Natural Decadence

The lingering moisture after the wettest winter since the late 1940s has kept me inside more days than out. The view from my window has been a slow-motion performance as the brittleness of winter gradually transformed into the various verdant shades of spring. My brain is always a season ahead, which means I’m thinking what needs to be done before the leaves fall and we’re left with skeletons for six months. At that point, I’ll ponder the spring, knowing now that I’ll not stop long enough to really appreciate it when it finally comes.

After the fog lifts, the misty mornings leave us with cool days right now. Forecasters insist that it will be unbearably hot in July and August, but we’ve had only a glimmer of heat in the past ten months. Establishing vegetables has been a challenge this year, but the natural foliage has been stunningly beautiful during our second full spring. There are ferns everywhere, the natives that people pay good money for in nurseries grow in abundance, and of course blackberry plagues my life, having become my greatest nemesis.

The cool wetness brings two things to the surface: slugs and mushrooms. My friend Ronald explained the most successful remedy for the slimy things is beer. These pests are not elitists or hipsters. They like cheap beer, which I place in shallow containers in the herb garden, the asparagus bed, and among the irises like portable pubs in these slug slums.

In the beginning, tiny slugs flock to the beer like fraternity members to a keg party. I come out in the mornings to find the containers filled with dead and bloated revelers. A few weeks later, I realize the beer is lasting longer and the remaining slugs are considerably larger. In a few cases, I’ve discovered sizeable creatures clinging to the outside of my traps, stretching down and audaciously enjoying sips of beer to satisfy their thirsts without ingesting enough to bloat them. Apparently slugs can learn.

According to the mushroom field guide, the most prevalent variety we have is the hallucinogenic, but I’m not willing to risk death to find out for certain. The caps and gills match up but they look very similar to something poisonous. They’re thriving in the manure used to fertilize the asparagus, and the field guide indicates these mushrooms are safe to eat. The same ones are also found along the shaded trails kept green by decomposition.

The rabbits live in those areas, and several times a day they make their way into the open just before dark and again before sunrise to feed and feed and feed. According to another field guide, these rabbits were brought to North America over a hundred years ago and made their way down from Canada. I would’ve been for a wall built to keep them out, but they crossed the border freely to do what rabbits do. We have an average of seven, but that number fluctuates in the warm months. We have hawks and owls in the forest row on the north and the west, which seem to control them unless some of these babies are growing up quickly and going off to Bunny College.

As the slugs grow in length and wisdom, the beer lasts longer. There have been mornings when I’ve tossed it out in order to put out fresh, thinking that the slugs have not only become wiser, they’ve become snobbish. This situation has clearly become a case of me working for them as I gather containers, rinse them out with the hose and replace them carefully before filling them with nice clean beer. Some of the traps are still drawing a crowd, but summer’s approach means fewer and fewer gastropods floating in the hops.

I noticed last week on the three warm days that there wasn’t a slug to be found, but the beer was completely gone in most cases. Even when the slugs taste it or die drinking it, there is always liquid remaining, but these containers were completely dry! I also noticed on the trails that the mushrooms had disappeared within a day. That many mushrooms wouldn’t disappear at once unless someone was gathering them to cook—or get high.

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The bunny in its altered state mellows out beneath the birdbath.

I’ve decided it’s the rabbits. No wonder the raptors are getting them. Their reflexes are slow and they’re on some wild psychedelic trip that hasn’t been experienced in 50 years. There’s a mellow bunny that nestles itself in the fern that surrounds the birdbath, which is in my line of sight as I type. Rabbits have high metabolisms, which require them to keep eating, but this creature digs in and sits there for long periods of time without moving. I wonder what he sees. He’s not been alive long enough to realize he’s in an altered state so whatever strangeness he encounters seems normal.

In spite of his pillaging, I almost don’t begrudge his presence. He deserves a few blissful days before the hawk swoops down and takes him flying. I can only imagine what he’ll think of when becoming airborne under the influence. “Man, what kind of crazy trip is this?!?” I hope he’s still anesthetized by the time they land.

© 2017 by Patrick Brown

To learn more about my books, visit my author page at http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1

 

The Ghost Lake

At dusk, the fields are still visible as the gray fog in the background begins to rise.

At dusk, the fields are still visible as the gray fog in the background begins to rise.

At dusk, when the sun sets behind the western ridge, and the moon rises to a significant height in the southern sky, the mists rise from the fields and enshroud the creatures that dwell therein. The ghost lake has returned.

That first paragraph is a great start to a ghost story, but let’s take a closer look. After we saw the house and the dense woods surrounding it, we started researching the area. We were still in California pulling up Google Earth and Maps, trying to zoom in on local landmarks to get a perspective. We kept seeing the name of Farghuar (the original name, which I’ll use in place of the modernized spelling to preserve some privacy). There was Farghuar Lake, Farghuar Pond and Farghuar Store, and months within our arrival, a rather good restaurant bearing the name opened nearby.

Google research proved rather inaccurate because the lake was not a lake. We figured out Farghuar Pond, which looks large enough to be a lake, was not the lake. It’s a pond. One local told us that Farghuar Lake was now private and surrounded by lovely large homes. We went to one of those lovely large homes during a moving sale, and the lady of the house told us that the body of water outside her door was another “lake” altogether, and that the hundred or so acres of blueberries between her house and ours had once been the lake we were seeking.

That explained the mysterious whereabouts of the missing lake and the t-shirts and coffee mugs sold inside the Farghuar Store inscribed with “Not seen since 1928.” Local lore indicated that a lake had been drained, and mint, daffodils and other bulbs had been grown on the resulting land at different times. Although I accepted this, I wondered why anyone would plant mint in such quantities, knowing that it would overtake the earth if left unchecked.

