Tuesday, January 19, 2010

NATURE BEING NATURE



Whitetail deer, glad to find the snow cover gone,
graze in a field up the road last Saturday.

The snow has melted and the last formations of ice in the riffle have vanished. All that's left of winter's first hurrah is the border of shelf ice along the river's edge—and that is shrinking daily; if it weren't for night temperatures below freezing, it would have disappeared already.


In less than a week we've gone from wonderland white back to basic brown, a visual reminder that winter doesn't always look like its storybook persona. But then, does any season really? All of spring is not spangled with wildflowers. Summer can be cool or rainy. Autumn runs the gamut from sunburn to frostbite, and those dazzling leaves aren't colored up the entire period—in fact, the last weeks of the season there usually aren't any leaves at all on the trees. Why should winter be expected to present any less variety?

It doesn't help that the sun has hidden itself behind a thick veil of clouds for the past few days. Without that bright illumination, the light is flat and dim, making the world in brown attire seem dull—at least to those who prefer their days sparkling. But again, this is simply another of those winter characteristics we conveniently forget.

Too often we idealize nature. We fixate on one aspect and disregard the rest. Seasons, however, aren't stage managed by Walt Disney, the Nature Channel, or those art directors who selected the snazzy photos for that fancy calendar now hanging on your kitchen wall. Seasons are too broad to be dictated except in the most general terms. One winter can be mild, the next harsh. We can't even predict months. You can have a snowy December, sunny January, and a February wet with rain. The next time around might be just the reverse. So we "average" things out…except that no month is ever average; they're all individuals, all typical only of themselves.

Such contrariness on the part of nature wreaks havoc on the sensibilities of those who like things orderly. They would have years and seasons and months on as strict a timetable as a railroad—all laid out and meticulously planned. Why, you'd be able to set the date for a picnic in May and never consider the possibility of rain. Or book that ski trip to Aspen and know you'd be boot-deep in fresh powder every day!

Wouldn't the world be wonderful? Well…no. Not so far as I'm concerned. When the round of the year ceases to be a daily adventure—a voyage of discovery with a surprise around every corner—then I'm ready to get off the bus. The joy of life is in the living, the capacity to learn and grow and encounter unexpected wonder. I don't want my days all mapped out and outlined like the plot in some trashy formula novel.

Nature is messy, cluttered…and sometimes, disturbing. I've not mentioned this before, but a day or so after Christmas, as the high water we'd had over the holiday subsided, a dead deer was revealed on the bank just across the channel from the cottage. How it ended up there is anyone's guess. Did it run across the island, plunge off the bank and into the water and break its neck? Or simply drown while attempting to swim the swollen river? Might it have been hit by a car somewhere, made it to the water where it succumbed, and washed downstream to become lodged in the bankside debris? It is a story forever unanswered.

I was going to write a piece earlier and post a photo. This notion of the photo appalled Myladylove as being too insensitive to those who might not wish to see a picture of a dead deer. She was right. Nature in the raw is sometimes too raw, too disturbing. And yet, it is a part of nature, part of the natural world and the natural cycle, whether we like it or not. There's blood and gore aplenty in nature; even a robin is a fearsome beast if you're an earthworm. If my beloved turkey vultures who roost nightly in the island's big sycamores hadn't temporarily gone south, they'd have a buzzard's equivalent of breakfast in bed. I would post those photographs!

To all things there is a season.

Day and night, winter and spring, life and death. One velvety-green morning in April I'll look across the channel to the island and see a doe standing, nuzzling her newborn spotted fawn. The fabric of our days is woven from many threads. The world keeps on turning.…

22 comments:

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

... and Nature is one amazing teacher . . . She teaches us about ourselves, if we are open to receive the information. Everything you say about nature applies to humans, because we are, of course, a part of nature's mosaic.

KGMom said...

Scribe--while I agree with your observation that nature being nature is not always lovely to look at--and can be drab--I really wish you had posted the deer story, with photo. It would prove your point.
And I completely disagree with yourladylove. To romanticize nature is to not show its harsher side.
One of my favorite poems about mortality is William Stafford's Traveling through the dark. Herewith:

Traveling Through The Dark

Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason—
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all--my only swerving--,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

Kelly said...

...loved the post. Strange...that deep fog on Monday really must have affected us because tonight as I've been catching up on my reading, so many of us from Ohio and Indiana have talked about the gray in the air.

