Monday, November 30, 2009


I would I were some bird, or star,
Flutt'ring in woods, or lifted far
Above this inn
And road of sin!
Then either star or bird should be
Shining or singing still to thee.
—Henry Vaughan
"Christ's Nativity"
[The word "Advent" comes from the Latin adventus, which means "coming." In the Christian church, Advent is that period of expectant waiting leading up to the Nativity of Jesus. Some prefer to think of it as a "Countdown to Christmas." If you've ever had an Advent calendar, you know that each day prior to Christmas has it own window, usually hidden behind a little flap or door, behind which is a scene or verse from the Scriptures. I thought it would be fun to take that idea and post a daily photo with a bit of text below—a stanza or two from a Christmas poem or a few lines of prose from a favorite Christmas story. The photos aren't intended to be tied with the text. Some are just ones I meant to run with a post this past year, but for whatever reason, didn't. To set these posts apart from my regular—or irregular!—ones, I've given them a different typeface and look.]

Sunday, November 29, 2009


People look East. The time is near
Of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People look East, and sing today;
Love the Guest is on the way.
—Eleanor Farjeon
"Shepherds, Shake Off Your Drowsy Sleep"
[Today marks the beginning of Advent. The word "Advent" comes from the Latin adventus, which means "coming." In the Christian church, Advent is that period of expectant waiting leading up to the Nativity of Jesus. Some prefer to think of it as a "Countdown to Christmas." If you've ever had an Advent calendar, you know that each day prior to Christmas has it own window, usually hidden behind a little flap or door, behind which is a scene or verse from the Scriptures. I thought it would be fun to take that idea and post a daily photo with a bit of text below—a stanza or two from a Christmas poem or a few lines of prose from a favorite Christmas story. The photos aren't intended to be tied with the text. Some are just ones I meant to run with a post this past year, but for whatever reason, didn't. To set these posts apart from my regular—or irregular!—ones, I've given them a different typeface and look.]

Friday, November 27, 2009


On this day after Thanksgiving,
I've take to bed, Feeling quite awful, Just the warm side of dead.
As to what really ails me, I haven't a clue. Don't think it's pneumonia, Though it might be the flu. My throat's slightly swollen, Kinda scratchy and sore. And I'm achy and chilling All the way to my core. Yet my stomach's not upset, My digestive tract's fine, Though my lower back throbs Like a moose stomped my spine. My head is all spinning, And my balance is off. But I don't have a fever, And I don't have a cough. Is it something exotic, A rare foreign disease? Like a virus from Asia? Or a germ from Belize? Should I feng shui the cottage? Call a shaman or priest? Or consult some old herbal For my healing release? I'd like to recover, But which way is best? A round of prescriptions? Or just plenty of rest? The choice isn't easy… Tell me, which do I choose? Prescribed antibiotics, Or aspirin and booze? Too many decisions For my muddled head, I think my best recourse Is to go back to bed. What worries me most, though, Are not thoughts I might die, But fear I'll miss eating All that leftover pie. Pumpkin and apple And coconut cream, Pecan, banana— Quite a pie-lover's dream! Plus savory victuals Like turkey and dressing, Cranberries, artichokes, A fridge full of blessings! So while I'm still upright And able to think, I'll pile a plate high And get out the drink. I still feel pretty awful
But I'll try and endure…
And if food is the answer,
Then I soon will be cured!
[I hope you'll forgive this bit of doggerel. Blame it on whatever bug has laid me low. I'll let you know if I survive.]

