There’s nothing like a weekend away at Piedmont Lake to really clear the head and calm the soul.

I got the weekend away, but it wasn’t so much clearing and calming as it was chaos and calamity. I don’t know why minor accidents follow my family around everywhere, but in three days Ben spilled six drinks, Nugget broke a glass and tore a screen, Maya pooped on four different neighbors’ lawns, and Shawn popped Ben’s favorite raft with a nail.

Still, it’s good to be out there. A few hours feels like a few days when the sound of traffic and sirens and television are quelled.

Ah, the glorious silence of nature.

In addition, I finally got to play with my birthday gift: the paddle board I’ve been wanting for years but have always been too cheap to buy. We’ve enjoyed our kayaks for years, but stand-up-paddling is an entirely different kind of fun. The kind that promises both exercise and humiliation.

It’s been a chilly May. Consequently, the water temperature hovered somewhere around 75. Great if you’re a bass; not so much if you’re a swimmer. It didn’t bother Andy at all. The boy is impervious to cold. Ben, however, spent most of his weekend wet and blue-lipped, shivering yet refusing to get out of the water until I forced him into a hot shower.

Everybody got a chance to paddleboard, though.

I’m proud to say I’m the only one who didn’t fall off. And while that may have more to do with the new prescription sunglasses I was wearing, I like to think it’s just because I’ve got the balance of a Flying Wallenda.

Unfortunately, there’s only so much skill to go around.



Note to readers: I wrote this blog on Monday, the day before the election, but didn’t finish editing it until Friday. I won’t be addressing the election because this is a nature blog, a sacred place.

When I began this blog, I did so for a class called Nature Writing that I took my second semester of graduate school. I loved that class because one of the requirements was to keep this nature blog. We had to choose a spot in nature and visit it every other week. What we wrote about was up to us. Naturally, I chose Piedmont Lake, though everyone else was a lot smarter, choosing a spot close to home. I had to drive an hour each way. Totally worth it though. That’s how Piedmont Peace, The Blog was born. And though I didn’t know exactly what revelations would come to me as I visited the lake by myself, over and over again, in the winter months, I was pleasantly surprised to have more than enough to write and think about every time I went. And it made me wish I’d been blogging for decades rather than weeks because I’d have a Piedmont book written by now. No place in my life is more deserving.

November weenie roast on Fall Chore Day.

I was at the lake, the cabin, yesterday for the annual fall cleanup day. As a child I hated fall chore day. It signaled the finish line for fun. While an adult with a boat can entertain herself via fall fishing well into October (and thanks to climate change, now November), a kid loses at least 50% of his interest as soon as the water becomes too cold for swimming. Fall cleanup day means putting the porch furniture in the house, blowing the leaves out of the gutters and off the roof, hiding beadspreads from mice in Rubbermain containers, and winterizeing the dock. That means Dad has to put on his hip waders and enter the 60-degree water (and this is a warm year) to take the float off the end. The rest of the dock is supported and will sit quietly above the sand when the conservancy lets down the lake, but the float has to find its way to the shoreline for the winter.

The dock moves out.

This year, though, the dock ritual incorporated much more detailed efforts. Some months ago, Dad received a letter from the Muskingum Conservancy Watershed District (henceforth MCWD or “the bastards”) telling him that he and every other resident of Goodrich Road had to have their docks out of the water by the end of December. Completely out, at our own expense and effort. The reason? MCWD has aerially visualized shoreline erosion in the vicinity of our docks. That means somebody went up in a plane and saw muddy water flowing out from our cove, most specifically from our dock and a few other docks. The letter went on to say that the Conservancy will be riprapping the shoreline in January to combat this problem.

Riprap at the dam

You’ve seen riprap. It’s a wall of rock piled upon the shoreline to stabilize and prevent erosion. I’ve seen it in the ocean as well as in fresh water. I’ve seen it on riverbanks. It prevents erosion from both wave action (of which there is very little in Piedmont due to the 9.9 horsepower limit) and runoff. It’s not a new concept. Robert E. Lee was assigned to an island riprapping project when he was in the Army Corps of Engineers. The poet and nature writer Gary Snyder spent time in his younger days as a trail crew member in the Sierra Nevada riprapping mountain trails for horse travel; in 1965 he published a book of poetry called Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems.

