Category Archives: Hill Dog Writes

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

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,

Ten Below

Cold.

The kind of cold that demands forbearance. Day after day after day of near and sub-zero temperatures that finds it’s way into our bones, and daily conversations.

Just after finishing opening chores I came off the mountain to take a break in the ski lodge when someone asked “How’s the snow?”

“Good skiin’!” I replied enthusiastically. “Cold. Damn cold.” I thought to myself.

Before chores were over, cold found it’s way between my goggles and hood. Like a dog might snarl before a full bite, cold nipped my cheek, reminding me, warning me, this kind of cold will freeze flesh in a very few moments. 

“What did you have for breakfast, miss?” 

After the words left my mouth, I realized how personal a question that was to ask a total stranger. Maybe even inappropriate.

“Eggs with ham, and cheese.” the woman replied patiently, almost with a hint of contrition in her voice.

“That sounds good, but no bread?” I asked. “No, no bread.”

“Well don’t be shy about having a snack if you feel like it. Pretty cold, you’ll burn it up quick.”

The cold caused me concern. For myself, and anyone else sharing the outdoors in this arctic air.

I didn’t eat lunch in the cafeteria as I usually do.

“Did you eat lunch today?” asked the cafeteria cashier when I saw her in the lodge later in the afternoon.

She seemed satisfied when I recited “Some chips and cheese, two hot dogs on buns, and homemade cookies with cherry stuff on top that someone’s wife had made and sent up to ski patrol base for us to share, and plenty of hot tea to wash it all down.”

More ‘crude but effective’ than ‘healthy’ diet I thought. No matter. Whatever you throw in the furnace on a day like today will burn quick just keeping the animal warm.

“That’s good – you must have good clothing on too.” she said.

“Yes I do – and lot’s of it!”

Riding the lift later, another ski patroller asked me if I knew how many layers he had on. Before I could say anything, he declared “All of them!” I inventoried my own kit and counted seven.

The weather station never reported temperatures warmer then two below zero. A steady and gusty wind kept the windchill hovering between 24 and 27 degrees below zero.

The kind of cold that provokes compassion. The kind of cold that makes you feel lucky and grateful if you have a warm bed and enough heat. 

The kind of cold that makes it obvious how important it is we tend to each other’s, and our own animal’s well being.

Sundial Eclipse

Sundial Eclipse

All of a sudden it seemed, the day of the eclipse arrived. Friends had shared plans to travel hundreds of miles to “the path of totality” to experience a total eclipse of the sun.

Monday morning, I realized that I was woefully unprepared. No welding goggles, no eclipse viewing glasses. I found paper plates in the cabinet, and experimented with different size pinholes.  At least I would see the eclipse’s shadow.

I had gone to the farm stand and picked up fresh vegetables to make a casserole, portion and freeze. Maybe leave some in the freezer long enough to have a taste of summer when things turn winterish.

I began cooking before noon. The clock drifted toward the time when the eclipse would peak. When time came, I went out to the patio where the sun dial happens to be, and observed the eclipse with my paper plates.  

Crescent shadows appeared on the paper plate as the moon obscured seventy-five percent of the sun, leaving it still too bright to look at without protection.

“Interesting and fun” I thought as I went inside to the kitchen, but not nearly as dramatic as the view from an area of totality. Everybody has a different eclipse experience, I guess.

As I turned back to cutting carrots I noticed all the holes in the colander and wondered what kind of a shadow it would cast.

I found that the colander shadow eclipsed the sundial,
a constellation of star shaped crescents cast by both moon and sun.