Working to end the stigma and discrimination of mental illness.

Blog: The Woods by Jessie Close

Now it's at least one day later than it was when I began writing this blog.  So, now, I won't even look at my bills or note cards or anything until I've caught you up with news.

The most important news is what I learned when I walked in the woods yesterday.  I saw many deer tracks and unfortunately some cow tracks.  Cows got in here before I left for my last speaking trip and left heavy tracks and cow pies.  My ranch neighbor to the south-east likes to be quite relaxed about fixing fences and allowing his herd to wander all over this area.  But, to his credit, when I call to tell him that his cows are roaming on my property he is speedy to gather them up.  I told him a while ago that it’s not the cows themselves I object to on my property; what I do object to is their cow pies. When walking yesterday, when I was ready to go back to the house, I called Snitz, Uno and Woofie but no one ran to me!  I was scared they were eating or rolling in cow pies but, when they did show up, no one had manure on them thank God!  Rolling in cow pies means at least an hour of bathing which is a rude chore.

The tall grasses are lying down because of snow that's now melted.  The ground is soft.  The most dramatic change was the huge cottonwood tree that split in two and fell across the path into the woods.  The inside of the tree is all pulp and I wondered how it stood for as long as it did.  Cottonwoods are historically soft wood and not great for burning. The wood burns very hot but leaves much ash meaning that the woodstove has to be scooped out more times than if I was burning pine.  As I was climbing over the fallen tree I noticed two beautiful little evergreen trees close to the fallen cottonwood.  Isn't that what it's all about?  Regeneration. Several of the baby evergreen branches were trapped by the cottonwood so I gently pulled them out from under the fallen wood; the branches popped up and looked happy, glad to be out from under.

Then I checked the creek and saw snow and ice beginning to form above the water.  The shapes of this winter phenomenon are mostly scalloped, very thin and lace-like, running parallel to the creek and above the water.  Snow has fortified these structures allowing them to reach quite far across the running water beneath, but the ice edging itself, the colors of water, is patterned like lace. The water beneath is not static but jumps up in droplets that attach to the ice.  In places where rocks live close to the surface the water surfs against the flow allowing small white water to form.

It's now that the creek begins to be dangerous.  Snitz, being the most bold but the smallest of my three dogs, will think she can get a drink out of the creek and will walk out on the very thin and precarious scalloped edges that break off; she will fall in.  Later in winter the edges will build up with snow and jut out all the way across the creek, the water flowing coldly underneath.  There is often a seam that runs down the middle of this structure; pale blue light is caught inside the ice snow and hearing the creek from under is the only way to know that the water still flows.

This creek, North Meadow Creek, gives me no headaches during any season but winter.  The ice gorge is what makes me afraid.  Ice builds up and pushes its way onto the lawn and creeps close to the house.  The slow build up of ice is much stronger than the water that flows beneath.  I had one tenant years ago who believed he was going to drown in the gorge and I tried to explain to him that the lawn was underneath the ice, not water.  He was irrational.

Almost all the snow that fell before I left to speak in Denver has melted.  My traveling has not ended yet for the year and I can only pray to the sky that the roads will be passable when I need to strike out again for another trip to civilization.  

I’m not so sure that I like civilization.  In fact, I see the word ‘civil’ and know that we tend to be less civil in crowded places.  Perhaps we are less civil because it’s difficult to take in all the energy that seeps out of our fellow beings, all the noise of machines and engines disrupts our calm.  If I lived in a city I would check in on a daily basis with at least one tree in my neighborhood.  I think even just one tree could keep me grounded, maybe.


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