Odd Spring

I can’t remember a spring when there were so many flowering trees in full bloom for so long, or so few birds on bird feeders. Yesterday I found a lightning bug on a leaf — lightning bugs in May? We usually don’t see them until late June or early July around here. And yesterday Shanny was running around with some sort of trophy in his mouth, but dropped it when I called him. Today he went back to same spot, dropped it again, and this time I went to look. It was the foreleg of a fawn, not more than a week old. No blood, not a fresh kill. Probably a victim of the local coyote family. I wonder if others are seeing the same dirth of birds that we are seeing. Also, I just heard about a black bear being “executed” this week (I assume) by police officers in Battle Creek. Apparently the whole incident was a fiasco, but black bears in B.C.? That’s pretty cool. Nearest sighting before this was up in the Hastings area. And today, after a week of maplewings (helicopters) filling the driveway and deck, it was snowing tiny white buds of some kind. Actually looked like an early snow, which was weird.

Some years back I remember a CO who encountered a bear in a town up north — a block from an elementary  school at 3 in the afternoon. The local vets and animal control people did not have any trank gear and the CO was forced to kill the animal before the kids spilled out of school. He caught a lot of flak from local citizens and felt awful about the whole thing. Most game wardens I’ve met andz worked with do not like to euthanize wild creatures unless there is no better option.

No-pim-ming: In the Woods

Aborigines in Australia have a word, da dirri, which I think  means a sort of deep contemplation, perhaps even a form of meditation.  I find myself in dadirri whenever I am no-pim-ming, which is Ojibwa for “in the woods.”

Late this spring I developed atrial fibrilation — an irregular heartbeat, and of course it came out of nowhere, with no warning signs on previous ecgs or any cholesterol problems. Not exactly a terminal condition. More a matter of just something more to manage, but now I’m on another heart med and rat poison to thin my blood. The cardiologist may be able to shock the heart back into normal rhythym, but we shall see. I walked every day from November 1 to May 1 in all our crappy weathers and the only symptom of A-fib was feeling a little tired at the end of each trek. I’m still walking, sometimes twice a day and will continue to do so.

Recently I had the opportunity to spend a day with 185 sixth graders from Portage North Middle School — my job to help them understand fish habitat (food, oxygen, cover, etc) and to be able then to convert that into art. It was fun and tiring, but the kids were terrific and proud that they had taken a pile of DNR-supplied king salmon eggs last fall and raised over 50 percent to minnowhood for release.

Somehow the A-fib and the kids got me thinking about wilderness. The logic of A to B to C in this logistic course  is not at all clear in my own mind, only that A and B somehow  got me to thinking about C.  Probably my mom’s recent passing is in the formula here too.

Wilderness is a remarkably difficult term to define and varies perhaps from culture to culture and even among individials in those cultures. There is debate among philosphers about whether wilderness exists, some philosophers posit it’s a theoretical human construct rather than a real place or condition, and therefore is undefinable.

Someone asks the question: if you are deposted naked into a place do you feel threatened, fearful of survival? If the answer is yes, then this is wilderness. But if it seems no big deal to you, is it still a wilderness?

I’ve yet to fish this spring. Instead I’ve spent all of my time preparing to fish in the Porkies and to visit Magner Mater, which means assembling USGS quad maps, marking trails, identifying likely areas to explore, likely habitat and elevations, etc., trying to develop hatch charts from extant materials, checking out the 35 mm and digital cameras, hiking gear, fly lines, fly supplies, putting aside supplies, all of the stuff you need to do before you take the first step out of the truck. The fact that I have even maps certainly holds the potential for diminishing the area as wilderness — which for me probably translates to unknown as much as anything else. But in realityi having a map doesn’t  diminish anything, because as we all know, the reality of where our boots land will be much different than what we think we see on a map.  For Longlegs and me the Porkies will be a time of exploration, a time to let imaginations loose for brook trout and for future books, for poems that flow out of the waters, and paintings that assert themselves.

The word wilderness stems from the Old English and translates roughly to “where the wild beasts live” — meaning a place humans don’t control, and which can confuse, challenge, petrify or terrify. In the Middle Ages wilderness was a place where the devil dwelt in the form of dragons and monsters.

In Roman times the contrast was between urbs and rus, towns and country.

And from the Bible, wilderness seems to be something created for man to find a way to conquer, overcome, civilize and crush for his own use. [Uh..and we see where that’s gotten us…?]