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Thanksgiving Eve. Just after 4:30 and though it's still afternoon by the clock, twilight has already all but claimed the day.
The white ducks have gone to bed downstream. I can just see them in their favorite sleeping spot between a graveled shallows and the exposed roots of a leaning sycamore. Any minute now the Canada geese will come winging upstream, talking to one another, heading to wherever it is they bivouac for the night.
I've been busy all day—busy all week, in fact—writing, finishing up the baking, doing every bit of prep work I can before tomorrow's big feast. The cottage is redolent with good smells. In a few minutes I'll put the turkey in the brine for its overnight soak. After that, I intend to build a fire on the hearth, cut myself a thick slice of the banana-walnut bread I baked last evening, and perhaps indulge with a glass of blackberry wine while I watch the last of the light fade from the western sky.
Tomorrow will be a day of celebration. A time to gather round the table with family and friends—those who still hold you dear in spite of your many faults. We'll hold hands and say grace from our hearts, and perhaps we'll then take another few moments to reflect about all the many blessing that have come our way these past months…for we are indeed so very grateful. Then, amid much talk and lots of laughter, we'll share one of the best meals of the entire year.
I hope tomorrow is for you a day of joy and delight, of love and warmth, and that you laugh much and eat lots. From the riverbank to you…

Friday, November 20, 2009


It has been a lovely November day here along the river.
The morning came slipping in like a shy bride behind a veil of gauzy fog. For the first half hour you couldn't see the trees on the island directly across from the cottage. The river appeared mysteriously from an indeterminate place in the white mist wall, slowed in the upstream flat, poured silently over the broad riffle, paused again in the Cottage Pool…and quickly disappeared downstream, a passage more apparition than earthly.
After a while the fog began to thin and lift. The trunks of the island's trees materialized, and a few minutes later, the lower branches. The high, leafless crowns of the big sycamores and basswoods stayed hidden another quarter hour—though along the upper reaches of the island, the lower two-thirds of the trees remained fog-bound and only the topmost branches could be seen above the cushiony mist, like fingers of drowning victims waving frantically above the surf.
Once the fog had evaporated the sun beamed down—and it kept beaming down the remainder of the day. Unfortunately, I couldn't go out and play. Or even go out and work and call it play. A writing deadline loomed. I finished that about noon. Then I had to have some blood work done, meaning a trip to the nearby satellite hospital. After that off to the library to drop off books and books-on-CDs, and check out a fresh batch. Next a trip to the bank. Stuff which looks easy enough—and was—except it ate up most of the afternoon.
I did get to amble around the yard with Moon the dog for about fifteen minutes before heading inside to put some brown rice in the oven, and do a stir-fry of marinated pork shreds, onions, ginger, black beans, and tomatoes for later topping. Somewhere in there, while I was busy in the kitchen and starting the first few chapters of one of the borrowed CD books, the sun set. Whether it was a pretty sunset or not, I couldn't say.
When I was out with Moon I did notice that all the leaves on the island's trees are now down, and for the first time since early spring, I can now see the river's opposite bank. This unfamiliar long view looks pretty strange and will take some getting used to, I think. It is now possible to watch the pileated woodpeckers flapping from tree-to-tree over there, where before I could only catch the odd glimpse.
The photo is of one of the red-bellied woodpeckers that regularly visits the feeder beyond my desk window…and doubtless slows my daily progress with interruptions to watch his brief battles against a belligerent nuthatch. I love his checkered plumage.
At any rate, that's the day's report. But any report that ends with a woodpecker can't be all bad…right?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


