Saturday, July 29, 2006

Water, Water Everywhere

I went to Moose Hill this morning with water on my mind.

It started yesterday in Starbucks. As I stood in line waiting for my Friday morning treat, I noticed a display touting bottles of “Ethos” water. I didn’t take the time to read the details of the offer, but I’m quite sure this was the sort of feel-good product sold at trendy places like Starbucks where a small donation is made to some charitable organization for each bottle sold. I am also sure that the ethos they promote does not dwell on the petrochemicals that went into the production and transportation of the bottles and water.

This reminded me of a similar moment I had a few days earlier. I stopped at a convenience store to get a cool and refreshing drink. I wanted something lighter than soda or a sports drink, so I grabbed a bottle of green tea. As I enjoyed my beverage a few minutes later, I studied the label. While I should have been feeling proud of myself for being so wise and healthful while drinking a product boasting in bold print of “natural flavors” and “citrus” and encouraging me to “get active,” to “enjoy three teas a day,” and even “enter to win a bike,” I made the foolish mistake of reading the ingredients list. After water, the primary ingredient was high fructose corn syrup. This sweetener is the poster child for cheap, high-calorie, low-nutrient, processed industrial filler that corporate America tries to pass off as food in today’s culture.

We’ve been having a bit of a heat wave here in the Northeast for the past several days. I was working outside this week, and while I tried to organize my project in a way that would allow me to stay in the shade as much as possible, I was still getting hot and thirsty. Several times a day I would refresh myself with a cold drink drawn right from the outside faucet. Our town is blessed with good municipal water, pumped from six wells. Three of these wells are adjacent to Moose Hill. We are also lucky to have some people that understand the value of this resource to our community.

These were the things on my mind as I headed up the hill early this morning. I wanted to visit the ruins of some water management structures I’ve seen many times from the road. Like the vast majority of southern New England, what now seems like deep forest, not so long ago was open farmland. Almost any walk in the woods here takes one along or through old stone walls. Stone-lined cellar holes are also common. When I ponder all the time and energy that went into moving and stacking all those big rocks, I wonder what we could accomplish today if we didn’t have television soaking up all our time. I can also understand why all the farmers moved to Iowa. In the woods adjacent to the field where I watched the tree swallow flying circus back in April, a small stream flows through a culvert under Moose Hill Street. Just off the road is an old stone well or cistern, about eight feet in diameter, with a concrete cover. Nearby is a larger rock-lined enclosure with the stream flowing through the middle. I always assumed this was the foundation of an old spring house used to keep food cool in the summer, but my closer inspection today tells me it was too large and casually constructed for that. It looks like it may have been used to water livestock. Whatever its purpose, it is clear that the farmer did not take his little water supply for granted and worked hard to protect it and enhance it.

Bottled water worries me, and not just because of the wastefulness of the bottling and transportation processes. Unlimited, fresh, clean, safe, delicious municipal tap water is something we have come to take for granted. Like schools, hospitals, police protection and transportation systems, good water supplies are something we should expect from modern society as something we all need and deserve. Lack of good water is one of the main challenges facing the poorest countries in our world. We have allocated tremendous resources to developing, maintaining and preserving our water infrastructure, and yet - thanks in no small part to corporate advertising - people are beginning to mistrust our water, often for no good reason. I worry that, as people get in the habit of spending more money on their own bottles of water, they will be less willing to support our shared water supplies. There are some things that should just not become a matter of personal wealth.

The tiny stream flows down the hill from the old stone structures. Even in this wet summer this unremarkable stream gurgles quietly through the rocks, only a few inches deep and easily crossed in one jump. The remarkable thing about this place is the rich hardwood forest that this brook waters. This is where I spent most of my morning.

Most areas with good soil were long ago cleared and used to grow crops or feed animals. The few forests that remained grew on soil that was too poor, dry, wet, rocky, steep or otherwise unsuited for agriculture. If trees happened to grow on a good site, they were so frequently harvested and damaged that only junky tangles remained. This woodlot is different. It might be informative to know what land use history lead to the creation of such an impressive stand of trees. Sugar maple (Acer saccharum) is the most common tree. Some still bear scars where they were tapped for sap, but otherwise many are tall and straight. Some are nearly two feet in diameter and their boles are clear up 30 to 40 feet to the first branches. Scattered among the maples are equally impressive white ash and red oak. Other species, like black walnut and basswood, attest to the fertility of this site. Shagbark and bitternut hickories are also present.

