The butternut chronicle: Nov. 11, 1998

For those who just tuned in, I’m transcribing and reworking the notes from an old journal consisting entirely of thoughts and observations made while sitting on my front porch. The butternut tree that then dominated the view has since fallen over, and I have yet to reconcile myself to its loss – or to the imminent loss of its species, currently being wiped out throughout its range by a disease of unknown origin and poorly understood epidemiology.

I’m a day late on this one, but that’s O.K. because I didn’t include an entry for November 12. I was starting to run out of steam at this point.

Rain, forty-four degrees. It’s Veterans Day, a holiday of no special significance for my family but a somber time nonetheless. I’m out on the porch at 5:40 a.m. with my coffee. When I sneeze, all of a sudden, there’s the sound of two or three dozen hooves running up the hillside through the woods in the drizzly darkness.

“Rain before seven, clear by eleven” actually comes true, for once. I’m out again at a quarter till twelve. I hear the happy croaks of ravens soaring high over Sapsucker Ridge.

A bluejay is making a nuisance of himself in the lilac bush, trying for some reason to chase out all the other birds – juncos and chickadees. He flaps awkwardly through the maze of branches, screaming, no match for the smaller birds who simply turn the tables and start dive-bombing him. He beats a hasty retreat.

1:40 p.m. A series of harsh, throat-clearing noises from the top of the ridge, reminiscent of that strange sound nighthawks make when they dive, only not as loud. Then a few minutes later the resident redtail drops in, landing on the branch of an oak tree some fifty feet up from the edge of the woods. This really sets off all the squirrels. Annoying as their alarm calls are, I always enjoy listening to the way they spread like signal fires from tree to tree, squirrel to squirrel. After half a minute or so the hawk takes off and heads down-hollow, skimming just under the canopy. The chatter of startled squirrels follows him like a wake.

Series Navigation← The butternut chronicle: Nov. 10, 1998Butternut chronicle: Nov. 13, 1998 →

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