This has been a rain day here along the river. Nothing of consequence, just off-and-on showers that occasionally tried to pretend intentions of becoming a real downpour. When I took a last look at the river at twilight, the water level appeared unaffected and showed no hint of discoloration. That could change by morning, of course, depending on upstream rains. Actually, that twilight I mentioned wasn't really twilight in the usual sense of the word, just a darker graying of a gray late-afternoon…which simply kept dimming until you could no longer see the other side of the stream. Moreover, in keeping with the intermittent showers, it had been gray pretty much all day. Sometimes the gray skies lightened and you could make out the bright orb of the sun behind the veil; often, however, you couldn't have pointed toward the sun's position in that slate-colored sky on a bet. I made the most of the day—working at my desk, doing a few household chores. About noon, I spent an hour relaxing with a good book and a pot of lapsang tea. Rain days are good work days. I get a lot done—and I also find time to relax. However, just because I hunkered indoors doesn't mean there wasn't a lot of activity going on outside. Squirrels galore bounded across the grass and chased each other up and down the trees. I think my squirrel population increases every month. The feeders also did a steady business—chickadees, titmice, blue jays, cardinals, house finches, goldfinches, nuthatches, red-bellied woodpeckers, downies. A brown creeper investigated the box elder. A Carolina wren tapped along the windowsill. The ducks dove in the riffle. The heron fished the edge of the pool. I frittered away a fair amount of time watching. In the afternoon, between bouts of rain, I looked up as the Cooper's hawk sailed in and landed on the picnic table. The big bird stretched and looked around, the perfect picture of a hungry guest trying to locate the smorgasbord. He'd apparently decided to drop by the riverbank restaurant for a meal—except this time, every potential entrée had made good their escape. Sometimes fast food is just too fast to catch, even for a hawk. Following a couple of minutes of posing and glaring, the hungry hawk flew off. A few minutes after that, the feeder crowd was back and busy…maybe even celebrating. Just a slow, rainy day on the riverbank.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I am a sucker for gaudy sunrises.
Show me a sunrise with a bit of color, hand me a camera…I'll take a photo. Then I'll oooh and ahhh a moment and snap another, maybe several.
If no camera is handy, I'll just oooh and ahhh and wish I had one. Then I'll oooh and ahhh some more.
You do what you can with what you've got…
This morning when I went out to feed the ducks, the eastern sky was showing some color. It was early, of course, because sunrises tend to occur early. You learn such facts as you get older and spend a fair amount of time outside looking up at the morning sky, hoping to see a gaudy sunrise.
Okay. This sunrise wasn't all that gaudy. I agree. But it was the gaudiest one I've seen all week. Plus I'm not all that picky. I admitted right up front I was a sucker for gaudy sunrises…right? Mildly gaudy or outrageously gaudy. Doesn't matter. Just show me the color!
Besides, the weather predictors say it's going to rain, off and on, for the next several days. It's raining right now. It rained this morning after I took the photo of the mildly gaudy sunrise. It may well rain until Friday, just like those paid prognosticators claim.
If that turns out to be the case, this could be the last time I see the sky for awhile. Even though not much of this morning's sky was actually visible, which was why there was a mildly gaudy sunrise. Broken clouds make colorful sunrises.
That's not a scientific statement. And probably not a scientific fact. I'm no scientist.
