Present Tucson Temperature - 95 DEGREES. I just had to go into the deep freezer and come up with a COOL STORY.
The past few weeks have not been good. You know, one downer after another.
So we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and take our version of an UPPER ! (the Peninsula, that is.)
I posted this story in December, 2006.
The following events took place in 1977, four years after our move to the Upper Peninsula. I believe this one experience is a summation of all the emotional and devotional attitudes that I havedeveloped over the years toward nature in general and living in the forest in particular.
There is such a thing as total recall, at least in my case, when the stimuli of recollecting certain times and happenings flood my memory.
In 1959, Chuck and Lee Battilocchi and Peggy and I began a friendship that has forever endured. Chuck and I played handball at the NE YMCA during the winter and in the summer we would play on the outdoor courts at Belle Isle. Lee and Peg would form a close relationship and it seemed like partytime every time we got together. Social visits in the evening could last until 5:00 in the morning.
Our stamina for those evenings would be reinforced by two or three bottles of Bronte’s Cream Sherry. Chuck was and still is a dyed in the wool, conservative old Italian and I was a flaky and flagrant Irishman. Our philosophies were eons apart but our relationship flourished because I think we each sensed the absence of certain qualities in our own psyches that were supplied by the other.
We left Detroit in December of 1973. Our relationship with Chuck and Lee lagged. Eventually, in 1977, we coaxed them to come visit us during the Thanksgiving day weekend. They arrived about three in the afternoon, the day before Thanksgiving. It was one of those incredible winter days of delight. A snow-covered landscape, a sunny sky, a 30 degree temperature and awafting wind that gave perceptible movements to the tree branches.
As friends are wont to do, we just picked up from where we left off four years ago. Chuck and Italked our boy talk and the girls did their girl talk. Lee and Peg became engrossed in the minutia of flora and fauna that flourished even in the
winter. Chuck and I were left to our own designs. I asked him if he was hungry. He said no. It was four o’clock. I suggested we take a walk. I told him, if we hurry, we can be back by eight o’clock, just in time for dinner. He just said, “O.K., let’s go.”
We took the Blazer 3 miles down the road to the Block House Camp, where we parked. The camp was located on a bluff from which there was a marked trail, leading down to the swamp, frozen over at that time of year, that opened unto a pristine meadow and then, a sparsely wooded area known as the Cherry Flats because of the preponderance of fallen Cherry Trees. It was an elliptical trail of perhaps 3 miles leading back to the swamp trail. I knew it by heart. K.O. and I had taken it many times. (K.O. is another story.) So Chuck and I embarked on that trail.
I always carried my rifle and hunting license with me whenever I was in the field during deer hunting seasons. I felt I always had to continue the character charade of being a “deer hunter.” (In 30 years of hunting I neither shot, nor intended to shoot a deer. I just loved to talk the talk and walk the walk.)
That late afternoon and evening were, as I described above, just a magical evening. It happened to be, as I knew beforehand, the night of the full moon. I had no fear of being in the woods at night. In our latitude, at that time, dusk fell about 5:30 p.m. With the full moon reflecting off of the snow-covered
land it was daylight all night long. The incredible shadows that were cast throughout the evening created an ever-changing landscape. A lazy, ethereal snowfall began. The flakes were soft and not intrusive. We walked in silence. There are times and occasions when no words are necessary between
friends. There is that all too rare combination of mood and time and place when even a God has neither rhyme nor reason to enhance the situation. So we walked, slowly, meditatively and complacently. We had walked about a mile when we encountered the buck. We had come upon a cleared area. It resembled a race track. A logging operation had created a circular trail around the clearing but the
center of it was overgrown with brush. We were just inside the tree line, looking across the clearing, when we saw him. He was feeding on some low hanging cedar boughs A stream of moonbeams bathed his outline and his image glistened from the reflection of melting snow flakes on his hide. The buck had
already sensed us. He was staring intently in our direction, but we were in the shadows. I raised a cautionary hand and Chuck nodded in assent.
We were three statues. One, frozen in the moonlight, the other two, quivering in anticipation as to what might transpire. An eternity passed, then another. Neither side was willing to flinch. If we were to win this battle of wills, the buck would finally resume his browsing and drift silently away. But we were not wily enough for this adversary. It was his backyard and bucks do not die of old age if they are
not aware of everything around them. After about 20 seconds he began to paw the ground with his fore paw. Once, twice, three times and then, with a snort, he bounded into the air like a will o’ the wisp and was gone. I raised my rifle to the sky and fired off a round to acknowledge the prowess of the buck, to remind him never to let his caution lag and to salute him for the majesty of the moment.
We finished our trek in silence. We got back to the swamp trail and followed it to the Blazer. It was nearly eight o’clock. There are many different kinds of orgasms to experience in life. Exquisite feelings of pleasure, some of which can be repeated or recaptured, and a few that can happen only once. The latter was our
experience when we returned to our newly finished home in the woods.
Our outer clothing was damp from the lightly falling snow. Our underwear wet from the perspiration of the excitement of our duel with the buck.
As we walked toward the house, the pungent, yet mellow smell of wood smoke, belching from the chimney, pleasured our nostrils and that was only the foreplay. As we entered the back door, the anticipation of further delights assailed us in the aromas from the simmering pot of soup on the cook stove. We quickly changed into dry clothing and hurried into the living room where the orgy was in full
swing. The girls were well into their cups, of wine that is, and we joined them.
The Franklin Stove was in rare form as well. The basic fuel for our very charming, albeit, almost useless heating instrument, was either beech wood or hard maple. But to enhance the aesthetics of the flames we would add a piece of cherry wood for some snap, crackle and pop and a piece of apple wood for a bit of vibrant green color. For the first year or so we tried to guard against the snap and pop of the cherry wood because it played hell with the carpeting in the living room, but we eventually capitulated and said the heck with it, let it burn. We all sat facing the Franklin, behind which were the 4 sliding glass doors overlooking the lake. It
was illuminated by the full moon and glowed as if awaiting the ice show to begin.Our resident performer that night was a fiery red fox who danced across the ice like the prima donna it was.
The climax of the day and evening came when we retired to the dining table on the east wall overlooking the valley and we feasted on home made pea soup and home made bread. Anything more would have been sinful. With belly full and soul at peace we waited for the ultimate consummation of the sensual excitement we had experienced that day and evening. We sat at the dining room table looking into the valley. We knew they would come long before Kevin Costner ever had a clue. Like clockwork, the deer would congregate in our valley and browse. This night, in the light of the moon, they were vivid. Their performance was spectacular,,,,,and peaceful!
There would be many more nights like this in the years to come and every one of them would yield their own special brilliance and memories.
Before going to bed that evening, Chuck told me that whatever I had planned for the rest of the week-end would never top that nocturnal hike through the woods.
In conclusion, I was going to say---