One of our friends told us of driving down the road that cuts through the former lake when she was a teenager. After rainstorms, frogs would hop onto the roadway in such vast quantities that one would think a plague had been sent.

I’ve been fascinated with this missing lake since its former location was pointed out to us. We have to drive up and down that road several times a week, and there appears to be an optical illusion. On a summer’s day, when reaching the road from our driveway, there appears to be a body of water beyond a clump of trees. I’ve almost driven off the road trying to see if what I’m seeing is real. When you get past that certain point, reach the stop sign and look back, you can clearly see that what you thought was a lake is actually an unused field.

At dusk, when the autumnal evenings cool the air, the fog rises from that same area as if The Mists of Avalon have gathered to separate the mythical island from an encroaching world. I’ve watched “the lake” on those occasions, as I have driven through the mists when they cross the main road before sunrise. The enclosure feels protective, which is what those creatures living behind the veil must sense. I know there is wildlife, as the deer have seemingly come from nowhere, and one occasionally hears a chorus of coyotes.

Skeptical of mystery, the modern mind seeks to find a logical explanation. Why does this lake, turned into commercial farmland, refuse to behave like farmed land and revert to the moist existence of a lake? Why does this area seemingly turn back to its former reality under certain conditions when some sources indicate that there hasn’t been a lake for almost 90 years?

Research is the best place to begin when seeking comprehension. One website provided just a few basic sentences, but it offered clues worth exploring. Further reading uncovered that the lake was never really a lake, but over 100 acres of wetlands that had been converted into farmland almost a century ago. Terra cotta drain tiles were installed to prevent flooding, but a few years ago ecological projects, solid funding and wetland reclamation efforts have restored native grasses.

For those of us who don’t want any construction coming nearer to our houses, it’s nice to know that the land is too boggy for development. Swampy areas of quicksand prevent the bulldozers, but it’s perfect for wildlife preservation. The drainage tiles in that area behind the farmed land were removed a few years ago, so there is a buildup of moisture to cause the evening fog. The mists are still mysterious in spite of explanation, but what of the optical illusion of a lake’s surface on summer days? There’s a logical explanation, but I want to hold onto the mystery of the Ghost Lake for a while longer.

© 2016 by Patrick Brown

To learn more about my books, visit my author page at http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1

Approaching the Dark

I was just coming up to stand after Warrior Pose when I glanced out the window and saw the autumn sun about to rise over the eastern ridge of trees that encloses the yard below the bedroom. I took a quick shot so I’d remember it before continuing with the morning’s yoga practice.

The unique moment of an early autumn morning that can never be recreated.

The unique moment of an early autumn morning that can never be recreated.

I’m not as flexible as I’d like to be, but I’m working on it. Some mornings are easier than others, but I have to admit one of my favorite moments is Savasana when I get an excuse to lie still for a few minutes and attempt to control my breathing and slow down my brain.

With my eyes closed, I couldn’t lose the image I’d just captured. The moment was truly magical and though the angle of the sun and its light can happen again, those leaves would never be illuminated in exactly the same way, and the cloud formation in the southern sky would never reform after dissipating. I recognized the uniqueness of that minute.

Throughout the year, there is a short period of time when the sun rises during yoga, which makes those early hours even more special. In summer, the sun rises here at 5:30 with the first lights of dawn coming well before I’m ready to begin, and it’s almost 8:00 before I see the trees as more than silhouettes at Winter Solstice. These weeks on either side of the Autumnal and Vernal Equinoxes contain the gift of witnessing the day’s rebirth during my morning ritual as the sun peaks over the tops of the Douglas firs and the alders, finally casting its rays over the hazelnuts before the yard is fully lit.

The rabbits, cute when they’re playing, but nuisances when they fight for territory in the vegetable garden, scavenge for breakfast once they’ve determined it’s safe because the coyotes have gone home for the night and the raptors are making their shift change in the trees to the north. They have a few uninterrupted minutes to nibble some blackberry leaves after the owls return to their nests and before the hawk announces its presence.

Though fall is just beginning, our foliage began turning in August this year. There’s still plenty of green, but sunlight on the fading hazelnut and the reddish orange of the vine maples in their shadow shining through remind me how lucky it is for those of us who get to experience four seasons.

The vine maples with their reddish-orange hue.

The vine maples with their reddish-orange hue.

We’re approaching the dark half of the year, feared by the ancients, but the perfect opportunity for reflection and making plans for next spring and summer. Those who have lived long enough know this cycle gets faster and faster through the years, and I can’t believe the long season of “The Holidays” beginning with Halloween and ending at New Year’s Day is about to begin again. I haven’t lost the pounds from last year’s marathon of food and celebration.

I typically keep up a good pace, and I like staying several steps ahead of nagging thoughts and the bottomless cistern of emotion. However, I see the value in reflection and contemplation, and though we have about 90 days ahead of us when the nights grow increasingly longer and we’re shocked to find out that bedtime is still hours away, I’m ready to acknowledge the benefits of short days, winter precipitation, nature’s dormancy and the promise of spring that can only come after the world has had the chance to rest.

I have to admit I’m a bit tired these days, and I need to treat myself with more kindness. I’m finding this outlook helpful as we approach the upcoming election where emotions run high on each side of every issue. Regardless of the outcome, Americans reading this must not forget that we share a country though we may share few of the same opinions. Rather than marginalize those we describe as naïve, unreasonable, different or  unwilling to see what we consider the truth, we must find ways of getting along in the aftermath of what seems to have been an endless and emotionally scarring campaign. As I reflect and treat myself kindly, I hope to do better with others than it sometimes seems possible.

© 2016 by Patrick Brown

To learn more about my books, visit my author page at http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1