I'm just a fellow who went out this morning to feed ducks, looked up at the sky, saw a mildly gaudy sunrise, oooh and ahhh a moment, dashed in and grabbed a camera, made a photo, oooh and ahhh some more…then went ahead and fed the ducks.

Monday, November 16, 2009


A Cooper's hawk lands in the box elder beyond my workroom window.
Something—a slight noise, intuition—causes the hawk to looked behind…
…and then to turn around…
…for a perch and view facing toward the sound.
Every single inch is scrutinized…
…no direction is overlooked.
Eighteen inches from the window, and fifteen feet from the keen-eyed hawk, a chickadee huddles, back to the feeder which blocks the hawk's view—and seems to stare imploringly at me to not give it's precarious position away.
Even closer to the hawk—in fact no more than five feet away, in plain view on the same side of the tree as the Coooper's—a gray squirrel flattens, caught without refuge, masquerading as a bump in the bark an eyeblink from winged death. Only by holding their places until the hawk gives up and flies off does either near-victim manage to escape the hawk's notice.
Too often, I expect, when we consider wild creatures, we do so with a sugar-coated, Disneyesque overview that ignores the precarious reality of their daily existence.
It isn't easy being a chickadee or gray squirrel, field mouse or raccoon, coyote or Cooper's hawk. Life is tough—quite literally, a life over death struggle. Moreover, a struggle which must be played out and won day after day, winter, spring, summer, fall.
The first imperative, as it is for all of us inhabiting plant earth, is eat or die. Some of us pampered folks might take a rather long time to actually die of starvation. But if you're small with a high metabolic rate, you can starve to death in a matter of hours if you fail to find sufficient food for your next meal.
Food equals energy equals life.
No matter which wild creature you study, one of the first things you realize is how much time that animal spends looking for something to eat and/or actually eating. Grazers graze…a lot. A downy woodpecker spends practically every waking hour pecking and probing up and down the trunks of trees and their branches, looking for insects and spiders, grubs and larva, plus a few tasty seeds picked up along the way. In fact, most birds spend most of their awake time eating or looking for food.
So do squirrels. Yes, they chase around through the treetops a bit, and occasionally stretch out on a limb in the sun for a nap—but mostly they look for food and eat what they find. The same can be said for skunks, woodchucks, and whitetail deer.
Eat or die, there's no other choice. But there's an addendum to the equation: for most animals, it's eat or die…and sometimes die by being eaten. The life-and-death dynamics of predator and prey. To search for food, you must expose yourself to becoming food; the consumer consumed.
At the risk of being labeled anthropomorphic, I'd say there's desperation and terror on the face and in the eyes of the chickadee—and a look of near-resignation on the gray squirrel. A cognizance by both that death is close, maybe inevitable.
If you're lucky, you've never known the experience of being prey. Not much hunts us except other men. The fear of death stalking and finding us amid the long grass, or in a sudden, sharp-taloned swoop from the sky, is not chief among or modern worries. For that, I'm very glad.
Nor should we look upon this hunting hawk as a villain. It isn't, no more than the downey woodpecker searching for an ant or beetle among the folds of bark.
Still, I'm happy that, this time around, both the chickadee and squirrel escaped…though I hope the Cooper's hawk didn't go hungry too long thereafter.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