Penny said...

Good one. As a farmers wife I sometimes think that there is a huge divide between city and country. Country knows about death, natures brutality as well as its beauty sometimes I wonder if the city does.

The Weaver of Grass said...

"To everything there is a season," Scribe - my favourite part of the Bible - sheer poetry in the Authorised version - terribly meddled with in later versions.
I do agree about the diversity and the unexpected - please try to visit my blog today as I am sure you will be interested in my photographs - pure Nature at its best.
Sorry about the deer - sometimes they drown in our beck when it is in flood. I think they get used to leaping over it and suddenly it is too wide and they land short - then the current is too strong. Maybe it is the weakest who succumb. Survival of the fittest and all that. Best wishes in your new life.

Jayne said...

And, the important thing is that we can see the beauty in all its seasons. I often say, and said on another blog this morning, that if we had the same views all year long, we could not begin to appreciate what it special about each time and season. I love the anticipation as the seasons transition. Just knowing that around the corner, I'll see new spring bulbs starting to peek their heads out, and that each day, the cold will dissipate and bring warmer days... ahhhh... the joy.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bonnie…

Life teaches us about life—and nature is the life surrounding us. I'm never sure what it teaches us about ourselves, but I know paying attention to nature centers us in reality, calms and realigns our perspective. While I don't believe people are just another animal, I know we're at our best when we observe, understand, and learn to appreciate the natural world.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

To set the record straight, it wasn't a fear of romanticizing nature that caused me to not post the dead deer photo. Nor, for that matter, was it Myladylove's opinion that it would possibly offend some readers. (She's not offended herself, BTW, being a practical, outdoorsy sort of woman with rural, hill-country sensibilities.)

As I said, I'd hesitated for nearly a month, and had done so without even mentioning the idea of running a photo with a post. Partly because I do think it is something most readers probably don't want to see so graphically displayed, which I can understand and respect. But also because it seemed to violate some—intimacy? trust?—with the deer.

I know that sounds pretty weird, like so much New Age claptrap. But there is, nevertheless, a feeling of responsibility on my part. The dead deer is splayed out in a poignant and tragic manner, and to me it's almost like showing photos of people strewn across the highway in the bloody aftermath of an automobile accident. Yes, that happens, with heartbreaking regularity—but publishing them (legal issues aside) serves little purpose, except to cater to the voyeuristic side of human nature. I want no part of that. I've been around those scenes, taken the photos, witnessed the horrific, of all manner of death. Reality? Yes. But I tell you this in all honesty…if I could somehow purge my memory of such scenes, erase them forever from my history, I'd would do so in a heartbeat.

I've fished and hunted all my life. Spent countless hours outdoors in all seasons. I've been around country and rural life, with all its needs and requirements, where death is a common occurrence and regular practicality. I've bloodied my hands. In the end, I didn't run the photo because…well, because I just wasn't up for it, not this week; not yesterday when I sat down and wrote the piece.

If I'm not mistaken, we've discussed this poem by William Stafford in one of our letters. I like it, and it bothers me. (But I don't like it because it bothers me.) It bothers me because I expect it comes from an actual event. It bothers me because I don't know if I would make the same choice—pushing the dead doe with her living fawn still inside her womb, into the ravine—and I'm bothered because I don't know whether that's a sign of strength on my part or weakness.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Kelly…

Gray skies again today, too. But that's okay. I have to work at my desk all day and I work well on such days. Besides, the pileated woodpecker has already put in an appearance at the suet feeder, hanging upside down like a red-headed pterodactyl as he hammered away.

I'm way behind on my blog reading…

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Penny…

I don't think most urbanites know much of anything about where their food comes from, from the egg on their breakfast place to the meat in their chicken sandwich. They don't equate a field of wheat with a loaf of bread. Or a cow with a cup of yogurt. Wool is simply fabric, not hair off a sheep. And cotton…could that possibly grow in the field?

I wouldn't care one way or the other except that these folks, in their ignorance of such matters, still get to vote and make serious decisions on the future of land and water and those things that farms produce—which is what keeps all of us alive. You can't make a good decision if you know nothing about what you're dealing with.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

I just don't know what happened to this deer. And you're right, it is simply a part of what goes on—the reality of life.

