Hard Lemonade.

And that, dear Internets, is how I made lemonade out of lemons.