Monday, August 15, 2011

Choosing a favorite

From the cabin in rural Kentucky...

I have never been good at choosing favorites.  

My youngest child always said  that his favorite subject was “lunch.”  That same child, long grown, sometimes announces himself with “Hi Mom, it’s your favorite son.”  Favorites are of course a no-no of parenting, as if it would be possible to choose anyway.

On my fourth day of complete relaxation, as I enjoyed a third cup of coffee on the screened porch of our cabin on the lake in Kentucky, I pondered the question of favorites.  “Is morning or evening my favorite time at the lake,” I thought.  It occurred to me that it was a luxury to have the opportunity to have nothing better to do than ponder the best times of day.  Here's why it is impossible to choose:


  • Dew falls from the trees, making tinkling sounds on the tin roof long before daylight.

  • Day birds wake up and begin their socializing.  Most prominent are crows, swallows and bluebirds.

  • The mist hesitates on the lake until the sun rises high enough – after 9:00 – to begin to burn it off.

  • The lake is still and clear as glass, stirring only after a breeze announces itself with the rustling of leaves.

  • Water birds sometimes visit – most mornings it was a great blue heron who did not like being disturbed by woman and dog; two mornings I heard the descent of a dozen Canada Geese who nearly disappeared in the mist over the lake (they also disliked the dog).

  • Turtles climb their logs, clumsily scuttling back into the water, easily startled by the noise of gravel under feet and paws.
  • Fish break the surface of the water near the shore, occasionally jumping and causing a big splash.

  • The sun spotlights the wildflowers and even the weeds.

  • Dragon flies take off for their reconnaissance along the shore, stopping for food and continuing their erratic flight patterns, returning frequently to inspect.
  • Box turtles begin forraging; one rehydrating in a rain puddle in the gravel road.
  • Insects hum and horseflies begin to bite the dog, whose responding gyrations cause him to look like a pool of melted milk chocolate.

  • A hawk begins his quest for breakfast in the back meadow where bunnies and squirrels are plentiful.

  • Toadstools look enchanting in the early glow.

  • Dudley takes his first of many swims of the day, then rolls in the wet grass.

  • Fog begins to descend on the lake as the sun falls behind the hills.
  • Bats come from their hiding places (a few are in the eves of our roof) and begin swooping after the insects. 
  • The temperature drops considerably.

  • The sky turns pink in the direction of the lowering ball of heat.
  • The last rays of sun glint and sparkle through the trees.

    • Sunlight dances on the ripples of the lake, like wayward Tinkerbells beaconing to those ashore.
    • The moon, nearly full this week, rises above the hills behind the cabin.
    • Coyotes yowl in the hills beyond.
    • Daytime birds shout their good-nights (the crows rudely use their loudest voices).
    • Night birds make shrill calls in the woods behind the sulphur spring, one with a voice like a child who often gets what he wants.  The whip-poor-will repeats his calls over and over and over.
    • A hound wails, its barking rising and falling as it runs up and down the hills beyond.

      • With the nearly full moon behind us, a comical elongated shadow of woman and dog walks ahead of us.

      • No human noises are audible.  Frogs converse, insects chirp, hum and cackle. 
      • A light breeze makes the trees quiver and the leaves make a sound like the lapping of a gentle tide at shore.
      • The dog plunges in the water in the stream, anxious for one last swim and relief from the horseflies that have yet to bed down. 

      With so much, how could you choose a favorite?

      Saturday, August 13, 2011

      On the Withlacoochee Trail in Citrus County. Florida

      Dudley had his first visit to Florida.  I have visited many times before and enjoyed taking him to some of my favorite walking spots.  We walked the Withlacoochee Trail (by Rails to Trails) every morning and evening.  I noticed I had more conversation with other trail users when I had a dog in tow, or was in the tow of a dog.