Things started off slowly. It rained again last night, and although the dawn broke through a clear sky, the woods were warm, damp, quiet and misty. Mosquitoes were the most active creatures. A few birds were going quietly about their business. I followed the stream downhill for a while, expecting to see it grow in size as it gathered waters from a widening watershed, but was surprised to see it disappear altogether, and then form again downhill where another small valley contributed to the flow. I wondered if our thirsty wells might be sucking it dry.

Hoping for a break from the mosquitoes, I went back up the slope where some drier air was now moving. Sitting down to have breakfast, I noticed a new background sound. In addition to the hum of I-95 far in the distance I noticed the buzz of cicadas. This is one of those perpetual sounds that’s easy to ignore, but in my conscious effort to sit quietly and pay attention to my surroundings the steady low hum of these bugs became obvious. The noise would rise and fall, hitting periodic crescendos and reminding me that it was now getting to be late summer.

Shafts of light from the rising sun pierced the green canopy, creating puddles of brightness on the forest floor. Every now and then, birds moved among the sunbeams, but because they were so quiet, and many of them immature, this rather casual birder was having trouble making positive IDs. I did get a good look at a phoebe with its bobbing tail and heard the beeping of a nuthatch and the constant drone of the vireo. I was happy to hear that my peewee was still around. In this world of gray, brown and green, I was momentarily stunned to see the bright sun strike the brilliant red of a scarlet tanager high overhead.

My quiet watchfulness yielded another prize. I spotted a small movement in a tangle of brush created by a wind-fallen maple. Raising my binoculars as I crept closer, I was delighted to spot a winter wren. I like all the wrens, but this must be my favorite. It’s hard to imagine how such a tiny, perky bird with his striped underpants and stubby upright tail could get a big threatening-sounding name like Troglodytes troglodytes. Maybe it’s because they are often found poking around in cave-like recesses of piles of twigs and branches. Whatever his name, every time I see one, I feel like I’ve discovered a small hidden gem in a secret place.

It was time to head back out into the full, hot sunshine. I found my bike and pushed it through the grass of the swallow meadow, past the now-empty nesting boxes. Where birds zoomed in the spring, monarch butterflies now drifted over milkweed.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


I set out this morning in no particular mood. I had that all-too-common inertia where a body at rest on a dreary morning tends to stay that way, but I reminded myself that, like going for a run or swim, I never come back from a trip to the woods without being glad I did. So, I packed my bag and headed out the door, trusting that my wandering would lead me to a good mood.

As soon as I turned from the busy street onto the lower slope of Moose Hill Parkway, I began to hear a few birds. A Carolina wren, a robin and a catbird were singing and chortling. A chipping sparrow led me up the hill, flushing in front of my bicycle, flying up the road a few yards, landing and doing it again and again about a dozen times.

I found my mood changing to one of hope. Now, hope might be regarded as a luxury in what seems like a world gone mad. News from the Middle East offers no hope. Surely, missiles in Asia carry no payloads of hope. A source of hope is being snatched from those with incurable disease and injury. My modest hope at the moment was for a couple of hours of quiet exploration, observation and contemplation. I could feel my anticipation growing.

About half way up the hill, my hopes were raised yet again. Even shredding the cuff of my favorite field pants in the bicycle chain didn’t dampen my spirits. I paused at a house that is being renovated. This property is nicely situated just off the parkway where an intersecting street forms a switchback on a piny hillside. This house was for sale last year and, based on the fashion around here these days, I felt sure the lot would be scalped and the small unique home would be torn down to make way for the largest possible McMansion. To my considerable relief, it appears that the new owner is undertaking a careful and tasteful renovation. It gives me hope to see that there are still some people with the vision and courage to create a comfortable and sensible home that is appropriate for its site and for our times.

Nearby, I stepped off the road, walked down a trail and parked the bike. In keeping with the mood of the moment, even the deer flies and mosquitoes were hopeful as they quickly picked up my trail of carbon dioxide and body heat. I was prepared once again with long clothing, hat and spray. Moving down the trail, I soon heard the thrumming of a bird flying on stubby wings. A fledgling wood thrush paused to study what may have been its first human being before flying clumsily into the woods. I took that young bird as a sign of hope that in future years there will still be thrush melodies to massage my moods as I walk in the forest.

