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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: March 3, 2022

The Woods and I Awaken

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,


**********

For the last ten days I had been preoccupied with preparations for the pending arrival and joyous visit here with our son and his family. They undertook the long trip from Oklahoma at a difficult time of the year for car travel so that baby Archer could meet his great-grandma for the first time. It is no small undertaking in a time of Covid and winter weather to travel with a four year old and an infant, but the look on my mother's face when she saw the kids was well worth it. (And of course Mike and I were over the moon to have a full house again.) When they left Friday morning, the silence was very noticeable, and sad.

Sunday morning, I woke up knowing the day was mine to do as I pleased, and it was a fine one ?? above zero; low wind; clear skies and the promise of sunshine. I had spent some time outdoors with my granddaughter and did the dog walks and horse care as usual during the visit, but I was completely preoccupied. The dogs and I set out on the woods trail, and everything seemed to have changed while I was distracted.

While the snow is deep here, animal tracks are suddenly everywhere. We had recent fresh snow, so the critters whose tracks I saw that morning had passed through not long before. There is a veritable deer highway across the main woods trail running north and south. Mike and I encountered a group of five on our road a short distance from our home Thursday afternoon, so it is likely that herd is among our frequent visitors. The trail camera reveals the bucks are finally dropping their horns, and our resident spike buck is currently a unicorn. I will start watching, as finding a shed is one of my "holy grails."

In one spot there were small humped-up tunnels in the fresh snow, looking all the world like human arteries on chalk-white skin. Voles, no doubt ?? usually deep in the snowpack but for some reason these were headed somewhere just barely under the surface. Vole spring fever, maybe? Hope whatever it was seeking was worth it, as there are plenty of predators which can both hear and see its progress just under the surface.

Last night one of the coyotes was out, headed the opposite way on the trail that the dogs and I were on. It left a message on the snowbank, and Wolfgang responded in kind. Squirrel activity has hit a frenzied peak. It is squirrel mating season, and aggression is in the air. Some of the squirrels are defiantly pushing the dog's boundaries of tolerance. In fact, on Sunday afternoon one was scratching aggressively on our patio slider door, as one of our cats sat an inch away on the other side of the glass. The squirrel was oblivious of the cat; I can only assume it saw and wanted to attack its own reflection.

I see lots of fisher tracks, and small prints left by a rodent I can't identify. If you raise your vision from the ground, and look across the surface of the snow, it is covered with many different animal paths, winding in every direction. The woods have come alive while I was busy with other things.

As the dogs and I amble along, looking around and seeing so much, the "Zen" feeling ?? the fleeting state that lets me really see and appreciate my surroundings, visits me again. Spring is only 17 days away and like the woods, my body and my brain are waking up again.

I use my cell phone to track the number of steps I take every day, and the data is clear there too. Like the woods animals I have been much busier than usual lately ?? and if I could look down on my steps as a visual depiction, the proof is there. A maze of trails; to the barn, to the road, around and around in the house, up and down the steps.

At midday the next few days, ice will melt on the blacktop driveway. The snow will begin a slow, grudging retreat here. There is little left on the last half of my trips to Marinette already; and what little snow is there, is brown with windblown dirt and ugly. Carcasses of deer and raccoons are resurrecting from snowbanks along highway 29; attracting carrion eaters of all kinds, but most spectacularly eagles. I see them every trip now; a conservation success story to give us hope.

With March comes my pussy willow watch party. And Mike and some of his siblings are talking about the upcoming maple syrup season. It is a guessing game when ?? sort of like guessing when the first snowfall will occur in late fall. We already know it will be much later than last year, when taps were dripping by March 1st. Mother Nature is not ready yet. You must be patient with her timetable, not your own.

We are at the very beginning of the change of seasons, but I feel blessed to live in a place that has four of them for me to enjoy every single year. Yes, the winters do get long. I still value my time of hunkering down, slowing my pace, and slaying books indoors. But like the maple trees will soon, my body feels its sap start to run again, and my energy and sense of adventure returning with the lengthening daylight.

IN MY THOUGHTS

The people of Ukraine, attacked for no good reason in their homeland. It is all so reminiscent of the early days of World War II with the unending aggressions of Nazi Germany. There is evil in the air, and I pray for Ukranians, but most especially the children. My heart hurts for them.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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