I found myself awake the other night annoyingly unable to sleep; my mind stuck in a vortextual loop bouncing between money, work and home and back again, three things that I have found are never really worth worrying too much about, although try telling me that at 1:45 in the morning. I shuffled out of our bedroom around 2 am, flipped the up lid on my laptop and took up temporary residency at the kitchen table until the light was bright enough in the sky for me to see the 40 or so odd turkeys slowly parading around the house like the royal Skeksis they are. They move in formation, sometimes like the flying ‘V’ of Hollywood’s Mighty Ducks or like actual Canada Geese and sometimes more like a slow motion flash mob intent on voiding the back pasture of seeds and bugs. Arranged in either format, their sheer numbers astonish and surprise me; too much fecundity is startling like when you accidentally step ankle-deep in an active ant hill or visit Brooklyn. Luckily for me the early hour darkness kept hidden the distracting march of the turkey as I typed away until 4 am when I realized I should have started up the coffee maker hours ago.
I really like this time of night, it takes me back to the days when I lived in a powerless cabin in northern Wisconsin where the short duration of daylight in the winter coupled with a lack of any real functional lights reduced my circadian rhythm to something akin to a morse code pattern. I’d usually wake up around 3 and poke at the fire, write a bit and just enjoy the world asleep, or like a comedian I recently heard who said they love being awake in the middle of the night because it is the only time you can do nothing more than sit and stare at the wall without someone thinking you’ve lost it.
The delicate grey light of 4:30 am afforded me just enough vision to trace the outline of my coffee cup and the white pines on the edge of the field while keeping the annoying details on life softly blurred in a grey haze, like the numb of anesthesia or the exhaustion of pulling a 120 pound toboggan through thigh deep snow for 9 hours. Other things I can see now: the hard plastic troll doll I stepped on a couple hours ago that pierced the arch of my foot as I tried to stealthily walk from bedroom to kitchen, the general chaos of a house being packed up for a move, and also 6 spiders within spitting distance from the kitchen table.
We have had a boom in the spider population over that last month or so just as we did this time last year. They are fast as polished steel, range in size from a pencil eraser to a fifty cent piece, are black/brown, and right now probably outnumber us humans in this house 250:1. They seem as harmless as the turkeys, but they can’t be ruled out as suspects for the random bug bites that pop up this time of year. If you’re an arachnophile, get a hold of me.
The most exciting herd/flock/clutter of anything this month were the 6 whitetail bucks that showed up a few weeks ago. Two 8 pointers lead the pack and exhibit not only the girth and heft of superiority and age, but also the temperament of a deer that has made it through several hunting seasons. Flanking the twins were two smaller 6 pointers, one two and a lone spike buck. The younger bucks’ antlers shone white with newness and so did their behavior. While the older bucks calmly grazed, the younger ones were alert and quick to freeze and were the first to bolt into the woods when a car passed. Cool to see, be even cooler if it was in a couple weeks after the rifle season opener.
Being an outdoor enthusiast is of course about where we go and what we do, but hanging that title on your life is equally about what comes to us and how we appreciate it. We live in a great intergalactic jigsaw puzzle. The spiders in my home are connected to the trout I catch who in turn are connected to the sun and stars. The bucks in the backyard are the same life as the whitewater I paddle. And the turkeys are part and parcel to my axe which cuts green wood into bows and paddles, spoons and bowls and ash baskets. No life is lived in isolation just as no passion is separate from the environment that supports it. Take the time to learn about the life around your home.
Much of our modern culture seems to me to encourage, glamorize and incentive lifestyles that are divergent from Nature, favoring development away from an inclusive understanding of/relationship with Nature and instead promoting love for the holy glowing rectangle (which I am staring at right now) and a piece of mildly relevant news to talk about for the day. We need to develop (or redevelop) an emergent relationship with Nature, one where we see that all life is interrelated and that the whole is more important than it’s individual and isolated parts. Before you wade like Artax into an existential Nothing, I recommend first sleeping in, having a good cup of coffee and taking a walk, then maybe after the turkeys and spiders have concluded their crepuscular rummagings you can dig into the meaning of life…or just get out and enjoy our last gasps of warmth before the snow flies.