When I went out to feed the ducks soon after sunrise, the thermometer read 27ºF, the coldest temperature here on the riverbank since late last spring. I could see crystals of frost sparkling in the grass.
Normally, when it comes to matters of proper attire needed while performing such brief chores, my theory is that inclement weather can't hit a moving target until it's had time to adjust its sights. I figure that if you concentrate on the task at hand, and hustle like the dickens, it doesn't matter what you wear. Or don't wear. A rain jacket or warm coat in winter. Or in mid-summer's heat, whatever drapes necessary to offset personal embarrassment or lead to being charged with a misdemeanor.
I must admit this strategy worked better when I was in my twenties. Either I was tougher back then, or else the old synapses have taken it upon themselves to begin firing protest messages to what's left of my mind at the first hint of pain and suffering. No longer do I dash barefooted and shirtless from tent to firewood pile in a mid-winter camp, bounding across knee-deep snow like a moose—then halting long enough on the return to stir the coals, add the wood, and possibly dig around in the nearby grub box for a handful of breakfast Oreos.
Nowadays, incipient wussiness—some might say common sense—regularly prompts a pause to consider probable clothing needs. Seeing that frost on the ground, I decided thin cotton sleep shorts and sneakers might not be sufficient for survival—so I donned an old tee-shirt before going out to scatter the day's measure of cracked corn for my breakfasting waterfowl.
In hindsight, this addition was barely sufficient (yes, there's probably a pun in there) but my hind…uh…quarters would have been a whole sight colder without that upper layer. As it was, I managed to fling the ducks their food, and scream at Moon the dog to get her butt right back in the house pronto! Then, seeing as how I was still dressed for fleeting outdoor forays—and knowing Moon's likelihood of paying attention to my injunction for speed in her morning peregrinations—I grabbed my camera and made a few shots of frost on the sycamore leaves and sunshine lighting up the sycamores upstream from the cottage.
In case you're wondering, I don't know the identity of that yellow bush which so far refuses to give up its leaves. But I can tell you this…as the year continues to follow its ancient path towards winter, not only will that yellow bush drop its leaves, but I'll have to find the box in the attic that contains my sweatpants!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Today marks the first anniversary for Riverdaze. I began that initial blog entry with a confession: "I’ve never been much good at keeping a journal or diary." Today's post is number 219. Now I'm no math whiz, but I believe that's around 60 percent of a possible 365 posts, should I have somehow (ha!) managed one-per-day. Believe it or not, I assure you this is still better than I feared I'd do, given my track record. If nothing else, it certainly goes to show you I was trying to be truthful from the get-go…and might possibly have been prescient.
I had no idea what to expect from a blog. Would anyone read? Would they care? Would I write? Would I care? Would the endeavor be fun? It astonishes me the answer all around appears to be yes! Folks read and apparently enjoy their visit. I write and feel responsible to posting regularly and well. And I enjoy blogging immensely. Who wudda thunk?
My first-ever comment came from Nina, at Nature Remains, a week after putting up that initial post. I was thrilled. She also commented about a post I'd done that day which had a photo of sunlight shining through box-elder keys along the river. I answered her comment—a practice I've tried to maintain with each and every one who takes the time to write.
Another week and more posts passed. Nina commented again—possibly feeling sorry for me, a fellow Ohioan and not-too-distant neighbor. Solitary Walker and Forest Wisdom each left comments. Then KGMom…and she and I had a lively discussion about whether Truman Capote or Tennessee Williams made a certain quote, and whether one of the common names for German Baptists I'd used was spelled correctly. (I believe we were both right. Moreover, we've since enjoyed other discussions, just as lively, on the blog and via email.)
Frankly, I don't know whether I'd have kept this blog up if it hadn't been for these four bloggers who took the time to write. Their early comments really made more of a difference than they might ever imagine—and here and now, please believe I truly thank you each and every one.
As I continued blogging, more folks wrote. Their nice comments helped immensely. I learned about "followers" and "following." I decided I'd set a wish-goal…that a year from the time I'd begun, my list of followers might number a full dozen. Today, the Riverdaze followers count stands at an unbelievable 57! I'm both proud and humbled. Such public support is genuinely appreciated. And I also thank anyone who ever put Riverdaze on their sidebar list of "favorites" on their own blog—or linked something they'd written to a Riverdaze post.
Yet I want to make something perfectly clear…I don't blog to accumulate numbers of readers or followers, or obtain lots of comments. I blog because I've found nothing in life beats sharing. Sharing doubles pleasure and halves pain. Sitting at a banquet table alone is lonely, empty, and a waste; but when you dine at that same laden table with friends, laughing, talking, telling stories, discussing what's on your mind, that same meal becomes a feast, perhaps even a celebration. Life is made to be shared. I'm so very blessed to live in this modest stone cottage beside a lovely sycamore-lined river. I see wonders every day. There's always another adventure, big or small, waiting to be experienced, if we'll only open our eyes and minds and hearts.
Riverdaze exists because I want to share what I can of my blessings with you—through words and photos, using whatever alchemy I can muster on a given day to make the experience as real as possible. I want us to join at this riverbank table and share the feast.
At the end of that first post, I closed by saying: "If you enjoy this blog, let me know. I can always use the encouragement." That hasn't changed…I want to hear from you so I can welcome you to this shared celebration.
Thank you, everyone—followers, faithful readers, lurkers, occasional visitors. THANK YOU!