      Because there was a lot of stopping to sniff, discover and mark special places, walking with Dudley on an exciting and interesting trail took some time; it was nearly impossible to cover more than three miles in one hour.   I used this time to take photographs of some of the beautiful scenery, wildflowers and wildlife along the path.
      People are generally very friendly in Citrus County.  On the trail where I walked, they were older than I am, frequent walkers and bikers (lots of three-wheelers and low-riders) and curious about the new dog in the neighborhood.  Because of Dudley, and perhaps because I did less power walking than on dog-free visits, several people spoke more than the usual "how do you do?"
      A rest stop along the trail
      An elderly man and his grandson, fishing poles in hand, approached one early evening when Dudley was soaked from a dip in the lake.  "Keep your dog away from the water this time of day," said the grandfather, nodding to the young grandson.   "Evening's when the gators feed... Unless you're tired of your dog, of course."  He grinned a little and they were on their way.  No more evening swims; the next day we saw a gator in his swimming spot.  
      I call this "Squirrel Park" after its residents; here we saw a hawk catch and eat one.
      Older ladies tended to walk in small groups in the early morning.  One particularly friendly one always spoke to Dudley.  After a few days she spoke to me, "Your pup is getting bigger.  He's grown since yesterday."  They all kept walking, talking about how fast puppies grow up.  I didn't tell her that Dudley is three, has short legs and is on weight maintenance food; let's hope he didn't grow.
      On my first morning with Dudley, a lady in her 60's cheerfully asked, "How are you doing today and what's your adorable dog's name?"  Nearly every morning she asked, "How's Dudley doing today?"  Then she usually added a cheerful "he sure looks happy to be out this morning."  One morning she was riding a bicycle with her husband lagging behind.  "How's the biking," I asked?  "I decided to take the easy way today," she said, with a big smile.  I think she must have been a kindergarten teacher or a cruise director.  She was the happiest trailgoer I encountered and I looked forward to our brief visits.

      One man walked with his wife while sporting a very loud news radio station blaring in one ear.  I wondered how his wife felt about that intrusion.  He noticed Dudley stalking a squirrel and said "your dog must be a bird dog.  Look at him point." I responded that he doesn't have much interest in birds and is more the rabbit and squirrel kind of dog.
      When we were in a crosswalk, a woman in a very old car stopped for us, poked her head out of the window and said, "I only stopped because of your dog.  I love dogs.  I don't like people so much.  No offense."  Then she drove off.  Good thing I was with the dog.
      "Don't know if my dog likes other dogs or not.  Guess we'll find out,"  said an elderly man with a yappy little terrier.  "Guess not," he said as the dog snapped and snarled at Dudley, who had no interest. We moved on but continued to see him most evenings and thereafter attempted no socializing.
      "Sure is hot.  Bet it's hotter being a dog," said a very large man on a very small bicycle as he wiped his sweaty face with a bandana.
      About dusk one evening, four bicycles were parked alongside the path and two young boys of about 9 were fishing off the bridge that takes the path over the water that connects two lakes.  I asked the boys if they lost two, since there were twice as many bicycles as people.  "Oh, the girls are in the water under the bridge," they replied.  Sure enough, the girls were wading and throwing rocks.  "I've seen a gator right about there every night this week," I said, pointing to a spot not far from them.  Just as I said "week" one of the girls shouted "GATOR!" and there he was, some 6-feet of tough-skinned, shiny-toothed uglyness.  There was much scrambling and screeching as they clambered up the bank.  Dudley and I moved on as the drama commenced, the girls shouting "why did you want us to go down there.  Alligators are dangerous.  EEEWWWW!  We could have been eaten."  We continued to see the gator, patrolling that spot about that time every night.  
      I enjoyed my walks and getting to know a little bit about a lot of nice people.  Next time I will do it all again.

      The Withlacoochee Trail runs 46 miles from Citrus Springs to Dade City.  There are lovely lakeside views and plenty of places to stop and enjoy small town fare (I like Little Italy Deli in Inverness where the owner said, "let me make the perfect salad just for you." It was. Try their homemade biscotti, too.)