Tag Archives: nature

Thursday June 8th; A Wild Kind of Love

Thursday June 8th

Partly cloudy, 70’s, full moon tomorrow, early evening

photo by natasha

 

A couple of weeks ago while they were out foraging,  Wil and our sweet friend Ben found a deer that had been killed by coyotes.

The kill was so recent that most likely Wil and Ben had scared the hunters away from their meal as they passed through, which meant that there were fresh coyote tracks scattered throughout the area, and the deer’s blood still ran liquid from its wounds.

By the time I was able to get out to check out the spot later that day, flies were already busily laying their eggs in the meat and hide, and the doe’s beautiful eyes had clouded over. Cool to the touch, eviscerated, and peppered with bite wounds, laying a hand on her flank I said a quiet thanks for the chance to see such a thing here in this fairly urban woodland, and hoped her death had been quick and as painless as possible.

Wil and I have long suspected that coywolves prowled this particular area. On the line between urban/suburban park/woodland, and the manicured greens of a popular golf course, there’s a wooded hillside closed to hikers that borders the river on one side. A stealthy wild  canine could happily reside in such a spot and hunt and forage in the surrounding areas including the edges of the city and about 500 acres of park with a healthy, thriving deer population. If I was a coywolf, its certainly the place that I would choose to call home. (Actually, I’d be happy to call such a place home as a human too! But I digress…)

We’ve looked for sign of them before and as my love of coyotes has grown over the years so have our tracking efforts. But our searching resulted in not much- a couple of questionable, dusty half-tracks, and a small sample of possible scat. And yet, all of our instincts were telling us this land was the perfect spot for them.

In recent years the Coywolf population has blossomed here in the northeast and all over eastern north america. Also called the Eastern Coyote, the name Coywolf refers to their genetic make-up, a mixture of  Eastern Wolf, Western Coyote, and Domestic Dog. As wolf populations dropped wolves began to mate with western coyotes and the coywolf hybrid was born.

Incredibly secretive, mostly nocturnal and happy dwelling in the edgy kind of habitats we humans are so fond of creating, the Coywolf is filling an incredibly important predatorial niche in habitats all over its range.

I was happy just suspecting they were living here. But to know for sure? Makes my heart skip a beat.

Because theirs is a story of adaptation, of resiliency. Of wolves and coyotes finding a way to raise families and stay alive under impossible odds and nearly constant persecution by our agricultural  society. It’s a story of shape shifting, of cultural adaptation and the survival of an ancient way of life in the face of a civilization at war with all things wild.

I would still love to see a Coywolf, and maybe I will someday. It’s an especially tantalizing thought now that I know they are actually right there, practically my neighbors.

But part of me just wants them to stay hidden. To live out their secret primal lives without human eyes, or our desires, landing upon them.

And that’s a special kind of love, a wild kind of love. The kind of love we don’t need to possess to enjoy, where just feeling the presence of another’s soul is enough, and there is great joy in knowing they are free.

This piece is dedicated to our dog Buck, who passed away a few days ago and totally broke our hearts in a way I was not expecting. He was our faithful companion for over 12 years, and was for sure woven into the very fabric of our lives. Hope you felt you had a good life buddy, and hope the hunting is good where you are now. Love you old boy, we all miss you very much.

 

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March 28th, Paint

March 28th

late afternoon, rainy and gray, 50’s, new moon yesterday

Pretty much any moment of any day I could literally start crying just thinking about the amazing treasures on this planet. I think to get the chance to live here is such a stroke of luck, it takes my breath away to dwell on it,  makes me feel a little dizzy really, like I just won some unimaginably large lottery, or am standing on the edge of some great cliff.

If you spend one minute really studying any one thing here, like the wing of  a bird for example, you will find such detail, such invention, such delicate fucking beauty there that your mind will reel with the wonder of it. And then you will wonder at the millions of billions of other things that share the planet with us, just as magnificent as a birds’ wing, just as detailed, just as inventive, and just as filled with delicate fucking beauty. Your mind will inevitably begin to wonder why people aren’t just collapsing in the streets from the sweetness of it all and the fact that it’s all so fleeting.

I think that’s why I started painting again. Because sometimes words aren’t enough.  Sometimes these tidy little letters feel like the track of a thing, when really what you’re seeking is the blood of it.