Sunday, November 8, 2009


I'll probably be seeing them in my sleep for the next week. Why? Because I spent most of yesterday raking leaves and piling them into waist-high rows. Then I loaded those leaf-mountains—one wheelbarrow-size portion at a time—and trucked them around the cottage to my make-shift compost dump, which is really just a narrow space between the base of the hill below the road and several piles of topsoil I had dropped off to use for landscaping. There, the leaves can spend the next few months breaking down without the wind blowing them around or me looking at them—and next spring I'll add them to the dirt and use the enriched mixture when planting or for top-dressing.
About midday, when I had the rows raked but before I'd begun the wheelbarrowing, I took a short break. From the perspective of the deck rocker, where I sat sipping from a bottle of water after washing down a couple of Tylenol for my aching back, I decided the long leaf piles resembled a range of small mountains—possibly the Big Snowbirds down in North Carolina, or the Cumberlands in eastern Kentucky.
There's no shortage of leaves to deal with or not, as you wish, when you have almost an acre of ground that's mostly in trees—and big trees, at that. Trees in the 50–100 foot high range. Sycamore and hackberry, box elder, basswood, walnut, elm, to name a few. The largest sycamore is easily five feet in diameter; a big tree that produces big leaves and lots of 'em.
I've never worn out a rake…but it might happen here, providing I don't wear out first.
When the pain meds kicked in, I ended my break and began moving the mountainous leaf piles around to the composting cul-de-sac. We're talking maybe 50 wheelbarrow-loads here…and when I finally called it a day around 4:30 p.m., the hauling part of the job was only half done. Today's work is visible through my window even as I write.
However, that's not the whole story. The way the cottage is situated, the 300-foot stretch of river just beyond my great-room windows is what I consider my front yard. No leaves to rake and haul there! To the rear of the cottage is a parking area, and the drive leading down from the road. This steep, 50-x-300 foot section of hillside, between the road above and the level land where the cottage sits, is covered with trees and various bushes. I never do anything with all those leaves, preferring the au naturale shaggy, woodsy look.
But…and this is the the kicker…the cottage sits about midway on the bank-frontage portion of the property. Therefore, I have both an upstream and downstream side-yard. Yesterday, I worked in the lower side-yard only. I've not even begun to rake or pile, let alone haul, leaves from the other yard! And probably won't get around to that one until later in the week—providing the weather holds.
So common and unobtrusive we take them for granted. They seem so simple. Yet mankind has never managed anything half so marvelous. Through the process of photosynthesis, using the chlorophyll that gives a leaf its green color, a leaf converts sunlight into energy, adds water and carbon dioxide, and forms the various sugars and starches which feed the plant. As a byproduct of this magical manufacturing, the leaf exhales water vapor and oxygen. How cool is that!
At summer's end, with reproduction duties and growth over for the year, a plant begins storing it's energy reserves in the lower stem and roots, preparing for that long winter's nap. Days shorten; sunlight wanes. Chlorophyll regeneration slows, then halts. No more green. The leaf changes color—or rather, it reveals its true colors—the carotenoids and anthocyains which color leaves in scarlet and burgundy, crimson and rosé, orange, yellow, gold, lemon, russet, tan, bronze, amethyst, and dozens of shades in-between. That breathtaking autumnal patchwork we oooh and ahhh over come fall. One final show, just for us, courtesy of that lovely little leaf. How many manmade factories look that good after they've shut down production?
Of course, not all leaves turn color and fall off in autumn; many, such as holly, periwinkle, mountain laurel, stay green all year.
Then there are trees which seem to drop their leaves reluctantly—oaks being high on this stubborn-minded list. Even in the midst of February's whipping winter winds, you can usually find an old oak still hanging onto many of its leaves, though they're by then looking an ugly brown and decidedly tattered.
My big elm kept most of its bright yellow leaves until last Wednesday, when for whatever, it decided to drop them over a matter of hours—a gold cascade that I found both thrilling and sad. But my weeping willow hasn't yet taken that final step—in fact, its narrow leaves are still more green than yellow. They looked so marvelous against yesterday's blue sky that theirs was the only portrait I made.
An artistic moment between bouts of landscaping labor. Rake, rake, pile, load, haul, dump, rake some more. As I said, I'll likely being seeing leaves in my sleep for the next week.

Friday, November 6, 2009


A few minutes ago I was getting ready to head out to the bank and grocery store. I figured I'd better give Moon-the-Dog a bit of time in the yard before she hopped in the pickup's cab. We exited out the back door. Moon went her way, I mine…which was around the cottage to take a look at the river. As usual I had my camera in hand.
Imagine my surprise—more like shock!—when a Cooper's hawk suddenly dashed through the trees and landed on the ground about a dozen feet from where I stood. I'd been ambling along toward the riverbank when the hawk flew down. There was no small bird or squirrel on the ground anywhere in the immediate vicinity of the hawk's landing zone; the hawk hadn't been targeting a victim or in hot pursuit. I wasn't dressed in head-to-toe camouflage.
I'm slightly smaller than your average sasquatch, but only slightly. Hawks have excellent eyesight and aren't noted for their inattention or being dullards. Therefore, a nature scribbler standing in his front yard does not expect a Cooper's hawk to plop itself practically at his feet…nor, I suspect, does a noble and savvy hawk expect to subject itself to such an embarrassing and precarious oversight.
I gaped at the hawk. The hawk gaped at me. I raised the camera, focused, snapped a photo. DSLR cameras make a lot of noise. The hawk still gaped at me. I took another photo. The hawk looked left. Photo three. Hawk looking right. And so it went for about another dozen shots—all more or less recording variations of similar poses.
Then Moon-the-Dog came around the corner. Moon gaped at the hawk. The hawk gaped at Moon…OHMYGODADOG! The terrified hawk almost turned inside-out taking off and flapping away. Moon gaped at me. I caused that?
Expect the unexpected. And carry a camera.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


