Category Archives: Hill Dog Writes

The Hill Dog Writes is a collection of writings by The Hill Dog.

Pearl Buds

Temperatures have been ranging from -15 to near +50 degrees leaving the tree buds and limbs alternately coated with ice and snow. When the sun illuminates them, the frozen water droplets seem almost as iridescent as pearls.

“I know I shouldn’t do this, I know I shouldn’t say this.” I announced to my co-workers when I walked in one morning earlier this week holding a piece of ice in my hand.

“Think of what an 80 degree day feels like. Now think of how different from that a 40 degree day feels. Point being, a temperature differential of 40 degrees is significant. ”

“I did some math just now and realized that the piece of ice in my hand at 32 degrees, is more than 40 degrees warmer than the current air temperature of – 15.” They smirked, shook their heads, and continued to layer up.

We bundled up and got on the chairlift. By the time I reached the top, the half inch gap between my goggles and hood had let enough air on my cheeks to cause them to burn. I had felt this before, and knew that if left exposed, my skin would soon freeze.

I added my face mask to all my other layers, and set to morning chores. 

The weather station on top of the mountain reported -12 air temperature – warmer than the valleys. With the wind sensor frozen, we estimated a 15-20 mph wind consistent with current weather reports. 

Soon word came down that given the combination of ice, cold, wind and bad roads, we would close for the day. So, we undid the chores done so far, packed up, and enjoyed the day from inside the home.

Once there, curiosity got the best of me,  so I looked up and found that a 20 mph wind with -12 air temperature resulted in a -37 degree wind chill. The National Weather Service calculates under these conditions, exposed flesh will freeze in less than 10 minutes. My chairlift ride seemed to confirm this.

We had eaten a good breakfast, and layered up in warm technical clothing. Though with preparation, caution and mindfulness we could have stayed outside, it was a nice day to enjoy from the warm side of the windows.

 

 

Snowbow

Recently a snowbow was visible for several minutes from the top of Elk Mountain.

All forms of precipitation were in the sky that day: rain, snow and sleet. By the time colors revealed, everything had turned to snow showers.

Later that night while lying in bed alone, I felt a presence in the bedroom. Spirits and deamons have visited before, but this sensation was different.

Soon I thought I was hearing voices. Not like a night the week before when similar sounds were identified by opening a window and confirming that the haunting voices were indeed a chorus of coyotes feeding nearby.

The wind continued to increase, sometimes enough to feel my centuries old wooden home shake.  Then, finally, the rumbles that could have been a truck traveling nearby, or an intruder trying to force entry downstairs, gave way to a sharp, resounding crack.

Night thunder and lightening during a snow fall!

Since then, the damp, anemic weather has given way to proper winter cold.  What I at first felt to be some kind of mystic presence was just a potent change in temperature and pressure.

Sometimes, unusual or dramatic episodes are just what it takes to get things back to normal.

 

 

 

Breakfast Date

An early appointment the day of the storm had me awake closer to daybreak than usual.

As I walked across the living room, I noticed that the leaves of the houseplant, that “found it’s window” several years ago were trembling.

Even though they calmed to stillness  when I stopped walking, I kept looking at the leaves.

I perceived that I saw them start to move again, growing, turning, yearning for pale dawn light.

Movement in the yard drew my eyes through the window, beyond the plant.

There, a sentinel doe draws attention from her young buck as they breakfast. His rack raw and white, velvet recently scraped, now ready for rut, ready for winter.

Birch

This birch, too close to neighbor hemlock, grows leaning, finds sun where it can. This wet pale October shows little more color than this birch scar.

Maple splashes yellow here and faraway there. Squalls alternate sun, blue and wet across the sky. Playful youngsters now, they’ll mature as real cold sets, getting running starts from west of Erie.

Almost snow today, cold to soon come. Any last colors will present, dry and fall as seasons deepen.