For some nowadays wilderness is sometimes defined as a yuppy or millenial sandbox a place accessible only to those with money.

You can define it your own way.

I like the Ojibwa word, no-pim-ming, “in the woods” to cover what interests me. I’ll feel comfortable in the Porkies, will be able to explore to my heart’s content and there will be brook trout waiting to be found, both inside the park and just outside its boundaries.

The real question for me is this: does recreating such places and experiences there in word and picture encourage more boots on the ground in such places and if so,  is that then a good thing or a bad thing?

No answer to this question and I don’t plan to dwell on it because in a month or so I be no-pim-ming.

I have an almost perfect mindset for such places: No expectations. No matter the weather or conditions, every moment and every day will be an adventure and as this A-fib thing has reminded me, there ain’t gonna be an endless sequence of such adventures.

Wilma Catherine Heywood, 1918 – 2008

My mother died May 18 the way she lived, quietly with dignity and resolve. Like many women of her generation, she was ironically passive aggressive and fearless and did not offer opinions unless sought, at which time you would get them unvarnished. She left her three sons a note to help us with her funeral.  Her sight was going from macular degeneration, but at the time she wrote the note, she was able to stay between the lines. She was like most writers strive to be, direct and economic.

“Funeral

A long pink dress in closet.

1 set of pearls for neck, and ear rings. Slip, hose panties. No shoes (If they will allow it). Otherwise slippers.One night here. (East Lansing). 1 night Rhinebeck (maybe two nights Rhinebeck). No longer than you have to.

No flowers. Except large spray of pink roses. Probably will be some extra flowers. Put on Aunt Bea’s and Aunt Alice’s graves at the foot of dad and me. Take rest up to other Heywoods: Ma, Pop, Joe, Clara, and Marian.

I must have music! (the only exclamation point she ever used in her life).  Ave Maria. How Great Thou Art Here I am Lord.

Pallbearers: Tim, Troy, Cortney, Robert, Trevor, and Don.

Get auction people. They will sell everything. Don’t throw one thing out. You will be surprised by what people will buy. Make a list of everything an prices. Jim, I know you don’t think there is much here. You will be shocked….

Readings, Tara and Abby, Psalm 23. Please don’t grieve for me too long. Go on with your lives. I have had a very long life with some bumps and sorrows along the way. A lot of it was good. The worst thing was your dad going so young. (Note: He died of cancer at age 55 in 1976), but we did love each other to the end. We had some good talks before he got so bad and died. That was good that we had that time. We went through our whole lives. So now I am ready to be laid beside him.

Don’t forget to take grave information with you and to give the priest a thank you and $50 or so.

I am going to stop now. I am proud of you all and I love you. Mom

PS. These are not orders, just things you need to know to help with everything. Thanks for all you have done.”

My daughter Tara, son Tim, daughter in law Leann were with her when she died. She had the death rattle and said my dad’s name, Eddie,  out loud. Twice. Tara told her if she could see him to “go on and go, he’s been waiting a long time.” And she died.

She made it to Mother’s Day and almost to her 90th birthday, which was on Halloweeen night. She came from a tough Scots-Irish clan in Sullivan County. Mississippi, to join with a tough Irish clan from Dutchess County in New York. A lot of people talk tough. Only a few actually live it. She was one of those few, and she will be missed.

Reading List

I get asked all the time what I’m reading. Usually I don’t have a response because I can’t remember. But I’ve kept a list for years and I add to it as I finish a book. If friends call I make recommendations off the list. What follows is what I’ve read so far this year, and what’s next on the lists.

 

CODE: NF= NONFICTION; SS=SHORT STORIES; ESS= ESSAYS;

MS= MANUSCRIPT: P=POETRY

2008

 

JANUARY

1.        Jim Dent. Twelve Mighty Orphans: The Inspiring True Story of the Mighty Mites Who Ruled Texas Football. [1-1-08] [NF]

2.        John Case. The First Horseman. [1-6-08]

3.        Walter Romig. Michigan Place Names: The History of the Founding and the Naming of More Than Five Thousand Past and Present Michigan Communities. [1-19-08] [NF]

4.        Virgil J.Vogel. Indian Names in Michigan. [1-20-08] [NF]

5.        George R. Stewart. Names on the Land. [1-21-08] [NF]

6.        L.H. Wood. Geography of Michigan. (1914). [1-22-08] [NF]

 

