Thursday, April 29, 2010

Julie and Julia

It's been at least a year since I wrote anything in Wizened Wizard, although lately there have been several things that I've wanted to write about.  Last night we watched Julie and Julia, and her blogging experience brought back to mind all the fun I'd had creating this blog, the excitement of having a growing number of actual readers, and the enjoyment of "getting to know" some interesting and good people.

Circumstances change.  I don't have the time to be a serious blogger now, so whatever I write will be for myself and with no wish to gain a readership. Pieces won't be in Wizard's voice, but this is the easy and somewhat logical place to post them.  Who knows how much I'll write or how often.

Below are the first two entries "post-Wiz".  Thanks for the memories, Julie!


Spring brings the return of the Canadian Geese. For the past few years we have had a nesting pair on the small beaver pond behind the house. They make their presence known early in the morning with a loud chorus of donkey-sounding honks, the daily announcement of daylight in the swamp and whatever else it is that geese get excited about.

Most pairs have successfully fledged goslings, but not all. One spring, after muttering about being awakened daily by “the pond donkeys”, our sleep was interrupted at about midnight – and then made difficult for the rest of the night – by incessant and frantic honking and splashing. Morning shed light on both would-be parents pacing the shoreline, nervously looking too and fro. Down was floating in all directions, and the nest had been destroyed. It might have been a raccoon, but more likely a mink or an otter who brought about the demise of domesticity.

This year, the beavers long-gone, a pair of geese settled atop what was once a beaver lodge. It has gradually settled down into the pond and now appears to be just another small, ragged island in a swale not sure whether to call itself a pond or a swamp. We watched the female draw up bits of sticks and grasses around herself to prepare the nest, and she has been sitting on eggs for a couple of weeks now. The gander is her guardian, fiercely scaring off any interlopers, the interlopers being other Canadian ganders who are probably dropping by for a little R&R from defending their own nests elsewhere. Ducks and the pond's resident muskrat are accepted as good neighbors.

Last night a freak spring snowstorm brought high winds and buried us under more than a foot of snow. In the morning I leveled the binoculars on the small, white island, finding Mrs. Goose hunkered down on her eggs, her head aloft, her body a dark lump of determined mother-to-be in a cold, white landscape.

By late afternoon the sun was out and the snow had been reduced by about half. I took my camera and headed outdoors, lured by the contrast of green spring growth and white snow. Wandering around the pond, I decided to “shoot” the goose on her nest, and walked through the woods to a point close enough to get a decent picture. To my surprise, she was lying there completely motionless with her head outstretched and her neck in a gentle “S” curve. Playing possum, I thought, but she was so still. I clapped my hands a few times, thinking that if she was simply laying low, she would at least startle and show some sign of life, but she did not. A shrill whistle also failed to evoke a reaction, and the gander was nowhere to be seen. I was mortified. The goose was dead.


Was it the storm? The cold? Had she been deserted by her mate, and if so, had she been unwilling to leave the nest long enough to find some nourishment? Maybe he had been a victim of the storm too. Geese are thought to be “silly”, but this goose had given her life for her yet unborn children, and I was deeply moved and saddened.

Some time later, back at the house, I picked up the binoculars again. To my astonishment, the goose had been resurrected! Still on the nest, she was holding her head high. “I've been goosed!” I exclaimed aloud. She had completely fooled me, as was her intention. Later the gander reappeared, and the lives of these expectant parents went on.

So, who's the silly goose?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Pleasant Mound

Cemeteries aren't really for the dead, but for the comfort of their living remainders.  The older the stone, the more of that comfort they provide, at least up to the point in time when weather and lichens render them illegible and they become mysteries to ponder. 

Yesterday I walked a cemetery called Pleasant Mound, a moniker which conjures up some odd images if you don't happen to be right there looking at it.  The reality is that it lies peacefully dotted with gray stones and old maples on a hillside at the edge of town.  Pleasant Mound is most surely not the place cradling the bones of Matildaville's first inhabitants, but burials here date back to the mid-1800s when much of the area had become settled, the forest cut back, and the place was humming with the business of lumberjacks and tannery workers.  And when the place was still called Matildaville.

We've been living nearby for about 35 years, which makes us newcomers.  Our kids went to school here, rubbing shoulders with others having the names Stowe, Hennessy, Hepburn, Irish, Arbuckle, Thomas; the same names I saw yesterday in Pleasant Mound on old, weather-worn stones.  In the peace of this place, I wondered how many of those kids ever come here, curious about the great-grandfather or long-dead cousin lying at rest.  How many realize the comfort of knowing - and being among - their own roots?

After my mother's death, I began researching my family tree.  The search started online and eventually led me to small towns in Northumberland County, Ontario.  There I found cemeteries very much like Pleasant Mound, and there I paid my respects to people whose names I had only recently become aware of, gently passing my fingers across the old stone, plucking high grass from around them, and photographing my discoveries in the hope that someday my own kids might also be moved by the history I had uncovered.

My grandparents' ashes have resided in a metal urn for over ninety years waiting for someone to figure out what to do with them.  My parents' ashes were scattered from an island where we'd spent many happy times.  I suppose my own will be the problem of my children.  As ancestors, we'll take up less space, but we'll rob our descendants of the experience of running their fingers across fading letters on weathered stones in comforting places with names like Pleasant Mound.