Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Field Notes From the Cobble

The air is hot and muggy and full of mosquitoes. Walking in the woods is out of the question so we walk the road to the bridge. The Housatonic River rolls under the road there and winds it's way, snakelike, through a series of meadows. Farthest from the edges of road and river, the mosquitoes are fewer and it is possible to stand still for a moment to watch the water dimple and swirl over rocks and gravel as it makes its way to the Long Island Sound 100 or so miles away.

On the opposite side of the bridge is a bit of marshland bordering a vast corn field. Common egrets feed there, and a blue heron. Possums and raccoons forage at the water's edge, and foxes and coyotes hunt the small mice and voles that hide in the tall grasses. We bend over tracks left in the mud, now dried and cracked. A wild turkey has been there, and a coyote. A possum has left small starred marks and an egret landed, leaving its splayed three-toed sign.

In August the roadsides are awash in shades of white and blue. Queen Anne's Lace holds wide, saucer-like flowers to the sun. Wild blue chickory (we call them cornflowers) always grows in the same place. Goldenrod plumes glow yellow even though the sun is hidden behind a thick haze. In the distance, low clouds kiss the tops of the mountains. The harsh call of a crow breaks the silence. A duck answers from the river.

If one is still enough and quiet, the river and meadow will yield their secrets. The industrious bee, the stinging mosquito, the feeding birds, the transitory water all have stories to tell. I import them into my own day's tale and share them here with you.


Brian Hayes said...

"watch the water dimple" :-)

Surveying near the Yukon forty years ago, you would have seen me inside a plume of smoke as I walked through clouds of mosquitoes so dense the horizon wiggled. So desperate, I roped a bucket to my waist and built a little fire, stoking it with green wood as I worked down the line.

focusfinder said...

So, this was probably why Granny Clampett always smoked a clay pipe.

Pauline said...

I would have quit that job for sure Brian ;)

Ok, B - that one flew right over my head...what do you mean?

Land of shimp said...

Very nicely done :-) It's been quite a long time since I've visited Long Island, but your words made me remember the atmosphere vividly. You really conjured a feeling as well as images.

I also enjoyed your story about being struck by lightning. That must have been rather harrowing, particularly in the aftermath. Like you, I appreciate a wild storm, it's the tremendous power that attracts me.

I have a feeling that like you, I'd also lose my love for them if something like that happened! I'm glad you escaped primarily unscathed. Still, I'm sorry your lost your love of storms, although it's entirely understandable. There is something very freeing about them, watching something that we can't control at all is oddly liberating.

Until you nearly go Pffft, that is.

Paul said...

I don't know why, but I've always appreciated the look of wildflowers much more than - uh, what's the word - domesticated flowers?? Maybe it's that they tend to be smaller, less massive - something about them has more eye-appeal for me.

Meggie said...

Another lovely glimpse into a world unknown. Beautiful.

Pauline said...

Thanks, Meggie :)

Paul - I love them all, domesticated and wild. I used to pick bouquets for the house but now I just enjoy them where they grow

LOS - thanks for stopping by and commenting. I, too, wish storms didn't scare me now the way they do.

Barbara said...

Bucolic! I always loved Queen Anne's Lace, the most elegant of wildflowers.

Brian Hayes said...

Golly, I can trip in my own sentences.

I used a metal bucket tied over my shoulder at the waist. I started a small fire with kindling and sticks until I had a glowing coke in the bottom of the pail.

As I walked, I added green leaves and clippings of fresh spruce or pine until a plume of smoke covered me. I adjusted the bucket front and back around my waist so that I could see and breathe fresh air, but from the waist up I was almost entirely inside smoke. No skeeters.

For black flies, the tundra generated trillions during their desperate life cycle, there's always the trick of dipping a hard hat in diesel oil. By coffee break, one hundred thousand flies were buzzing belly-up on the top of my head!! A sight to behold :-)

herhimnbryn said...

Beautiful, except for the Mozzies! They can get like that here in the summer.

Ruth D~ said...

Like a Waldon's Pond tale. Beautiful I feel like I went along!

PhilipH said...

Lovely photos and delightful text.

Nobody loves "skeeters", (purloined that word from Brian Hayes' comment; thanks BH). I hate 'em, as well as all nasty little blighters (biters?) that are abundant this summer. Midges are the curse of the Scottish countryside!

There is an enormous increase in the 7-spot ladybirds in the UK this year too. On tv it showed a shed covered in them. These are, of course, the gardener's friend and most people take kindly to them.

We've also been invaded by those tiny black pollen beetles. They are all over my Shasta daisies and Nasturtiums; leave the door open too long and these little beggars fly in.

I have a friend who lives in Birmingham Alabama, and he also has a small farm in Gordo. He seems to have plenty of insects this year too. We met him on one of his visits to Mellerstain, back in 1996. Nice chap, lovely wife. We have a standing invitation to stay with them but I have to resist. I cannot abide very hot climates and I'm a lazy traveller. But it's great to meet such people when they visit this old Scottish pile called Mellerstain.

Pauline said...

Brian - I may have to try your bug repellent tactics. It will make a jolly post ;)

Thanks HHB. They've been particularly bad this year because of our wet wet early summer.

Ruth - :) Come along anytime!

Philip - if ever I am anywhere near Scotland I'll give you a buzz ;)