A little further along, I found a small American chestnut, Castanea dentata. This tree was once probably the most important species in the hardwood forests of the Eastern U.S. Then, just about a century ago an Asian fungus, the chestnut blight, began to destroy this majestic and valuable tree. Now, it is found only as sprouts from old roots and these sprouts soon succumb to the disease. They keep sprouting back, clinging to life for decades, as if hoping that some day a young genius will discover a miraculous cure and no one will be standing in the way with a veto pen.

It was an exceptionally still morning. No breeze stirred a leaf. Thick humidity from last night’s rain hung in the air. A heavy overcast muted the light. An occasional large drop of water fell loudly through the leaves. Few birds moved or sang. Suddenly, I heard a loud clacking coming through the mist and trees. Few things around here are large enough to make that much noise, and my hunch about the source of the sound was confirmed when I heard a loud snorting. The repeated forceful exhalations – obviously coming from a large, angry animal – could have been frightening if I didn’t recognize the sound of a deer. I couldn’t see the animal, but I assume it saw me and was snorting its irritation at my intrusion. Or, maybe it was just a buck signaling his hopes for the coming rutting season.

A little later, I discovered another great spot. A large, high outcropping of bedrock, like the hard old bones of New England sticking through the flesh and skin of the surrounding glacial deposits, offered a wonderful place to sit for breakfast. This place was so quiet, with the solitude and thick air that even the bugs gave me a break and my chewing on a bagel was the loudest sound in my head. Other than a few chickadees and titmice, only my loyal companion, the wood thrush, could be heard. Even my taunting pewees and ovenbirds were silent. A recent fire pit made me speculate about early explorers that may have camped on this vantage point in millennia gone by. I became thankful that this place still existed so a twenty-first century man could find a moment of peace, and I was hopeful that it would be this way for generations to come.

Breakfast done, I lingered for a few more minutes enjoying the moment and feeling happy to simply exist. I felt lucky to have a little time away from TVs, radios, advertisements, computers, telephones, cars and nagging voices. I picked up my pack and headed for home, wondering if there are ways to preserve and prolong good feelings when we find them.

Moods are funny things. Sometimes bad ones come crashing in. Sad ones may sneak up on us. Maybe good ones need a little help and cultivation. I opened my mind to good moods this morning and they found me. Even the rain that began to fall as soon as I stepped back onto the road didn’t dampen my hope.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Lead Me Beside Still Waters

Every time I see an adult on a bicycle,
I no longer despair for the future of the human race. - HG Wells

He leads me beside the still waters to revive my spirit. – Psalm 23

When I was a little kid, we all rode single speed bikes with coaster brakes. Only the real rich kids had so-called “three speed racers.” I can still remember my first ride on a two-wheeler when a neighborhood girl gave me a long boost by pushing on the steel rear fender of my hand-me-down balloon-tire bike. Like a fledgling on its first flight, I was launched down the street, too thrilled to be riding to worry about how I was going to stop. I probably wiped out in the grass at the side of the road. While I can’t remember exactly how I stopped, I still remember the feeling of triumph.

Now, about 45 years later, I can still recapture that feeling. On warm summer evenings, like tonight, I love to jump on my bike and cruise down to the lake. For an excursion like this, my ride of choice is my single-speed. This bike was my first decent road bike. It started life as a 1974 Dawes Galaxy 10-speed. Bike technology has advanced a lot since then, so it went into retirement about ten years ago, replaced for my faster, longer rides by a couple of more modern road bikes.

The Dawes has a respectable English heritage and a decent Reynolds steel frame. It’s also my oldest bike, and by virtue of our shared history, I still have a fondness for it. I wanted to save it and ride it. Inspired largely by the genius behind SheldonBrown.Com, I decided to convert it into a single speed. I stripped off all the parts, sanded and painted the frame and built it up as a bicycle with just one gear. With no shifting to think about and few moving parts to worry about, riding it is an exercise in youthful glee. There’s an elegant simplicity about a light, basic single-speed bike. Add clipless pedals to make the man-bike connection seamless, and a quick ride to the lake for a mid-summer swim is like a trip to the fountain of youth.

Lake Massapoag is our town lake and is about a mile from the house. Its outlet feeds Massapoag Brook which joins Beaver Brook flowing from Moose Hill to eventually empty into the Neponset River that flows to Boston Harbor. It has a rich history, including service as a source of water for Paul Revere’s copper mill and as a source of bog iron to make the first Colonial cannons for the Revolutionary War. Nowadays, it is valued as a recreation resource with boating, fishing and swimming.