“crow” by natasha

March 7th

March 7th

warm, rainy in the morning, damp, 50’s. moon phase: waxing gibbous with 74% of disc illuminated

My favorite thing about unschooling, is that there is no distinction between “learning” and “living.” Learning can happen anytime, and does happen all the time, in a million different ways.

Today, unschooling looks like going to the local natural history museum to play with friends.

It looks like wearing pajama pants in the afternoon and making art .

Revel art:

Revel making a painting of his favorite animal, an American Bison (Bison bison)

And mama art:

Sketching a Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio troilus) we picked up off the forest floor last summer, already had died. It fluttered out of a book we had pressed it in the other day, a little reminder of summer. by natasha

And it looks like finding some of the first flowers of spring:

Painting of Common Snow Drop (Galanthus nivalis) we found near the creek at one of our favorite park. by natasha

Will unschooling be the right education option for Revel’s entire school career? I have no idea. We will just evaluate as we go. But I do believe humans love to learn. And experiment. And adventure. And we thrive when our lives are full of rich experiences, friendship, nature, and love. So for now, unschooling suits us very well, and fits into our lives in a way that feels very natural and quite beautiful and delightfully wild.

January 19th

January 19th

50’s, warm, cloudy, light sun, 12:57

A few years ago, in one of our favorite parks on the edge of town, the boys and I found a dead deer along the bank of the little conestoga creek. They were still super little, and were so bundled up in their little snow pants and jackets and mittens and hats that they could barely move that day. They were fascinated by the deer in sort of an offhand way, spent a little bit of time looking at it and then went about their business. Later we brought will back and he harvested the antlers, intending to use them for flint knapping or other projects. So the park was christened “the deer park” by the boys and we’ve called it that ever since.

Yesterday we picked up Zander from school and decided to head over to the deer park for a little romp.The understory there is very tangled and thick, filled with multiflora rose and stinging nettles and it’s nearly impossible to explore off trail during the summer months, so we hadn’t been to the old deer site for quite awhile, as it’s well off the beaten path.

There, lo and behold, was the skull of the old deer and some of the bones. The remains had been strewn about a bit and quite a few had been carried off out of sight. We looked for tracks and noticed all the little places where rodents and gnawed with their little teeth, seeking calcium and other hard to find nutrients, and then we collected the skull and a few of the vertebrae and leg bones, a scapula and some ribs to study at home.
The boys are both fascinated by the presence of bones, within their own bodies, and the ones we come across when we’re out exploring. I’m fascinated by them too, to be honest. How reassuring it is that something so sturdy lies just below the surface of such delicate bodies, and how we are put together in such a delicate, and complicated, way.

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White tailed deer scapula. by natasha
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white tailed deer vertebrae. by natasha
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White tailed deer skull. by natasha

 

December 18th

December 18th noonish

Cloudy, rained heavily earlier

The sun seems to be swallowed and we’re stuck in a gray phase. Feeling hungry for bright, warm sun, but this warmish drizzle and dark sky will have to suffice. It did snow a little tiny bit yesterday, which delighted Rev to no end. Winter is clearly his favorite season and he can play with snow and ice for hours, crunching around in his little boots and cracking up the ice that covers our small puddles and the sides of the creeks. His favorite treat right now is taking a walk to get hot chocolate from the neighborhood coffee shop, so we did that yesterday morning in the snow, and today in the rain, and both times it seemed to be the greatest adventure, even though it’s just a short trip around the block.

Wil teaches ecology  and wilderness survival classes at a property just across the Susquehanna on the york side. Awhile back, a hunter set up a trail cam along one of the little forested patches that criss crosses through the property. A few mornings ago Wil woke me up with an email from a friend, asking if he thought one of the photos captured showed a gray fox. Half asleep, I glanced at the picture and sure enough it was a coyote!

We know they’re here in the area- there have been a few sightings and some sign found, and our highly developed area offers a large array of edges between urban, farm, and wild habitats that the Eastern coyote tends to love. But to see a photo of one hanging out in the same place wil teaches? That feels like a gift of the highest degree. In a landscape that often feels maddeningly neutered, proof of a wild canine roaming these lands kindles a spark in me that sometimes I fear may already have gone out.

