Friday, April 22, 2011

High And Dry

We skipped through an extravagangiing Amherst center...

...hung a right and headed down and out of town for the beautiful, peaceful wood and water of Amethyst Brook.

The brook was roaring on this day. Possibly the highest levels and flows we've ever seen here, at least in our handful of visits.

This presented a problem on our usual circular route when we found the fording section of the brook completely unfordable; except for a precarious balancing act across a teetering board.

A couple years ago Kelly and I would have chanced it. But not in these baby and doggy bound days.

Better to take the long way back...'s a nice day for a walk anyway.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Rough And Tumble

A Sunday drive with the baby-scrums took us near UMass, where there was a rugby-scrum afoot.

We pulled up along a field-side gravel road, and were able to watch the game right from the comforts of the vehicle. I took pics of the game while the baby changed radio settings, emptied compartments of their contents and relocated the rear view mirror to the rear seat.

That stuff can wait. The game had captured my attention.

Admittedly, there isn't too much I know about the game of Rugby other than what I've read about on Wikipedia or seen a handful of times by chance. What I do know is it's one rough and tumble sport to play, and just about if not as exciting as American style football to watch.

This is definitely a game yet unpadded by the litigious set, or otherwise hampered by anything resembling modern health and safety scruples.

Couple that with the preeminence of our vaunted NFL, and you know there won't be a 'Monday Night Rugby' on ABC any time soon. This game is still relegated to the more curious and exotic tiers of world sports that haven't quite hit it here but are a blast to play; taking it's station somewhere between soccer and lacrosse.

Still, kudos to these hearty souls who brave this game's inherent risks, in order to make the victory or defeat that much more ...real.

For them, and for us.

Monday, April 4, 2011

New Neighbors

Sunday afternoon warmed up into the fifties and Kelly, who was just getting back from walking the dog, poked her head in the door. "Hey, do you hear that?"

I turned down the tv. "Hear what?"

"Listen, it sounds like wild turkeys fighting or something."

Getting up and stepping out back, I did hear it. It sounded like, well, two turkeys fighting each other. Strange, loud warbling and cackling.

Hmm. Wild turkeys mating or fighting = good pictures, I shrewdly gauged. In less than a minute camera was in hand. Checking battery level and settings while hustling by Kelly, baby and doggy; daddy plunged into the woods a' huntin'.

Pacing along the still-wet leaf clutter gently pushing aside prickly branches and side-stepping potentially snapping fallen twigs, all effort was made to advance as silently as possible. Course was adjusted with the occasional renewed warbling, which was now becoming more and more intermittent. At last, the sounds stopped altogether. I continued on more or less towards the last heard chatter.

The house was long out of sight now, I wasn't completely sure where I was and no more sounds had been heard for several minutes. A new direction was about to be taken when through the brush there was a gigantic old tree. It was easily the tallest around and it's upper half was leaning, almost precariously. And at it's base was an equally gigantic, dark opening.

The old tree trunk looked hollowed out. The opening was big enough to shelter a human, or two if needed. Or a few turkeys.

...or any other animal, for that matter.

Stepping forward even more cautiously, carefully placing feet upon mossy stones and fallen logs, stopping and proceeding, edging closer.

Then to the right of the tree there was a sudden movement. Something large and furry rustled off, taking it's time, into the brush. It didn't look scared, it was simply moving off.

I froze. My first thought was that it was fairly big. Big enough to be a bear cub.

My second thought: where's it's mommy.

Looking around in every direction, I started to backpeddle, ready to crash back through the woods if need be; gripping the camera strap and ready to swing it like a mace, if need be. Hoping Kelly had enough detergent to clean my shorts later, if need be.

Then, one last glance back at the tree before swinging around revealed a member of my potential adversary; peeking out from around the back, a cold fury in it's eyes.

A sigh of relief doesn't cover it.

A minute later the apparent matriarch also emerged and very, very slowly scaled up the tree-side for a better look at their visitor.

Not too knowledgeable in the ways of the raccoon; whether they were the mysterious warblers I don't know. But by the groggy way they seemed to be moving about, I suspect they were just waking up from hibernation. I backed off and left them to their business.

Heading back, it occurred that we'd better make sure the trash cans are secured; there'll be a reciprocating visit from them in the coming months, no doubt.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April. Where Have You Been.

Remember that scene at the end of 'The Wrath of Khan' were Ricardo Montalban says something to the effect of "With my last breath, I grapple with thee.."? That phrase was running through my brain this morning as I gazed dumbfounded at this Interminable Winter's final cast.

Crossing that rare snowy line into April just to ensure we don't soon forget the long bitter slog it put us through this year.

...that thought followed closely by "sure is pretty, tho'."

As alarming as the late season white was, it didn't come close to the forecasters' dire predictions of a foot or so of the heavy variety. By noontime in fact it was pretty much all gone in the valley. By three o'clock, I was strolling a wet but snowless Arcadia wildlife sanctuary on this day of turning, wistfully contemplating future and past.

It was still a little chilly, but unlike the cold afternoons of autumn, there was the warming hope of gentler days on the way, taking the edge off the breeze. Soon and definitely, all will be green and full of life again.

Problems will begin to feel just that much lighter, energy will seem that much stronger; the long gray winter will shrink and fade to small distant shadow.

The colors will come back, the leaves will rustle, the animals will move;

...and reasons for it all will seem reasonable, once again.