October 18, 2006


We were dusted with 2 or 3 inches of snow last night. It started around 6 pm and slowly accumulated through the night. I drove home last night after it had been snowing for a while. Snow had already drifted over the hood of the vehicle and stayed put until I reached the state line (and thus the end of the asphalt). Once I hit the washboard gravel road, the snow on the hood started to dislodge. A spray of snow would whoosh over the windshield every few moments, like a distant flash of lightning out of the corner of your eye. When I pulled into the place, a nice young buck deer was standing in front of the bunkhouse. A deer in the headlights, quite literally, he stood for a moment and then ran through the yard towards the pond.

I have been looking forward to some eventual snow, having missed the last eight winters out on the west coast. Nevertheless, I could have enjoyed a bit more autumn than the measly three weeks we've had so far. And considering that there was snow on the ground last April, this could be the beginning of six months of wintery weather (which is a little more than I had bargained for, frankly). Then again, it was 85 degrees on Sunday. I spent the better part of the day taking off the window screens and putting up the storm windows...in a tank top. It seemed a bit ridiculous at the time to be preparing for winter, but such is our wildly unpredictable weather. It really is true what they say: "If you don't like the weather in the Sandhills...wait ten minutes."

I put on my boots and coat, while I was waiting for my coffee to brew this morning, and went outside. I had forgotten the silence that follows the snow. All the noise around you is muffled and you feel so pleasantly alone in the world. The only sound is the soft cadence of your own breath. It felt nice, as did the cup of hot coffee awaiting me inside.

October 17, 2006

the owl, the coyote, and the star-crossed procupines

Have I mentioned that there is a Great Horned Owl living on the place? She is so big and so beautiful. Hopefully she'll find a mate and stick around for a few years. Towards evening, she starts to stir, calling and swooping around the yard. Many nights she'll perch on the radio tower, just a few yards from my open window, occasionally ho-ho-hoo hoo hoo -ing as I sleep. Whenever the owl is out, the kitties know to stay hidden. The owl has such an arresting presence - my jaw drops in awe every time I encounter her.

I've also been crossing paths with a coyote lately. I usually see her near the road in the afternoon when I go to get the mail. We both stop and then we'll just sit and look at each other. A couple of times, she was only 8 or 10 feet away. She doesn't seem scared of me, just a little unsure. Once, after a good long stare, she just circled around and laid down in the grass. I try to snap myself out of 'dances with wolves' fantasies, but regardless I consider her a neighbor and feel a bit protective of her.

Driving home late one night last week, I encountered another unexpected neighbor. As I turned over the auto-gate, onto the trailroad, a bushy fluff was bobbing down the road. Once the porcupine heard me coming, her formerly-relaxed needles shot up. I chased her around the pasture for a few minutes, trying to get a good picture. Not having much success, I let her be and headed towards home. But then not a mile down the road, yet another porcupine was wobbling down the trailroad. This guy was about twice as big as the lass by the gate. He was very intent on getting out of the path of my headlights and seemed pretty exasperated in general. In trying - yet again in vain - to get a picture, I managed to chase him off course. Afterwards, I realized that if I hadn't intervened, the two porcupines would've eventually found each other that night. I felt a little bad for thwarting their romantic fate.

And the surprise visitor tonight is...SNOW!!!