I’ve never been much of a swimmer. Even though I grew up on the bays and harbors of Long Island Sound and loved playing on the beach and in the water, I never learned serious swimming. I took a swimming class as a freshman in college, so long ago that the men had their own gym and pool and were required to swim nude, but I didn’t have much aptitude for it. I tried again about a dozen years ago when I first participated in the annual triathlon at Lake Massapoag. Since then, swimming has been an annual challenge that I’ve accepted as a test of my adaptability and determination. Running and biking are relatively fun and easy for me, but the opening swim leg of the race has always been stressful.

This year is a little different. The triathlon will not be held and I may not do a different race as a replacement. This summer, any swimming I do may be for the pure joy of it. I can say that now, because I’ve been working at swimming long enough that when conditions are good, I can relax and enjoy the water flowing around my body. Even in the heat of July, the lake is cool and refreshing. After that first invigorating plunge, I like to start slowly, warming up and stretching the muscles. As I loosen up and become more fluid, I try to convince myself that I’m long and graceful, moving through the water with long powerful stokes. Self-deception is easy when I’m alone and the lake is calm.

I like the hypnotic sound of the bubbles as I exhale underwater. The mind wanders. Sometimes I think of William Hurt in “Altered States” when he would immerse himself in an isolation chamber and revert to a primitive creature, living by instinct and taking that which he needs to survive. At other times, I’m a fetus floating in the waters of life waiting to be born. Or, perhaps the cleansing waters are washing over me so I can begin life anew. Wherever my thoughts take me, the wind on the bicycle and the water in the lake lift my spirits and I feel young again.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Empty Nest

One of the advantages of being self-employed and working close to home is that I can usually schedule lunch at home. This is particularly advantageous in July when I can catch the finish of the daily stage of the Tour de France en vivo. Another bonus is that I can keep an eye on the robins nesting on top of the floodlights on the side of our garage.

I am quite certain this is the same pair I wrote about on June 7th. They were nesting on top of a nest box on the side of the shed and two or three babies fledged on June 6th. I was surprised to see them building a new nest only two or three days later about 10 yards away on the side of the garage. I never saw the little ones again. This new nest is in a great spot for watching since it is clearly visible from the kitchen and deck. I have to walk past it several times a day on my way to the shed or backyard. My casual interest became a little more focused in the past few days as I noticed the three little robins straining higher when the parents arrived with one of their regular deliveries of worms, and I started seeing them flapping their little wings, no doubt exercising them for what would soon be their big moment. It has been just about five weeks since nest building began, and I was sure they would be leaving the nest any day now, and I was hoping to see it. Little did I know.

They didn’t fledge at lunch time, or in the mid-afternoon when I stopped home to pick up a ladder, but when I got home at about 6:00 in the evening I quickly noticed that only two heads were peeking over the rim of the nest. Since I conveniently happened to be returning the step ladder to the shed I approached the nest and stood on the ladder to make sure one baby was missing. As soon as my head was within a couple of feet of the nest, the remaining two youngsters practically exploded in my face, launching themselves across the yard as the parents suddenly appeared and began chirping angrily and flying at me. I quickly put the ladder away and started looking for the fledglings, feeling a little guilty that I may have prompted a premature departure. I eventually found one quietly sitting in a shrub. I tried to photograph it, and then decided the best thing I could do was leave the area and let the parents locate and tend to their wayward trio.

I had the rest of the evening to myself. During the school year, I spend many evenings alone. Our daughter is living and working on the west coast. Our son is in college. My wife works or has meetings a few nights a week. I like the quiet time to do some slow cooking, go for a run, do a little reading, do a few things around the house, or – on a weak night – surf channels or the web. It's also a good time to think about where I came from, where I've been and where I'm going. Even though it’s summer, tonight was like that with my wife at a meeting and our son - home for the summer - staying in the city after work to meet a friend. I decided to make my solitude complete by packing a light meal and biking up to Moose Hill for dinner.

I rode to a new spot for me. I found a paved but gated road that allowed me to bike away from the main thoroughfare and quickly be alone in a nice stand of second-growth oaks and hickory. I parked the bike and found a nice rock that afforded a view down the hill and through the woods. It was warm and quiet and everything was soft and green after yet another day of rain. I came prepared for mosquitoes with long pants, long sleeves, bug spray and a hat with a bandana tucked underneath to protect my neck and ears.