I will visit your blog (as I have been, though I've been remiss in not commenting) and look forward to seeing what you've posted.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jayne…

Oh, yes—the round of the year, seasons following one after another in their ancient pattern, yet always fresh and new and different, that's far to be preferred over bland sameness. I love knowing those crocus I planted in October are just waiting for their summons in March to come up. I can't wait to hear a robin going through its lyrical swing in the pre-dawn of a May morning. I rest well as an angler because I know, right now, even though the pool in front of the cottage looks lifeless and is unquestionably cold, that when April rolls around the smallmouth bass will be ready to sample my lures—that they're there now, just waiting for their season.

Carolyn H said...

Griz: in a way, we blogged on similar topics today. You waxed eloquently. I waxed a bit more scientifically or observationally or, well, something.

Carolyn H.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Carolyn…

There is a similarity of theme running through our respective posts…though I would not agree that yours lacks eloquence, merely that we have different writing styles.

In a way, too, that's what our two posts proclaim—that seasons come one after another, bring both comfortable familiarity and wonderful surprise.

KGMom said...

Scribe--ah, not posting the picture explained. I cringe at road kill--I just hate to see all that life so absurdly destroyed, just so humans with cars could get somewhere faster. Really? I swerve to avoid such a sad encounter with an animal.

As for the Stafford poem, I continue to love it. Nature is perplexing--life and death all rolled up in one image. That's what I love about the poem. The double use of swerving--to avoid the accident or the unexpected deer--and to take a jog in predictable thinking.

These thoughts must be much on my mind, as my last post on "Dust" explores some of the same things.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

I expect it's the weather, plus time for rumination, this heightened awareness of the fragility and sacredness of life and the utter sadness at seeing it lost.

Reality teaches us that life thrives through death. Sometimes, though, it's simply better to see the glass half full…and savor its contents.

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ-


Great picture. And I, like you so love the adventure of mystery and possibility and staying open to nature's trickery and promise. ANd it seems now that I am home mostly I love whatever comes our way. I adapt each day as my world demands. :-) We are getting ready for our new puppy to arrive on Saturday all the way from Arkansas. We both are in love with her already, - when we look at her pictures we both fill with tears. We are big ole hippie babies!! :-)
I will be posting next week about our new addition.

Love you
Gail
peace.....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Learning to consider the future, remember the past, and LIVE IN THE MOMENT is one of life's greatest lessons.

I will be by to see the new puppy—Icy, right?—just as soon as you post. I know you're excited. I know, too, that lucky little puppy will have a wonderful new home.

Elisabeth said...

Oh scribe, scribe indeed, I'm new to your blog and I love this treatise on the vagaries of nature.

I'm with you her in all ways,though I'd have resisted telling my beloved about the dead deer, that way he wouldn't have been able to deter me from putting in the photo, not that I put up photos anyhow, I'm not as clever as that.

I'm seduced by great writing, which I find here. Thanks so much. I look forward to reading many more of your wonderful posts.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Elisabeth…

First of all, welcome to the riverbank. I'm glad you found your way here, pleased you enjoyed the visit—and hope you'll return often. You're always invited.

Re. the photo…Myladylove's opinion/thoughts were simply taken into consideration. As I said, I'd already delayed nearly a month on doing the piece with a posted photo. She was right in what she said, in that some readers might be put off by the graphic nature of the scene, but honestly not the determining factor. My two reply comments (see above) to KGMom (a fine writer, BTW) are closer to the answer, though maybe not even then quite the whole truth. I'm not sure I know that myself.

Thank you for your nice comments. I hope you always feel free to voice your feelings. We're not always serious here…but we're always friendly.

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ-

we renamed "icy" - she is
"Gracey-Blue". I did a pre-post about her with one picture of her from Arkansas. She is beautiful. Take a look when you have a moment.

It is called "A patchwork quilt for Gracey-Blue". :-)


Tomorrow is also the one year anniversary of my sister's husbands passing - so we will all gather for dinner - and celebrate his life and those he loved. My sister's heart is healing and still heavy. The moment is now.

I love you Grizz
Gail
peace.......

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

I'll be over for a visit to see the new pup. You're going to have a busy, fun time these next few weeks.

It's good that you're all gathering tomorrow in support/remembrance of you sister and late brother-in-law. Nothing beats family and friends when it comes to getting through such times. A hug, a shared tear, a kind and knowing word will trump any medicine even invented.