The Porcupine in the Tree

     What is it with critters in trees this week? Or maybe the question is what is it with me this week?
     This morning I was feeling out of sorts, an unusual disposition for me. As I cast about doing things like laundry and avoiding deskwork, unable to finish anything, I finally decided to go outside for a snowshoe. Find refuge in the non-judgmental arms of mother earth. Release whatever was fighting inside me through steady walking. Listen. Maybe find some peace.
     And what I found was a porcupine in a tree.
     I am going to refrain from grand metaphors here. 
     Instead, I'm going to share the pictures I took, all in the name of "it's so cool to find a porcupine denned up in a tree". 

So here's the tree I came across. See the mess below it? That was the clue.

This is the critter poop.


Here it is close up.

Definitely porcupine. 
Right shape, fibrous.  

Now looking up.....  

And finally, here is a close-up. Tucked into the top of the hole I could see the black and white quills of the porcupine, its back turned to me, hiding in the shadows. I lightened the photo as best as I could in hopes of making its well- camouflaged quills visible. Not sure it worked. 

   The end of the story? The day is going better. Walking in the earth's world always brings me some kind of respite. Maybe that's why we call it grounding. Thank you tree. Thank you porcupine.


The Eagle in the Tree

     I am not a stranger to Bald Eagles. Living on an old saltwater farm means we occasionally see one passing by, soaring above the marshes back behind our woods looking for something yummy to eat, dead or alive. Young eagles don't get their adult plumage -- the white head and tail -- until they are about five years old, so the best way to identify one soaring is its shape: they are called "flying planks" for their straight-across silhouette. 
Maddy Vertenten photo

    But when I was washing dishes looking out the kitchen window, it wasn't a flying plank I saw. It was a really big bird flapping across the back yard and clambering into a pine tree. I started yelling. "Oh my gosh, a Bald Eagle! Right there!" It hopped around until it found the right branch, where it was sheltered from view but warmed by full morning sunlight. And there it sat for a full hour. Sometimes it preened its feathers, sometimes it dozed (I saw its eyes closed), sometimes it even tucked its head under its wing. I kept expecting it to take off, but even the small pack of crows that found it and harassed it briefly gave up, and the eagle went back to sleep.
     Eagle is a sacred animal in many indigenous cultures, honored as a messenger of the great spirit. The natural distance separating me and this wildness had been crossed, and not by me. I felt humbled and grateful to have this Eagle find rest for awhile in my back yard. 


Soft March morning

     Sometimes it's the unspectacular that pulls a little joy out of your heart and into the open.
     This morning after a snowshoe with the dogs, I stopped in the front yard to listen. It was a soft morning. The sky was overcast in a high light gray, the temperature warmed a degree or two above freezing. The winds we had earlier this week were gone, and it was calm. And the birds were singing.
     This track is quiet, so you might want your headphones or earbuds. It's an interplay of some of our feeder birds. We often don't hear them because our windows are closed, or we don't pay attention because they are the background sound when we go out to get in the car, retrieve the mail or newspaper, take out the compost or walk the dogs. I've annotated it below so you can play around with the track. Then go outside, and listen on a quiet morning.  The birds know spring is coming.

0:01               a short "chip", probably a Northern Cardinal
0:03 - 0:06   American Goldfinch chatter, sometimes sounds like "potato chip"
0:04               Cardinal song fragment 
0:07               Black-capped Chickadee 2-note song starts, runs the whole track
0:08 -0:12     Mourning Dove (hard to hear without headphones)
0:13 - 0:18     two increasingly complete Cardinal songs
0:24 - 0:29    Mourning Dove
0:31                 American Crow echoing around in the far background
0:34 - 0:45    Cardinal song arcing in and becoming chatter
0:42 - 0:47    Mourning Dove
0:45                Crows are echoing around again