As dewy and ethereal as the mornings here are, the evenings are equally hazy and seductive. The hard work of the day is done, leaving the world to recline and await the arrival of night—which she does in much glory.
The sun still shines, but it does as one who has his eyes part-closed, drinking in the smell of summer flowers, trampled grass, and dirt. Even the trees are still, slender and tall, letting the sun look upon their leaves with lazy light. The birds have tired of their grand adventures, with only a few staunch mourning doves heralding the coming of dusk—breathe in the success of another day, relax, and know your night comes—and a sentinel bobwhite quail, questioning, yet confident , with his bob—bob-white!song. Even the wind is a soft exhalation: a sigh of relief at the close of the day. But on that wind comes thick and heady the scent of chinaberry and honeysuckle; it will knock you breathless with the splendor of those tiny flowers. How do such tiny flowers create such consuming aromas? They seem designed to quit all action, still the tongue, wake the nose, and slide the eyelids shut.
These, then, are the harbingers of night, the heralds of sunset and cool, twinkling stars. As the perfume envelopes all, the sun is suddenly aflame, casting fiery light upon the ground, the leaves. Even the very air is ablaze in that fleeting moment of twilight. The sun’s brilliant moment is followed by the immediate coolness of dusk, the sigh of the world welcoming night.
We’ve reached an interesting phenomenon here at the Ocmulgee Cabin. No longer am I alone, no longer is the cabin filled with silence because I have no one with whom to converse. The cabin is full of life: full of trapping accessories, data sheets, boots, dirt, ticks, and people. And often silence.
Casey said something hilarious and rather accurate last night: we’re like that scene in Pride and Prejudice (the one with Kiera Knightley) where all the ladies are sitting in the parlor embroidering, drawing, mending, and not talking. After the dinner and post-work shenanigans, we all settle into our own things. Casey and I usually run/work out/Sayaw and then quickly run back in complaining of the gnats. Ever worked out with your eyes shut? It’s difficult. Hooker looks at his maps and his iphone, throws in some sarcasm every now and then. I read a lot, though I try to take the advice of Joey (Hinton) and alternate my fictional readings with nonfiction readings. Sometimes I doodle: I’m re-learning the art of water color pencils…not a complaint by any means, I’m happy to have the opportunity to create things on paper (besides words).
I’m not one who is afraid of silence. It is a good thing. Silence isn’t scary, contrary to semi-popular believe. Silence can be comforting, familiar, and relaxing. It can be the sign of familiarity with your compatriots, or simply a sign of exhaustion. Fighting through greenbriar, poison ivy, trumpet creeper, cane, and sweetgum leaves one less than desirous for deep conversations. However, there are still so many things I’d like to know about my housemates. Where were they before this? What made them get into this field? So many questions! All in due time.
In the meantime, I have some work updates:
Hair snares are almost ready to bait—all we are waiting on is for our corn to sour (stick corn and water in a bucket, close it, leave in sun for days, voila: sour corn). Josh says we should be ready to bait by Monday (6/3)! I’m excited, because right now he and I are both in limbo. I’ve been tagging along with Hooker, which means mostly trapping: trap checking, resetting, rebuilding, tearing down. We’ve also made several trips into town for things. It is rather interesting to be with him all day, quiet, in the car, then return with him, quiet, to the cabin. We are both okay with silence, I think, and he’s rather used to being on his own. However, the conversations had are pleasant and often filled with jokes. He reminds me a little of an Ashley (my family, not some girl), with the sarcasm and quick wit, but deep seated care that underlies everything.
I still have gold stars for keeping track of Hooker’s rules. In fact, I’ve learned some new ones:
Rule number one for trapping: checking a trap to see if it’s pleasing to a bear is best done from a bear’s perspective (3 ft off ground).
Rule number one (I think they’re all #1) for trapping: always keep the safety on. Or don’t be anywhere near the throwing arm if there isn’t a safety.
[information on trap: the traps are NOT jaw-like traps. They’re leg snares: they step on a treadle that has a throwing arm that tightens a little loop-de-loop around the wrist]
We’ve caught 7 bears so far! And here are some sweet pictures!
|Snake I found when checking a bridge on 5/29|
|Handsome male bear, 280 lbs, 5/27|
Tomorrow is the last day of May. I’ve been here for a month. It hardly seems that long, and yet it seems a lifetime ago that I was at The Wildlife Supper, Twilight, Kali, Kyuki-do, Princeton UMC, and Copper Creek. Life has changed. Funny how it does that so often, whether or not we’re expecting it.
I’ve had my hands on five bears since the last time I was in Athens. FIVE. I’ve had my arms literally AROUND two of them (chest circumference measurement requires you get a tape measure all the way around them…most easily accomplished by something that resembles hugging). I’ve gotten an F-250 Super Duty stuck twice (it’s not a 4WD, if you were wondering). I’m leading the tick count, though Hooker has everyone beat on the poison ivy scale. I’ve made everyone on state highway 96 very angry when I run my roadkill surveys (and I’ve touched more dead snakes today than I thought I would in my life). I’m baiting hair snares starting Monday.
Life around here is shaping up to be very interesting. Of course, I’m reminded of a question: what type of woodsy life do I want to have? I’m afraid the answer is looking farther away than it was before. Whatever type of woodsy life I might want to create for myself all goes out the window if there is a bear in a trap.
Trapping is life. I can see that in my coworkers, and I can see how it became that way. We all struggle against it, but trapping always wins. You know the concept of “code red” (or “code wolf,” as my LOLCM girls call it), where you drop everything and come running if someone calls it? That is the reality of this bear project. The bears dictate whether or not we cook dinner at 7pm or 11pm. The bears dictate whether we get a second (or fifth) cup of coffee before noon. The bears dictate whether or not Casey will make it to her softball games. The bears dictate my ability to go into town for martial arts studio recon. The bears are the ones that are really in charge, even if they “don’t got no thumbs.” The bears are the ones telling us where to go and what to do even though we think our research is us finding out where they go and what they do.
I can’t say that I mind, but something I’ve discussed with Casey is that it’s hard to acquire a community—something she and I both crave—when you can never commit to anyone besides the bears. They always come first, above church on Sunday mornings, work out buddies, softball games, movies, dinners, classes…people. But the bears aren’t our community: imagine trying to discuss feelings with a bear. It don’t work.
I guess what I mean to say is: you don’t choose a type of woodsy life, a type of woodsy life chooses you. I’m not talking about the circle of life, holding hands, lighters waving type of thing. I’m talking about woodsy work being your life. Some field work allows you to choose your own schedule. The bears choose ours.