A little bit abstract…
a smidgen of impressionistic…
a soupçon of reversed reality.
That's what you get when you view autumn as reflected off the surface of a lake or stream.
A shimmering, sometimes dreamy rendition that can be close to the real thing…
or no more than a colorful smear—colors juxtaposed and intermingled, as if the scene might have been shattered and hastily reassembled, now recognizable only because the hues look as though they could have come from the seasonal palette.
Autumn, yet not quite autumn; autumn once-removed.
I like to photograph things as seen in water's mirror.
A good thing, I suppose, seeing as how my front yard is a pastoral river with pools and riffles and lots of available reflections.
At least I don't have to go far to practice my predilection.
Do you like autumn's once-removed views?
Double-click, let me know…I'd be curious to hear.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Last night, a hour or so after darkness laid claim upon the land, I stood in the yard and watched a moon as shiny and round as a newly minted silver dollar come slipping up through the tangle of leafless maples to the east. The trees line the high ground uphill from the cottage—and for a while, the rising moon seemed to get slowed by the interlaced branches.
I wanted a picture, but I had to be patient for another half hour, until the bright moon finally rolled above the skeletal treetops…and then I had to hurry, because not far above that narrow band of clear night sky, a thick wadding of altocumulus clouds, like thousands of cotton balls laid upon a glass ceiling, waited to hide the light again.
Last night's full moon was known for centuries by Europeans as the Hunter's Moon. They brought the name—along with their traditional Feast of the Hunter's Moon—to these shores. Here, as it had in the old countries, hunters seeking to bag migrating birds found the bright moon, during waxing and waning, furnished sufficient shooting light for several nights in a row. Non-migratory game was also quite active under this natural nightlight, and could be chased with dogs. Such matters were of great importance—not because of sport, but survival.
Several tribes of American Indians also called this moon by a similar name in their own language—and for exactly the same reasons. The moon extended the hunting time with its bright, useful light. For all northern people, red or white, this big full moon came at an ideal time to stockpile and preserve a much-needed supply of meat to help see them through winter.
The Full Hunter's Moon receives its designation from the Full Harvest Moon, which is the first full moon closest to the autumnal equinox. Just as the Full Harvest Moon might occur in either September or October, the Full Hunter's Moon can happen in October or November. Since lunar months average only 29 days in length, full moon dates shift from year to year. (Incidentally, when the Full Harvest Moon comes in October and the Full Hunter's Moon in November, that September moon is called the Full Corn Moon.)
Some Indians knew this full moon as the Beaver Moon. This moon marked the best time to set beaver traps in swamps and marsh areas in hopes of catching plenty of beaver before the onset of winter. Beaver have warm, water-shedding fur—now in its prime condition—and also a lot excellent meat which can be smoked and jerked. The tanned furs, fashioned into beaver-skin robes for outerwear and bedding, were often the crucial difference between living and dying in the northcountry.
I eventually got my photo. Afterwards, ambling back to the cottage, I took a few more minutes to watch the moon's reflected light scatter and sparkle in the river's murmuring riffle. The old moon names don't mean much to us anymore beyond a bit of quaint folklore. We have lost our connection to land and season. Many would be surprised to learn it is the earth, not civilization, that sustains us. How long can a species, so crippled by ego and ignorance, survive?
However long or short that time may be, the Full Hunter's Moon will keep rising in the east, setting in the west—shining it bright clear light on whatever remains.