Monday, October 27, 2014


Every morning, when I step outside the cottage for a closer look at the river, it's generally the upstream view that first garners my attention.

Why? What prompts such preferential behavior?

After all, I have a choice—upstream or downstream. Both directions afford similar, quarter-mile stretches to scan before the stream disappears from sight around a bend. And I'd be hard pressed to choose one setting over the other as being more visually interesting—or think it any more likely to be frequented by the usual array of birds and riverine critters I such delight in watching.

Moreover, I'm already facing downstream as I exit the door, which is located on the building's side end nearest the river. Before I can gaze all the way upstream, I must first take a couple of paces to the right and swing around the corner of the house. 

Yet when I go out, I'm nonetheless apt, initially, to do little more than give the downstream water a brief and passing glance—unless something interesting catches my eye.

Again…why? If the two river views are physically equal, photogenically comparable, and uniform in their potential attraction to wildlife, shouldn't my daily first views be fairly evenly divided?

Having mused over this seeming conundrum a while, I've come to suspect the answer lies tangled somewhere amid a murky mix of history, philosophy, and metaphor.

As a lifelong stream fisherman who's cast his flies and ultralight lures on creeks, rivers, and purling brooks all over North America, and who admittedly seldom met a piece of running water he didn't long to explore—from ultimate merging with other waters to birthing source as a bubbling spring or mountain rill—I've almost always done my angling and investigating in an upstream direction. I'm doubtless programmed by personal history to gravitate to the upstream view.

Philosophically, in spite of my regular whining, I'm more optimist than pessimist, a glass-is-half-full fellow who tries to look ahead. The upstream view is, in physical fact, an early look at whatever is traveling along with the flow. Bobbing and swirling in the eddies. Slowing through the pools. Sparkling as it tumbles and chatters down the riffles. Moving water, heading my way, bringing all sorts of interesting gifts.  

And finally, moving waters all possess an honest and beautiful capacity, metaphorically, for poignantly illustrating and illuminating that restless earthly passage we call our life. I hope a day's first look is made upstream because the joy I find in being blessed with another morning somehow sparks the courage to face my immediate future.                   

Monday, October 6, 2014


There's an old country saying that "seasons go floating downstream." That's certainly the case for autumn, or at least the early, multicolored leaf portion, as anyone who lives beside a Midwestern creek or river can readily attest.

While our annual patchwork pageantry presentation of changing leaves has only recently begun—I don't expect our local color peak to occur for at least a couple more weeks—many leaves have already done their thing, flown their colors, and subsequently losened their grip on limb and twig. All it takes is a little puff of wind to bring them spinning down…or sometimes no wind at all.

That's now starting to happen here along the river, though the number of leaves on the water varies. Yesterday the channel exiting the pool in front of the cottage was fairly full; today, there's hardly a leaf to be seen. The difference? Wind. Yesterday was gusty, bringing down lots of ready-to-fall leaves. Today is damp, cloudy, but calm…not many leaves are being displaced from the trees.

However, these are early days so far as leaf fall is concerned. In the days and weeks to come, the number of leaves coming down will increase dramatically, until finally almost every tree in the woods and along the banks of the river will be stripped bare. Only the occasional stubborn oak will hang onto their now-brown leaves—many of which will remain on the tree until the start of spring's new growth. 

Of course, not all the leaves from the trees in my yard fall into the river. Not even all the leaves on the dozen or so big sycamores which lean over the dark, moving currents like thoughtful white-robed druids peering into a magic pool. As much as I appreciate the soil-enriching nutrients and moisture-holding fiber of the load after load after load of leaves which we rake up each autumn, heave into the wheelbarrow, and subsequently dump in great heaps onto the compost pile, I wouldn't be upset if a lot more of them took it upon themselves to find their way onto the water instead of my flower beds and struggling lawn. 

Still, I rather enjoy sweeping my way from the front door, across the deck, and along the graveled walkway—if for no other reason than it's good practice for winter's coming snows. Plus there are always countless "found" still life images to possibly photograph, or at least admire momentarily before I sweep them into oblivion. 

Friday, October 3, 2014


I awakened a bit past 2:00 a.m. this morning. Shoulders and forearms ached, my back throbbed, and my hands were swollen and stiff. All attributable to having spent part of yesterday in the self-abusing joy of maneuvering several ash logs around in order to saw them into 18-inch lengths so they can then be split into proper firewood. Some of these logs are 5 or 6 feet long, better than 20-inches in diameter, and hundreds of pounds in weight; heavy and recalcitrant.

The good news is my snazzy new chainsaw and cant hook both worked like champs, making the task easier—which is not to say easy. The bad news is I barely made a dent in the five truckloads of similar logs the tree-cutter has so far dumped in the parking area—with a sixth load yet to be delivered.

The conclusion I reached amid the pain and darkness was that while I may not survive to see the winter—if I do, I'll be toasty warm all the way to next spring.

After mulling this mixed thought awhile, I got up and shuffled into the front room, figuring to spend the remainder of the night in the recliner. Possibly a less horizontal repositioning would allow sleep. At least I wouldn't disturb Myladylove by tossing and turning. 

First, though, Moon-the-Dog, awakened by the room change and having followed my wandering, let me know she needed to have a few minutes outdoors. I went along.

The sky was overcast, intensifying the darkness. It was surprisingly warm—almost cloying. For a quarter hour I stood quite while Moon snuffled about the yard, stirring through the day's augmentation of new-fallen leaves. Off to my right the river purled softly along. And from all sides, a loud chorus of crickets and katydids, chirruped and whirred, buzzed and clicked. The seldom seen night fiddlers, those singing insects who so audibly define our summer evenings.

Alas, their days are numbered. Local weather forecasts are currently warning that tonight may drop as low as 37˚F. Not quite a killing frost night, but probably cold enough to thin the ranks of these nocturnal musicians. 

I'll miss them. And I can't help but wonder when the end will come for the fine little green meadow katydid I found sitting atop the handle of my mitre-box saw this weekend, and whose portrait heads this post.  

The katydid shot is one of only a few photos I've managed these past several weeks. And I've done even worse writing blog posts. Yet I kept meaning to do both.

Instead, I ("we" really, since the same holds true for Myladylove) have concentrated on trying to get as many "To Do" list tasks completed as possible before foul weather sets in—to the point that every spare minute has been commandeered. And now, of course, there's all that wood!

I may turn green myself…