I had a great view through the woods and I realized that was because there was almost no leafy vegetation from the forest floor up to a height of about five feet. The whitetail deer population is booming around here and in many places a clear browse line is visible where the deer have eaten all the twigs they can reach. It’s a good thing no one tries to manage any forests around here, because deer would make regeneration almost impossible.

Other than enjoying an hour of quiet and solitude, it was a pretty uneventful evening. Sitting quietly on my rock, I thought I had a good chance to see a deer or turkey coming up the hill, but it was not to be. I caught a glimpse of a hairy woodpecker and saw a couple of robins. I think of robins as regulars around the yard and on the roadside, but they often surprise me in the forest. I heard a nuthatch, and a couple of wood thrush were singing just out of sight down the hill.

I’ve written about the wood thrush a couple of times before. There’s something about his song that captivates me, like a piper calling from the wilderness. As much as I love his flute-like melody it also makes me a little sad. I associate the song with the evening. I seem to notice the sweet but somehow melancholy tune just before the sun goes down and the day is over. It’s as if this pretty little bird has come to remind me that time is passing by and another chapter is finished. The nest is empty, both for the robins and for me.

We are blessed in that both our kids are doing very well. We are very proud of them and, while we try to continue our support as much as possible, we are optimistic that they are both on their way to happily independent lives. Sending the fledglings off is a big milestone. For many years now – just about half of my life – my identity has been largely defined as husband and father. It has been all too easy to forget who I was and what I wanted to be. Now, we are beginning a new chapter and it might be time to renegotiate some contracts. I’m not anticipating any major reinventions but, rather, I'm hoping for a chance to focus more on a few good friendships and one great marriage. I also want to remember the dreams of my youth, and before this book is done, I want to make a few of them come true.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

On the Good Earth

I don't even remember what made me think of this photo the other night. I was probably thinking about the things that are going on in places like Iraq, Gaza and Darfur. I wanted to take another look at it and think about how connected we all are. This classic photograph was taken in Decmeber,1968 by astronauts on Apollo 8. They were the first humans to leave Earth orbit and this photo is among the first color images of the Earth taken from deep space.

For many, this picture has come to symbolize how tiny and fragile our home planet really is. The atmosphere that sustains us is only a thin halo around the blue marble. This photo was taken before things like "acid rain," "hole in the ozone," and "global warming" were everyday concerns.

Then, today, I was working up on a roof under a beautiful blue sky and listening to "On Point" with Tom Ashbrook on NPR (see link in sidebar), and they were doing a piece on China's exploding love affair the automobile. In 1998 there were eleven miles of expressway in China. Today, there are 23,000 miles of expressway and in the next few decades they will have more miles of highway than we have in the U.S. The number of cars in China has tripled in the past five years.

When I hear stories like that and read about the billions of people in places like China and India - in books like The World is Flat by Tom Friedman - who are all thirsting for a first-world lifestyle that includes houses, appliances and automobiles, I know that energy prices never go down again and that our air and water will never be cleaner again. We in the U.S. are in no position to lecture about pollution and energy waste because we do way more than our fair share, but I hope we can help others learn from our mistakes and lead the world in the development of technologies that allow cleaner and more efficient use of our resources.

That photo has been titled "Earthrise." It is my hope that history will recognize the moment it was taken as a pivotal point in human existence; as the moment when people first realized just how small our world is and how much we are all in this together. While I love a sunrise of bright yellow, red and orange, I hope that earthrise will always be blue.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

And the Living is Easy

This morning promised to be one of the few sunny, dry Saturdays in a long time. We have just come through the wettest May/June combination ever. My plan was to bike up to what is becoming my standard breakfast spot in the meadow, thinking the openness and sunshine would help keep the mosquitoes away as I ate and savored the first coffee of the day, and then I would hike into the woods in search of that ovenbird schoolhouse I’ve been hearing, or on a quest for the pewee that called to me as I ran last week.

I rode the single speed up the hill, thinking I might not make it riding a 42:16 up the steep grade before my old legs were warmed up, but by standing and doing the serpentine thing on the steepest part, I made it. Before settling in at the meadow, I walked the short distance up to the old barn just to see what I might find. I was happy to hear, and then clearly view, a handsome male towhee. As part of my recent recollections about the early days of my love for birds, I’ve been re-reading some John Burroughs stories. He referred to this bird as a “chewink,” probably taking that name from one of its calls, but when I think of this bird, often found on scrubby hillsides, I think of the call inviting me to a tea party.

