Thursday, October 13, 2005

October 8th - 13th

October 8, 2005

More thick fog this morning, beautiful to watch sifting through the meadows and firs. After coffee and an hour’s work on a new poem, we went into town to get mail and do laundry and hit the farmer’s market, where I treated myself to a delicious cheeseburger and bought some croissants, a small walnut pie (just had a piece with vanilla ice cream!), a bone for Gus, and a housewarming gift for Sharen—a rounded-edge myrtlewood bread board with a gorgeous grain.

No bobcat sightings on today’s drive, sad to say. Just some deer, one of them a big antlered buck, and lots of grouse and quail. I was thankful the road was damp from the recent rains. No dust to undo yesterday’s cleaning job on my car’s interior.

I’d planned to leave next Saturday, but I spoke with Steve Edwards tonight, and now I’m wondering if I should stay through Saturday night and exchange stories about our experiences here. He seems like a great guy. He’s teaching at the University of Nebraska, where he said he sees Ted Kooser every day. I’m only reluctant to stay the extra night because I want to make it to New York by Friday the 21st so I can move my furniture on Saturday the 22nd. Stan Flood, a pal from the English Department at Tenafly, said he was available to help me that day. Sunday the 23rd is an option, too, but I have concert tickets for an afternoon Ellis Paul concert at The Mansion. Don’t want to miss that. So, the question is: can I make it from here to New York in five days (or six if I drive all day Sunday instead of staying at Bradley’s house in Portland)? Well, I have the week to think about it.

I received copies of Crab Orchard Review in the mail today. My friend Peter and I each had poems accepted for their “Ten Years After: Documenting a Decade 1995-2005” issue. What a nice journal. I’m honored to be included.

On the drive back I stopped at The Silver Sedge Fly Shoppe and bought myself a new leader. The one on my rod is too short and is curling in places. I may have better luck fishing with a new, lighter line. I plan to try tomorrow. If I do stay next Saturday night, it would be nice to cook Steve Edwards a steelhead dinner.

October 9, 2005

After several nights of troubled sleep, I finally slept well last night despite having school on my mind all day. Didn’t wake up once. Maybe I’m getting more used to the idea of returning to my life.

First Day of School

They file in with their bags and books,
as tentative as reluctant penitents,
their bodies sweet embarrassments,
their eyes on guard for funny looks.

They’ve remembered pens and pencils,
paper and erasers, calculators
and planners, granola bars
to sneak, but have forgotten the rules

of fitting in—how and when to smile
or laugh, what to do with hands and feet,
how not to ooze into plastic seats.
All they want is to be liked. Meanwhile

there’s the teacher with her bag and books
and a roster of strange and common names.
After a week of troubling dreams,
her eyes, on guard for funny looks,

wear dark moons that shine across the room.
She’s remembered pens and pencils,
her brown planner and gradebook, the rules
of attendance, bells timed to the clock that looms

and draws all eyes like a giant silver sun.
But she’s forgotten everything she planned—
opening joke, stern warnings, the hand-
out detailing her policies on grades and gum.

So she simply smiles and with deft
gestures hides shaking fingers and beating
heart. And soon enough she’s teaching,
when all she really wants is to be loved.

The day began with clouds, but by noon it was sunny and warming up. I looked along the logging spur for chanterelles again. Nothing. Bradley says it may take a few weeks for the mycelia to get going, so I fear I won’t get any.

Went fishing in the afternoon. Despite my new leader, it was bad action. I caught one small trout in a back eddy. Had a nice hit at the mouth of the creek and another upriver in a shallow gravel run. Lost the last two Boyden pattern flies—one of them on a submerged rock, another on a backcast (couldn’t find where it snapped off). I’m going to try my hand at tying some tonight. I think part of the reason I lost the two flies is that the leader was too thin. I got a 4.4-pound line. Should’ve gotten a bigger one. Finally, I just cut a foot off of it, and then it was fine. Hoping for better action tomorrow, if I can manage to make some decent flies.