October Morning Geese

While enjoying the temperature and clarity of a fine October morning, the distinctive honking of geese punctuated an otherwise calm mist rising from the valley.

After what seemed like minutes, the gaggle revealed itself. Flying at a considerable altitude, these birds were not commuting across the neighborhood; they were on their way with intent.

From the back of the yard, a doe snorts,  flashes buff from the tall grass, comes to attention, ears poised, eyes intent, gauging me as friend or threat.

The shadow crossing the sun and yard pulls my eyes up as a tree top turkey vulture pulses wings toward unobstructed sky.

Colors seep slowly stronger, gilding leaves and hills, on this fine October morning.

 

 

 

Woodchuck with Apple

For this being and it’s ilk, frequenting my backyard used to be a risky and dangerous behaviour – one with potentially fatal consequences.

A couple of decades ago, dog became frenzied, straining, nearly choking herself on her run every time a woodchuck came out of it’s hole under the outhouse. This went on for many days.

After several mornings of hunt and hide, I and my trusty .22 Browning lever action dispatched one of this critter’s ancestors on the very spot he now enjoys an apple.

Every once in a while over the past few weeks, for the first time in years, I’ve been enjoying target practice with that .22.

I first looked through the open sites of that rifle around a half century ago. As my time with it accumulated, I became able to shoot far away paper targets, woodchucks and rabbits at will. Killed them all.

My backyard’s last dog has been gone for over a year. The woodchuck doesn’t really bother me that much. The way he eats apples, kind of reminds me of how a racoon handles food.

This summer, I’ve been reliably killing already chipped coffee cups and paper plates from well over one hundred feet; shooting as well as I can remember.

When hands and eyes were younger, I’d align the sites on the target, take a breath, hold still and pull the trigger.

Now, I align the sites on the target, try not to move, wait until the sites drift across the target and shoot.

Though they have many times before, lately, those sites never drift across woodchucks, racoons, or rabbits.

Cardinal

Yesterday, a brilliant cardinal came to, and knocked on the living room’s north window.

Given it’s persistence on wanting entry to the house, I wondered if the bird was someone I knew or had met before. 

A bud vase filled with feathers found, hawk, turkey, and others, decorates the view from one of the living room’s east windows.

Drawn there today, the cardinal perched, then knocked again before taking to wing.

Snow Tree Shadows

Literally, skiing is a sensuous sport.

The shadows cast by snow storm coated trees contrasted against an impossibly blue sky is visually interesting, and to some very pleasing.

One could argue that tastes and scents are not nearly so obvious as pleasing views of scenery and weather.  Another may counter that discerning such senses takes time and dedication.

It may take decades of winters letting snowflakes land on your tongue before you can tell the difference between the taste of a somewhat raw December snowflake and a fully ripened February snowflake.

A bitter cold dawn smells much more clear than one that rises above freezing, damp, soupy, thick with moisture.

On the first chairlift ride,  faint smell of diesel fuel intrudes, then evaporates as snow cats, having groomed all night,  head back to the barn, rendering slopes to the days first guests.

Continuing through corridors of pines, soft wind pulls through trees, seasons air with scent of turpentine.

Above, crows caw to each other completing their morning congress. Below, squirrels chirp and chatter scurrying this way and that, hunting for and finding breakfast in places that looked like good spots to hide nuts last Autumn.

Skiing in a storm that has already delivered several inches of snow, contracts the world.

A down hood bundled under a helmet eliminates distant noises, making the world much smaller. 

Falling snow obscures everything but ski tips rhythmically thrusting out of surface snow, disappearing back in, again and again, as snow clouds explode against boots, knees and thighs.

Core instinctively poses and flexes, at once sensing and balancing speed, snow depth and body posture, keeping feet swinging back and forth, moving above the ground, below the air.

Ears hear only heartbeat and breath.

Thought stops.

So freed from earth, subject neither to ground or sky, dwelling in between, turn by turn, precious moment by precious moment,