MID-MARCH MUSING

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Kay, a wildlife rehabber and friend, shares "Ladybug," a unicorn
Kay, a wildlife rehabber and friend, shares "Ladybug," a unicorn

Too much is happening around here, and I don’t want to wait ‘til April to muse about it. So, I’m doing my first “Midmonth Musing.” Spring has lots to say to me these days, and she’s chattering away at a fast clip.

From my bedroom window, which looks out at a still-bare Gingko tree, the spring birds are arriving. I hear calls I’m not familiar with, and see flashes of color I haven’t seen here before. I carry my bird book from window to window and try to match the colors, tails, and face markings to the photos in the book. The gold finches are turning brilliant yellow (how do they do that?!), putting on their mating plumage. A bluebird visited the Gingko tree, and robins have moved from town out to my forest lawn.

In the yard, daffodils are finally blooming. Other spears of new growth are poking up and I don’t recognize any of them. Ah, the joy and wonder of a new landscape in a new season! So much to learn! On the forest floor, shallow streams ribbon across the old shale and limestone beds that course through miles of deep leaf litter. Tiny waterfalls sing with the twittering tinkle of an eagle’s voice. I put my fingers to every new, fresh leaf and vine pushing up through the dense leaf mulch, which is probably pretty stupid as I’m told these woods are full of poison ivy—another plant I would not recognize…

A nurseryman identified the waxy, mottled leaf I showed him as a trillium. I gulp. There are thousands of them in the hollow below my house. He tells me they will bloom burgundy, and I feel my pulse quicken. What other magic lurks down there?

Already, only a few days into the season, I feel the energies—and the surprises—of spring rising up like sap in my veins. Spring ushers in an explosion of growth in the natural world, an energy we can feel by simply walking outside and looking down. All that green! Can’t you just feel the difference in your body and heart when you look down and see the first tiny bloom? How different from the bare look and feel of winter! That fresh feeling is the energetic heart and gift of this new season.

I have plans for spring, of course. Lots of them, dreamed up during the quiet days of winter. Already, none of them are working out as I’d imagined. This, too, is spring—dreams and plans that take on a life and path of their own.

I had planned, for instance, to recraft by hand the old, abandoned rock wall and tiny pond that is the joy of our property, even in its current state of collapse. I imagined how it would look, and what sort of work would be involved in bringing this treasure back to life. Now that the frosts and snows have done their work, I realize that the work is far more extensive than Carter and I had hoped. Part of the wall—all slices of crumbling shale, stand to collapse the upper ranges of the long-ago waterfall. Our wall will soon be a rock and mud heap.

A fun do-it-yerself project has now turned into an engineering event. With that, of course, come all kinds of unexpected new possibilities, right along with all kinds of unexpected new expenses. Ah, spring!

I had plans, of course, to celebrate the equinox in a good way. These included a ceremony with my medicine pipe, saying goodbye to the sirens of winter and hello to the sylphs of spring. Last month, however, I contracted a very long-lived flu that still has me dragging around weak as a kitten and croaking like a crow. Suddenly, smoking a pipe was no longer a good plan. In fact, raising my arms over my head was not a good idea, either. Stamina is not one of my gifts, ever since my cancer treatments. Any extra ailment at comes my way leaves me with chronic bouts of fatigue that can last for many, many months, fouling up my whole metabolic system.

So, my ceremony plan turned into a bout of guilt as I snuggled in bed, praying to have the energy to take a shower in the morning. Guilt. Another spring visitor perhaps not unique to me. Do you have huge spring dreams that get lost and trampled in the unexpected course of life? I have a frustrating habit of planning big and achieving small. My interior spring energy is NEVER as big as the vital pulse of spring in the natural world. Yet I want to have the power to shift landscapes!

So this year the equinox came and went without me. And my absence from the festivities didn’t seem to bother the planet at all. That’s true of a lot of things in my life. I am far more expendable than I imagine, which is both a relief and an ego smasher. You mean the world can turn without my help?

