Friday, March 23, 2007

Ten Years
. photo
Ten years: forever in a child’s mind, a fraction of an augenblick in Time's continuum. Sometimes these past ten years feel like both extremes.

My mother died ten years ago today.

She was an amazing woman, the best mother any child could have been blessed with, and trying to encapsulate all that was remarkable about her in this post is more than I am capable of, so I refer you to the Heavens on the evening of Sunday, March 23, 1997...

Each night after helping my mother into bed, I would kiss her forehead, smile and say goodnight, then slip into my parka and step out into the cold night. Sometimes I would cry. Other times I would just take in a slow deep breath of the clear winter air, exhaling the sigh of a weary daughter.

The comet had been gracing the evening sky for weeks. Our canopy is dark and star-lit on a cloudless night, and as I'd walk through the snow on the quiet road home, Hale-Bopp would come into view above the outline of the trees to the northwest.

On that night in March when I kissed her cooling forehead and made my final walk home, there was something else happening in the heavens, something not as rare as the spectacular comet, but extraordinary in combination with it: to the south, juxtaposed with Hale-Bopp, the full moon was in total eclipse, the sky bearing witness in a double tribute to the amazing woman whose soul was leaving this earth. She deserved no less.

In memory of Evelyn Grace Andrus, 12/9/12 - 3/23/97

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


The afternoon was gray and getting grayer as I stepped into my skis. The wind was blowing up a gentle roar in the tree-tops, spitting a few tiny snowflakes and bumping at me from first one side and then the other as a hyperactive child might do. I had intended to get out earlier, but one thing and another had kept me indoors until Time screamed “now or never” and shook me loose from my keyboard. I put a piece of beech in the woodstove, slipped my cell-phone into a jacket pocket, decided to leave the weight of the camera behind for a change, and stepped outdoors.

Skiing was easy. A week ago it had taken a strenuous effort to break trail, but following two balmy days, this snow was only about eight inches deep and fairly compressed, allowing me to glide across it rather than high-step. I went up the trail to the small meadow, crossed it, and entered the woods via “the main road.” I was pushing myself, deciding to get the most bang for my cardio buck, when I saw the tracks.

There are several members of the weasel family, the largest one in our neck of the woods being Pekquam, the fisher. Picture a big otter or a huge mink with very dark brown beautiful fur, and a ferocity that makes him the only successful predator of old Unk Wunk, the porcupine.

Pekquam’s paw prints were beautifully clear, and I could easily see which way his three-foot leaps were taking him. These were very fresh tracks, and without a second’s hesitation I veered west off the trail and followed them into the woods.

He led me up hill and down dale through low-lying hemlock woods, circling and back-tracking on a couple of occasions, and although I felt that at any moment I might crest a small rise and see him, the tracks remained empty of feet.

From the beginning I had noted that this isn’t a part of our woods I have spent time in, and as the thrill of the chase began to lessen I realized that none of my surroundings looked in any way familiar. I looked up, but the sky was such a dark gray that it gave no hint of the sun’s location. On a quiet day, you occasionally hear the hum of a truck off to the north on the main road and can take your direction from it, but today the roar of the wind was doing a deft – and deafening – imitation of ocean surf. I could hear nothing else, and aside from being a wild and wonderful soundtrack, it was blowing snow over my ski tracks. It would soon be impossible to follow them back to the woods road. It would also soon be dark.

Bringing the cell phone instead of the camera now seemed like a stroke of brilliance... assuming it might get reception. I imagined the call: “Hi Bob, it’s me. Say, if I don’t greet you at the door tonight wrapped in cellophane and offering wine, you might want to go looking for me in the woods west of ‘Raymond’s Road’.”

No, I wouldn’t call yet. My old phone might only give me one chance before its battery died, and so I’d better save it. Anyway, why cause a commotion when in fact I wasn’t HOPELESSLY lost. Next I considered that the snow was of a good consistency for building a shelter if I had to spend the night outside. I looked around me and marveled that we have so many hemlock trees.

There was comfort in knowing that I was surrounded by a familiar network of woods roads. Going in a straight line in any direction would cause me to intersect with one of them, and from there I could find my way home even on the darkest of nights (which this one was promising to be).

For reasons not known, a person lost in the woods circles. They don’t mean to, but they do, and I was well aware of that. Continuing west would probably be the shortest route, so I struck out in what my best educated guess told me was that direction, trying to go "straight," but ten minutes later there was no road in sight. I climbed to a high spot, hoping to perhaps see some daylight in the distance that would indicate an open area such as a road or maybe the big beaver pond, and from this slight rise I could in fact make out a strip of snow in the distance. I headed for it.

As I approached the white area, I knew I was “found.” It was in fact a road, and to my astonishment, it was the road I had veered off when I began following Pekquam’s tracks in the first place. I re-entered it only about thirty feet from where I had left it an hour earlier - I had made a complete circle!

I resumed my original route, stopping several times to rest as I got closer to home. Pekquam had led me on a merry chase, an adventure in solitude and something few people in this world are fortunate enough to enjoy. I have only one regret: that I never did see the dark, furry rascal who took me there. Well, that and the fact that I’d left my compass back with my camera.
Note: The animal names used here were taken from a "Glossary of Indian Names" found in William J. Long's book, School of the Woods, Ginn and Company, 1902. They are credited to the Milicete Indians of eastern Canada. Long was my father's hero and mentor, and after perusing his well-worn copy of School of the Woods, I am delighted to discover it on line. (This may take some time to load).

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Importance of a Positive Attitude...

Oh shucks. Here it comes again.

Some days it's just hard to put on a happy face.

Let's talk over our options...


Hey, I've got an idea! Let's catch snowflakes on our tongues!


Got one!

See? Winter isn't so bad! And if you click on my picture, you can see the wizard in my eye...

This post is inspired by Carmon at Star's Rest. Go visit her and bring her rain.