I walked back down to the old field and as I walked through an opening in the old stone wall, I was greeted by a doe whitetail deer. She looked at me for a few moments, seeming reluctant to leave a particularly sweet grazing spot, but finally decided the prudent thing to do would be to casually lope into the woods.

I looked for a spot to sit in some shade. Unlike my earlier spring visits when warming sunshine would be welcome, it was now July (Rabbit, rabbit!) and the weather forecast called for temperatures near 90 degrees (F). It was warm and calm and, with all the rain we’ve had, everything was lush and green. At first, things seemed rather quiet. The bird boxes that housed the busy tree swallows a few weeks ago now seemed vacant. While I heard calls in the distance, there were no birds in the open field. Even a slight breeze brought freshness to the warm, humid air that was threatening to become oppressive. I was thinking the dog days of summer would soon be upon us.

Sitting quietly in the shade, eating my peanut butter and pouring coffee from the thermos, I saw that the dramas of life on Moose Hill continued even as the temperatures rose. Here I sat, on a sunny weekend morning within a half-hour’s driving distance of literally hundreds of thousands of people, but I had this theater all to myself. If I concentrated, I could hear the hum of I-95 in the distance, and a few small planes droned overhead, but I saw no other people. Slowly, as I relaxed and started to pay attention, things started to happen. Dragonflies patrolled above the weeds. An occasional bumblebee would meander by in a flight pattern resembling the staggering path of a drunk. A mourning dove cooed its lonesome song from the tall, dead pine that must afford a great view of the meadow. A chipmunk popped out of the stone wall to see what I was up to. Dueling titmice tooted in the distance.

Just as I was thinking there wasn’t much bird life to be seen in the field and that I really should finish breakfast and move on, my patience – or, by now, my procrastination – was rewarded when a phoebe flew by, perched for a moment, and then dove for the ground after an insect. Then, a goldfinch flew over with its loopy flight pattern. A pair of cardinals chased each other across the field. I spotted movement in the foliage of a tree standing out in the open. Wanting to get a closer look at both tree and bird, I approached to see a slightly silly-looking young male cardinal with it mottled plumage looking wistfully at the not-yet-ripe fruits of a black gum or black tupelo, Nyssa sylvatica. I like this tree with its straight stem and dense, horizontal branches, and glossy dark-green leaves. I’ll have to come back in October when its leaves will turn bright red above the brown grass.

I walked around the gum and was about to chase a large, orange butterfly I took to be a monarch searching for milkweed, when a large animal flushed from the grass and ferns behind me. Thinking anything that big must be one of the turkeys that frequent the area, I turned and was surprised to see a beautiful, perfect little fawn bounding away. Its back was no higher than my knee, its head about as high as my thigh. Its spots were bright white and a white stripe ran up its neck. It had big brown eyes and its long ears stood tall. It ran away but stopped to look back at me. Looking a bit like a curious but timid puppy, she started to come slowly back in my direction, taking high, prancing steps with her little front hooves. She got as close as about 20 yards as I studied her beautiful detail with my binoculars. She continued to move nervously around the field, ever watchful, but never heading for the woods as I might have expected. It was almost as if she had been told: “No matter what happens, don’t you leave this field!”

Just about then, as happened with the turkeys and catbirds on earlier trips, it occurred to me that there must be more to this script. I couldn’t believe the mother of a fawn so young would not be nearby, worriedly watching the proceedings. I started scanning into the woods across the field near where the doe had disappeared earlier. Sure enough, right on cue in the final act of this play, I spotted her silently and cautiously walking down the hill through the trees. I stood quiet and still, moving only enough to raise and lower my glasses. I guess I didn’t appear too threatening, so the doe came out into the open. The fawn was too short to see above the weeds, because I watched her mother for a couple of minutes before the fawn finally saw her and happily ran over and nuzzled under her mothers belly. Having collected her young one, the doe soon walked, calmly and deliberately with baby in tow, back into the shade of the forest.

I wanted to let the deer have their meadow back and, by then, it was mid-morning and time to head home. My hike deeper into the forest could wait. As I prepared to leave, I heard the pewee calling again, his message loud but not yet clear.

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