In January, we brought home our new puppy, MazelTov. It had been my plan that by spring, Mazel would be a smallish dog, social with everyone, and a relatively low-maintenance kind of guy, inasmuch as any dog can be low maintenance. He was such a little furry ball of not-much when he came home; it was easy for me to project all kinds of fantasies upon him.

MazelTov makes plans to hunt boar, eat guests, and drive wild cattle. It's all in a days work for a leopard dog.
MazelTov makes plans to hunt boar, eat guests, and drive wild cattle. It's all in a days work for a leopard dog.

At an Amish auction last week, a fellow looked at Mazel and asked me if I knew what kind of dog I had. Carter and I hadn’t a clue, we said. He had been abandoned as a two-week-old puppy. “Well,” said the bearded, pipe puffing young man, “You’ve got yourself a Catahoula Leopard Dog. I raise them. Nice looking pup there.”

I Googled “Catahoula” when I got home and this is what I read: “Catahoula leopards are the largest and most aggressive of the cattle dogs, bred to handle wild cattle and hogs in the roughest, most remote country…Catahoula Leopards are extremely agile and athletic, territorial, protective of “their property”. They are more primitive psychologically than most breeds and need consistent obedience reinforcement. The owner must understand the Alpha concept and stay in control at all times, but still be loving to the dog. Very loyal, loving, intelligent and independent… they really think for themselves…”

So much for my little low-key, agreeable tyke. Mazel is 11 weeks old now. His teeny tiny feet have grown to the size of tennis balls. He does not suffer strangers lightly. And we still have battles over housebreaking. Some days, he wins.

Again, with each failed “plan” another opportunity opens. I would never have mindfully selected such a breed. After Strongheart—my beloved Anatolian who could eat a man whole and tried to once or twice—I was wanting a dog with the temperament and aggression level of a small pet goat. Yet we adore MazelTov. Adore him. We beam over him like a grandchild, and are delighted with his feisty intelligence and his comic antics. He is one of those rare wonder dogs and we feel like the luckiest ducks in the world to have found him. I just have to re-hone my alpha skills… And I must admit, for his age, he does the best sit-stay I’ve ever seen.

I had planned, this spring, to have ‘possums and raccoons coming to my deck feeders, and we do have a regular ‘possum visitor we’ve named “Nine-thirty,” which is the usual time of his arrival. Twice now, Hannah as run out and scared him at the feeder, which is one more plan-gone-awry that I guilt myself over. Yes, Susan-the-animal-lover: Coax animals and birds to your deck so that when they come, your dog can attack them.

What I did not plan this spring was to have a unicorn show up at my birdfeeder. Who could plan for such a miracle? So imagine my surprise (an understatement) when I looked up one late night to find a unicorn in the guise of a flying squirrel sitting on the edge of the birdfeeder. Surely, anyone who sees one of these magical creatures would understand immediately that unicorns and flying squirrels are the same creatures, just in different clothes. Delicate, doe-eyed, sleek and quick and dressed in velvet.

I’ve pondered his recurring visitations for a couple of weeks now. How is it Nature held out this treasure to me in the woodsy palm of her hand? Me, who picked the “wrong” dog, ditched my equinox duties, won’t have the pond up in time for the frogs (I mean, where will they go??), and sets dogs on the innocent creatures on my deck. Spring giggles in the sound of the breeze, “Silly girl. Grace abounds, even for the guilt-riddled. Perhaps especially for the guilt-riddled. Here, just look at this jewel. I’ve put him on the feeder just for you. Now, quit imagining that the world turns on your silly little imagined failings and just relax and enjoy. You need more of that.

So, here is my question to you, kindred spirits: What have you been bashing yourself about lately? What didn’t go as planned? Let’s get a list going of all our terrible boo-boos. Putting the light on them can be—uh—illuminating!

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