Good wildlife down at the river, though. I saw two great blue herons, four otters, a huge red-tailed hawk, several water ouzels, and three deer. The otters were fun to watch diving and rising along the far bank, like dolphins. I also heard a pileated woodpecker and something big crashing through the woods on the walk back up. May have been Mr. Bear. Saw fresh bear scat up near the pond this morning. I think the dish du jour was acorns. Here’s one of the herons. It was a bit dark to get a good shot, so it’s kind of grainy:

October 10, 2005

I was up until after midnight tying flies! Of course, my first few came out badly. I even left out one ingredient—whitish strands of sparkly stuff. But the next couple I made looked about right. This morning, I went right back to the vise. It’s a meditative task. I could see myself really getting into it. I made about eight flies using the pattern Bradley taught me. I’m probably in violation of the secrecy code posting this (and I’ll take it down if Bradley balks), but here it is:

Not bad for an amateur, right?

I feel like a true outdoorsman. I caught a steelhead this afternoon on one of the flies I tied with my own two hands! It was a beautiful strike. I was up on a ledge just downriver from our beach and I moved the fly past a submerged rock. Up came the fish, slow and graceful, snapping the fly. I set the hook and he fought me for a bit. Then while I was reeling the slack he dove beneath the ledge I was standing on. The line wouldn’t budge, and I couldn’t pull him out. Determined not to lose this fish, I tried pulling from every angle, tried giving slack to see if he’d swim out, tried moving upstream and down. Finally, after five minutes, I pushed the rod out toward the river as far as I could and pulled, and out he came. The poor thing was exhausted from the pulling, all the fight gone out of him. Here he is:

I had a few more nice strikes, but no takers. Here we are fishing:

I just cleaned the steelie and put it in the freezer. If I stay Saturday night, I’ll need to catch one more so Steve Edwards and I can have a fish fry. If I don’t stay, I’ll leave him this fish and some butter. He’ll like that.

October 11, 2005

Talons and teeth abound in these woods, and most of the time you never see them. I’ve encountered a myriad of cougar scat gray with fur and bones. I’ve twice walked out my door in the morning to find smaller scat on my doorstep. Marten? Fox? Fisher? The other night I heard what I think was a screech owl with its eerie call. Sometimes, though, you get lucky: you do see them. I saw another bald eagle flying upriver today. But I’ve seen them before. No, today I saw a bird I’ve never seen and have always wanted to see. Walking up from the river around 5:30 this evening, I heard a bunch of chickadees sounding pretty alarmed, and there in a tan oak I saw what I thought at first to be an oversized Oregon junco. But I’ve seen lots of juncos in this forest, and they were all much smaller. I had a mosquito net over my head, something I’d discovered in the cupboard a long time ago and never used until today. It’s made of green netting and fits over a hat, with an elastic ring that goes around your neck. Lately tiny gnats or flies or whatever they are have been tormenting me on my walks, going straight for the eyes and ears and when I’m breathing hard from the steep hike, going down my windpipe. They don’t bite. Just annoy to hell and back. Thus, the mosquito netting, which made for a very pleasant walk. But back to the bird. I lifted the netting for a better view. The sun was beginning to go down, and I had to shade it with one hand. The bird was no junco. I saw the head turn to reveal “false eyes.” A Northern Pygmy Owl! I’d long ago given up on seeing one out here, even though they often come out in daylight. Now, in my last week, I’ve been rewarded for the wait. The Northern Pygmy is the smallest owl, about as tall as a sparrow but three times as heavy. A small, fat body with no neck. According to John Kemper in Southern Oregon’s Bird Life, “They often hunt in the daytime, and their principal prey is small birds…”; thus the squawking of the chickadees. Kemper goes on to say that they are “ferocious hunters, and frequently take prey twice as big as they are. One will hunt from a perch, holding perfectly still except for its head, which turns constantly this way and that, seeking prey. It can turn its head completely around, of course, and when it does, the false ‘eyes’ on the back of [its] head become visible.” This is exactly what I saw it do. It seemed unperturbed by my presence. I was only about fifteen feet away. Twice it turned its head showing the black feathers on the back of its head that look like eyes, an evolutionary wonder. After about five minutes, I returned to the trail. When I looked back, it was still on its perch, head turning from side to side looking for dinner. Or would it be breakfast?

Fishing was bad action. I turned a few nice fish, but they didn’t take. I caught one tiny one. The owl sighting made up for the lack of fish.