FEBRUARY

  1. Jonathan Rabb. The Overseer. [2-2-08]
  2. Joseph Heywood. Death Roe. [02-08-08] [MS]
  3. Howard Frank Mosher. North Country: A Personal Journey Through the Borderland. [2-10-08] [NF]
  4. Barbara W. Tuchman. A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century.[2-20-08] [NF]
  5. Michael Dibdin. Cosi Fan Tutti. [2-21-08]
  6. Michael Dibdin. Dead Lagoon. [2-28-08] 

MARCH

  1. Dibdin. Michael. Ratking. [3-03-08]
  2. Dibdin. Michael. Vendetta. [3-06-08]
  3. Cantor. Norman F. In the Wake of the Plague. [3-11-08] [NF]
  4. Sean Michael Flynn. The Fighting 69th: One Remarkable National Guard Unit’s Journey from Ground Zero to Baghdad. [3-13-08] [NF]
  5. Thomas Cahill. Mysteries of the Middle Ages. [3-14-08] [NF]
  6. Dibdin. Michael. Cabal [3-15-08]
  7. Dibdin. Michael. Blood Rain. [3-18-08]
  8. Janet Evanovich. Plum Loving [3-21-08]
  9. Dibdin. Michael. Back to Bologna. [3-22-08]
  10. Thomas J. Sugrue. The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit. [3-26-08] [NF]
  11. Joseph Heywood. Death Roe. [3-27-08] [MS]  

APRIL 

  1. Dibdin, Michael. End Games. [4-07-08]
  2. Arkady Babchenko. One Soldier’s War. [4-08-08] [NF]
  3. Marshall Browne. The Wooden Leg of Inspector Anders. [4-13-08]
  4. Walter Isaacson. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. [4-23-08] [NF]
  5. Robert Traver.  The Jealous Mistress. [4-26-08] [NF]
  6. Robert Traver. Trout Magic. [4-28-08] 

MAY

  1. Joseph Heywood. Death Roe. [5-03-08] [First typeset proof]
  2. Marshall Browne. Inspector Anders and the Ship of Fools. [5-03-08]
  3. Tom Rob Smith. Child 44. [5-05-08]
  4. Robert Traver. People Versus Kirk. [5-06-08]
  5. Robert Traver. Anatomy of a Murder. [5-9-08]
  6. Joseph Heywood.  A Hard Green Violet. [5-11-08] [MS]
  7. Nevada Barr. Winter Study. [5-12-08]   

The following titles are in my “to read pile, which may or may not turn out to be in the order listed. 

 

 

 

 

  1. W.E.B.Briffin and Wm Butterworth IV. The Double Agents.
  2. Leighton Gage. Blood of the Wicked
  3. Edward Luce. In Spite of the Gods: The Rise of Modern India [NF]
  4. Simon Winchester. The Man Who Loved China. [NF]
  5. Richard Luov. Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. [NF]
  6. Ruth Downie. Terra Incognita.

Thoughts Whilst Walking Around

Shanahan and I just came in from our walk. We’re seeing the mating hawks almost every day. They’ve laid an egg in the first nest — closest to the walking trail, and I see one of them hunting almost every time I’m ambling.

Two days ago I watched two crows attack one of the redtails for an hour, both airborne assaults, and another while they were perched six feet apart in a dead tree. The crows were the aggressors. One suspects not a lot of interspecial love there — maybe crows are thought to be food by redtails? Scraps aside we saw some fantastic displays of aerobatics. The deer have started to turn red from their winter gray. Shanny kicks them about every other walk. He pays no attention to the hawks, but I can envision a day when one might swoop down on the big boy and he’ll run all the way home. His idea of a great walk is to kill a mole and spook a rabbit or two.

Cyclists on the trail fly past walkers and joggers. About one in 40-50 announces himself or herself as they come racing up behind you. The most polite people on the trails? The Portage Northern Men’s and Women’s track teams, who always announce themselves. Great job, Huskies.

I’ve been looking at model names selected by car companies and have come up with some equally insipid ones that we’ll probably never see. Audi Adult. Jeeplopy. Mercedes Molt. Saturn Sledge. Cadillac Golden Parachute. Toyota Illiterate. Volvonator. Etc. Make your own list. Losts of yucks. Car companies: feel free to use these.

