|Small spring cataract|
The view is long through the tall trees this early in the season. Trees tower, the creek meanders. There are no spring wildflowers yet, and even the wild leeks have not made their appearance, but there is plenty to see—storm damage, woodpecker evidence, and such. Sarah is in her own world of smells, but she comes running when called. We both feel intensely alive in the woods, exploring in our different ways.
|Still contributing in death|
At last, tired and happy, I track to the high, open edge of the woods that opens onto the orchard. There is the view out to South Fox Island, always a satisfying sight. And then—the obvious moment to return to the house--am inspired to go back down to the creek where it turns west. Sarah, never impatient to get back indoors and enthusiastic always over a chance to explore the creek, has no objection.
|Horsetail--a prehistoric plant|
|Low and waterlogged|
Sarah leaps and I wade across (I find a narrow spot and am glad of my boots) and climb up the pine woods slope on the north side, making our way gradually west, i.e., downstream. The whole hillside to the north of the creek is clay, and it is soggy with seeps. Some of them form clearly obvious rivulets through vegetation; in other places the ground is simply very waterlogged like a giant sponge. It is high ground, not low, but the hillside is alive with water running down to the creek. As for the creek, it is swollen over its overgrown banks. I am constantly ducking under or pushing through wild roses, Red osiers, wild grape vines, and young saplings. Here the deer and coyote and fox come to drink. No doubt they make their way more easily.
|Upstream from willows, a tangled path|
At last, shouting distance from my clothesline and strawberry patch, we come opposite our house, to the low area marked from a distance by a line of enormous willows. Over the years the banks of the stream here have become more and more overgrown. It’s no easy stroll down to the water—and the water spreads out in strands and ponds, all of them littered with large dead branches. I make my way cautiously. The first year I had my garden at the farm was a drought year, and we had no working well. I climbed several times a day down to the creek with buckets to fill for the garden. That would be a more difficult proposition now, the creek so overgrown and me fifteen years older. The slope up from creek to house is unstable and risky, too. Rocks thrown here years ago have never completely settled. For an animal as large as a human being, each step must be carefully assayed. Up to the old windmill, safely! Home again!
These rambles will not go on forever. Someday I will be confined to house, yard, and garden. For now, the enjoyment is as great as when I was ten years old—maybe more so, because of my awareness of the limits of time. As a girl, I always wanted to live in the country. Fortunately for me, my parents bought a house on the very edge of a suburb, with farmland on the other side of the road, and one set of Ohio grandparents lived on several acres down a dirt road, on a small paradise of gardens, fruit trees, and raspberry patch, with chickens and a cow. But it was never enough. I wanted the farm, and I wanted the wilderness every day, not only for one week in the summer. It occurs to me that I am now having—and will have for as long as I’m able—the childhood I always wanted.