I rototilled two of the garden beds today. It was sad to churn up my pepper plants, even though they gave me very few peppers. I left the basil and parsley and chamomile. The former I hope to use for dinner with Steve. The latter two herbs should last through the winter. The chamomile has been most productive, giving me a half-quart baggie full of nice flowers for tea. I didn’t touch the bed with the tomatoes and cukes. They’re still bearing, and Steve can eat some, and then Lang and Bradley when they come out in a few weeks. I also didn’t till the bed with the sunflower and zucchini. The sunflower isn’t quite ready for eating. And the zucchini plant is still bearing. More food for those lucky enough to be coming out in the next few weeks.

There was a pretty moon rise tonight. The digital doesn’t do well with little light, but I tried my best:

And here’s a night shot of the cabin. That’s one of the propane lamps burning. The pole to the right is the antenna for the radio phone. There’s smoke coming out the chimney from my fire, but you can’t see it:

October 13, 2005

Two nights ago I woke up with an idea for a new fishing story. I’ve been wanting to win the Robert Traver Fly-fishing Fiction Award again (I won it in 1997) from Fly Rod & Reel Magazine, especially since they raised the prize money from $1,000 to $3,500. Good cash money! Inspired by Laurie Lynn Drummond’s stories, this one is about a cop dealing with guilt over a family tragedy and the help he receives from his compassionate partner. I worked on it all day yesterday, finishing eight pages, and I feel good about it. I need to check the FR&R web site and see about word limits. If I recall, the stories can’t be more than 3,500 words, and I’m close to 3,000. After my Rogue River steelhead experiences, the fishing details have been easier to write than in previous fishing stories I’ve done.

Yesterday morning I walked out on the deck and saw deer in the garden! Three of them. At first I thought they’d jumped the fence. Then I saw the gate was wide open. Apparently, after chugging the rototiller back up to its parking place beneath the cabin, I forgot to go down and close the gate. I didn’t want the deer eating the tomatoes and cukes and sunflower, so I took a walk down there. I thought it would be easy enough to herd them toward the gate. I was wrong. As soon as they saw me, they started trotting around. Then the youngest of them dashed right through a gap in the barbed wire. I winced, imagining its hide being scratched by the barbs. Another one ran into the fence two or three times. I was horrified. I started backing away. The last thing I wanted was for them to hurt themselves or damage the fence. This one was much bigger than the youngest, but miraculously it also leapt through a gap in the fence just east of the run-down chicken coop. I hightailed it back to the cabin, where I watched the third deer. She walked the perimeter, finally found the gate, and trotted through it and off into the meadow to rejoin her scratched-up family. I went back out and inspected the fence. No damage done. The gap through which the biggest deer leapt was a rectangle measured about 15 inches high by 20 inches across. I could see bits of fir on the barbs, but no blood. I thought for sure that the two deer going through the fence would have messed up the electric wire, but they didn’t. The wires were perfectly intact. Incredible!

No fishing yesterday. I was too engrossed in the new story. Anyway, it was hot. Felt like summer in the afternoon. Taking a break from writing, I printed out a condensed, hard copy version of the blog (minus pictures and audio and HTML codes, of course). To shorten the page count, I single-spaced, reduced the margins, changed the font to Garamond (a nice, small typeface), and changed the font size to 11 point. Anything smaller would be too hard to read, especially for any future residents as old as me. Thus shrunk, the blog ran 114 pages. To conserve paper, I printed on both sides, first doing the odd pages, then the evens. Half-way through the odds, the generator ran out of gas. When I added more gas and started her up again, the laser printer got all screwed up and I had to cancel the print job, reprint four or five pages, and then pick up from there. When all was said and done, it took me over an hour to print the darned thing. But it looks nice. I’m going to try to have it spiral bound at a copy place today.

This morning I woke up at 3:00 AM, a wee hour, and couldn’t fall back asleep. I tossed and turned for two hours, before I finally got up. I took Gus out for peepee/poopy in the dark, and the stars were thick, crisp, cool, Orion there large in his perpetual hunt. We’re making our final trip to Grants Pass today to mail four big boxes of stuff, close the P.O. box, wash the bedding, and run a few other errands.


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