Been brushing up on my Ojibwa vocabulary this spring. The Ojibwa have a word for wilderness — pag-wa-du-ka-ka-mig-e-wan which roughly translates to, “There is a wilderness.” The lexicon I use was written by Bishop Frederick Baraga in the 19th century, and I wonder if the Native Americans actually had a word for wilderness, or this came to them from Europeans? If it’s theirs, it would be interesting to know how they defined it. Bishop Baraga, from an aristocratic Slovenian family, was a living legend in the U.P., known for snowshoeing a hundred miles or more to minister the sick and needy.

The other day someone sent me a video clip talking about people needing to live every day to the fullest. it showed a person walking down a sidewalk. Suddenly there is a vehicle collision in the intersection of the street and a car spins out of control and obliterates the person. Having spent so much time with COs, I wouldn’t assume the pedestrian is dead until there was evidence, but the clip sure makes one think that the basic concept is good. Living life to the fullest of our abilities (which has nothing to do with income or accumulated “stuff”) gives us what the Ojibwas call wa-nak-i-wi-de-wan, tranquility of the heart, a good goal for all of us and probably one of the most difficult to achieve.

Map Miasma

I’ve got the table downstairs covered with USGS 7.5-minute quad maps, all taped and glued together — just like the old navigating days when we spent a lot of hours just assembling the charts we’d use for our various missions and flights. Chart and planning errors these days are a lot more forgiving than those made while hurtling along at 500 mph or so in a crappy sky.

I‘ve also been using Google Earth, etc. to try to identify beaver ponds to hike into for brook trout in the Porcupine Mountains. With Western U.P. draught conditions over the past few summers, a lot of small ponds have dried up and this makes the maps [created long ago when such ponds existed] mostly unreliable.

I use colored markers to create or outline trails and mark off 200- 400-foot sections to help me gauge hiking time. On some trails I also try to do a quick calc on angle of ascent or descent. In my youth in the USFS I could trek through mountains like they were flat parking lots. That’s no longer true, so travel time becomes an issue. The other issue is fishing time and duration. In reality, brook trout can be caught just about any time, especially with woody debris in the river, and overhead foliage for cover shade and lowered air temps, but even so, the best brookie fishing tends to be when direct sunlight goes off the water, meaning mornings and evenings, which means if you’re four miles from your cabin at the end of the evening safari, you could end up having to spend the night, depending on the trail difficulties. I’ll plan to fish closest to home in the evenings to save any serious night decisions. The whole idea in wilderness is to not be beholden to a schedule, but there, as here in town, there are limits to freedom and some real requirements for serious, practical decision-making. It’s not good to mess with Mamanat, eh.

Once you determine where a pond once was you can bet there will eventually be another one nearby sometime in the future. The most pressing issues in such preparation is not how to catch brook trout. It’s finding them in waters that haven’t been beaten up by lots of other people. Of course, if you’re hungry and absolutely must have a trout dinner, you can’t beat worms and or live hoppers for bait — on a Yooper rig. With artificial flies the outcome is a little dicier, but not too much so.  I’ve put together an insect hatch chart and will dig for nymphs, but I’m guessing a hopper or an ant will do pretty well at stimulating the interests of trout, at least enough to inveigle strikes and anaerobic play time. I don’t expect anything large, but I expect them to be spectacular in their beauty and maybe over a couple of weeks to extract enough in the TIC [10-inch club]bfor a couple of meals. The idea of being somewhere without fire and police, sirens, mail-delivery, telephones and cell-phones, computers, people walking dogs by the front of the house, and drop-in visitors, is extremely attractive.

When I get back from the Porkies this summer I’ll post a journal and some digital photos and perhaps some cartoons on the web site. Meanwhile, I keep on  planning. I Even ordered a few more maps yesterday! You can’t ever have enough maps — unless you’re a pilot. Still haven’t fished this season. Maybe this week. Gas prices are not to be believed and I’m guessing will have a profound effect on tourism in Michigan this summer. The truth is I see very few tourists in the Yoop in summer time, and i’m not quite sure why. The campgrounds I roll through rarely have anyone in them and I run into only a few fisherman anywhere on the rivers in summer time. My guess is not so much economics as the trout fishing crowd is aging and each year there are fewer of us and very few young people moving in to take our places. Damn shame.