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a page from my nature journal. Can you tell I’m in love with color? by Natasha

December 4th

December 4th 8:26pm

50’s, damp, partially cloudy, moon, waxing crescent, 24%

We got our christmas tree today. It’s the first year we picked a real, large tree from a lot, and Rev was so excited. In past years we’ve used our potted norfolk pine, which we still have growing happily in our western facing window, but this year it felt like time to try a live tree, although, I have to say I wish we could have gotten one actually living to plant in the spring, but those are more expensive and out of the budget. Truly, I’ve always wished there was a way to have large trees happily growing inside year-round, and now Rev shares my wish.

Anyhow, what did we discover as we jostled the small spruce into its tree stand, but an eastern swallowtail chrysalis (Papilio glaucus) hanging from one of the lower branches. We weren’t sure who was in the little pod at first, but we pointed it out to Rev and then went about our business. A few hours later, while he was zipping around the living room, climbing all over the sofa and jumping on the chairs, he suddenly proclaimed, “That’s not just any egg! It’s a chrysalis!!” to which Wil and I just about fell over with surprise and delight. So we looked it up and it turned out to be the Swallowtail Chrysalis. We’ll have to move it outside to prevent it from hatching, and I’ll be excited to watch it come spring to see if it will still hatch out.

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eastern swallowtail chrysalis (Papilio glaucus). by natasha

November 19th

November 19th

Waning moon, saw it in western sky this morning around 10:30 when we left house. Very warm, 70’s, sunny, no clouds until around 4 oclock when cold front rolled in. Huge winds from the North and west. Hail/sleet and rain. Sun seemed to set when clouds rolled in and it was a very dark, stormy, but cozy evening. Rev had a fever the past two days but tonight it was gone, yay.

My god, how can it already be november 19th? Seems to me November just started and now here we are, almost Thanksgiving and almost my birthday, which just happen to be on the same day this year. Time just feels like it’s moving too fast sometimes, the weeks are racing by. I suppose the question is, how can I be more aware of every day, every moment? How can I be more engaged in my life, how can I slow down, pay attention to all the details so it feels like things slow down? Although this year feels slower than last year, and  I feel much better and more sane, less rushed, it’s still there, time moving by and rushing on, like something slick and fluid slipping through my hands.

Today we went to county park with the boys. Wil was planning to work, but ended up changing his mind, so we got to have lunch and park time together and it was so nice. He worked on remembering some of the traps he invented years ago, and zander was pretty riveted watching him, as usual. Wil is still the apple of his eye and zander delights in everything he does. He’s also a good student and loves to learn. Rev made up his own “trap” with a stick and a patch of nettles, explaining the animal would “trip over the stick and land in the nettles, getting a bad sting.” Clever, if perhaps not exactly efficient, in getting meat.

We spent some time at my old sit spot, which the boys now love to spend time in as much as I do. It’s a perfect bowl right now, an empty vessel. It’s been so dry, there’s barely a trickle of water out of the spring pipe, and even the small pond is very nearly dry. The large pond emptied like it is makes a perfect place to play and run around, track and get messy in mud. The ground is very soft there, all clay, and even if it is very dry it is a pretty good tracking spot. We saw a ton of deer tracks and a deer- sammy (one of our dogs) chased her up over the ridge and along the road as a matter of fact and I had to chase after him.

We also saw a perfect little fox scat on the one rock that sits in the middle of the dried pond bed. And sam found something living under the big crack willow but couldn’t dig it out. Rev spotted a red tail (Buteo jamaicensis) circling above on the air currents and called him by name which of course made me so happy. It was warm and we all got thirsty chasing each other around so took some big drinks at the water pumps at the top of the hill. The boys splashed in the water  and wil helped them take  their shirts off and let them run around in the sun like two wolf pups, despite my protests, which they all found hilarious.

Stopping at Zander’s house afterwards to drop him off, zander lent rev a blue polo shirt. After I helped him put it on, the collar was sticking up a bit and the buttons were undone.
Zander said, “here rev, let me help you” and so delicately stood in front of him fixing his collar and buttoning his buttons and I felt like I was  peeking into their future, into prom night or one of their weddings, it was such an earnest, sweet, little moment. A split second of time travel on an otherwise normal day.

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by natasha

Red-tailed hawk ( Buteo jamaicensis) feather dropped from the sky.