November on the lake

The titular poem, Riprap:

Lay down these words

Before your mind like rocks.

             placed solid, by hands   

In choice of place, set

Before the body of the mind

             in space and time:

Solidity of bark, leaf, or wall

             riprap of things:

Cobble of milky way,

             straying planets,

These poems, people,

             lost ponies with

Dragging saddles —

             and rocky sure-foot trails.   

The worlds like an endless   


Game of Go.

             ants and pebbles

In the thin loam, each rock a word   

             a creek-washed stone

Granite: ingrained

             with torment of fire and weight   

Crystal and sediment linked hot

             all change, in thoughts,   

As well as things.

Snyder’s riprap comes together, rock by rock, word by word, to form a beautiful trail of language leading us to a higher state. When we read it we actually ooze metaphor out of our pores: poetry is a riprap of words, carefully constructed for maximum strength and impact.

But the reaction to the MCWD’s decision to riprap our shoreline wasn’t poetic in my family at all; it was a real shit show. In fact, the whole of Goodrich Road rose up in angry protest. First of all, people just plain hate to be ordered around. Life at Piedmont Lake is good, but life at Piedmont Lake is also tremendously frustrating because the residents don’t own the land. You can’t cut down a tree without permission. Houses may be olive green or dark brown or gray, only. When you get a letter ordering you to paint the concrete blocks of your foundation, you do it. When you build a deck and forget to ask permission first, you pay a fine. Swimmers may not swim past the end of their docks, nor may they jump off their boats or rocks. We all do it anyway (because screw MCWD), but there have been times when the ranger has busted us and ordered us to behave ourselves. You can enjoy yourself at an MCWD lake, but actual fun isn’t encouraged. We go out of our way to project the appearance of compliance while at the same time doing all kinds of rotten things like diving off the boat at the dam and paddling an unlicensed kayak. And sometimes I’ve had to pay for it. But eff the Conservancy.

This time, though, we don’t have a choice. On January 1, the riprapping begins.

The shoreline in mid-spring.

Let me take a moment to describe our shoreline. The Eastern deciduous forest gives way to a gentle slope of grass about 15 feet wide. My father has encouraged small trees to take hold along the embankment, offering gentle privacy from passing fishermen and dappled shade in the heat of the day. Canada geese rest on the grass in the morning sun and, in May and June, cattails emerge and yellow water iris spring from the water’s edge, drawing bees and butterflies. The lake’s gentle waves lap the faces of small boulders, some overgrown with tree roots where thin water snakes make their summer homes. A rock sits just offshore, waiting to teach little children to jump and swim, a perch where I once counted dragonflies and dangled my toes in the lake, where my sons now practice their circus leaps. Leafy water plants begin to grow in the shallows as the water warms, and minnows and shiners dart to safety whenever a largemouth bass passes by. The mother bass spawn in the shade of the forest, endlessly guarding their nests until the fry hatch and move to the weed beds in the shadow of the saplings on the shore. In deeper water, bluegill and sunfish hide under the dock, guarding their own nests in the sub-aquatic vegetation, and even further out, saugeye lurk near the bottom and patrol the edge of the underwater forest.

In two months those bulldozers are going to roll up and maul the ever-loving shit out of our shoreline. Viva la riprap!

The MCWD agreed to send an engineer to a Goodrich Road meeting of the minds, and to his credit, he came prepared and he came in peace. I did not attend, but Dad did, and he reported back that this young professional truly listened to the concerns of the residents. In fact, he took a fair amount of abuse from an angry group of old men. He explained that the erosion had become a problem, but he took to heart the concerns of the dock owners. Someone had already riprapped his own shoreline with natural-looking boulders many years ago, and this engineer conceded that it was as good a job as any engineer could do. He agreed not to riprap that man’s shoreline. Moreover, he went back to the Conservancy and presented the Goodrich Road residents’ cases so successfully that MCWD decided not to riprap the entire shoreline of the cove. The new plan involves riprapping only some areas. Alas, our shoreline is the one in greatest need of reinforcement, due in part to a neighbor who ripped all of his trees out of the embankment several years ago in order to improve his view. One can hardly blame him for wanting a nice view, but the consequences have been direct and severe.

Yellow Iris and the jump rock

Bring in the bulldozers. If only I had had the forethought to dig up those water iris when I could still
find their bulbs, I could have overwintered them in my fish pond and replanted them in the spring.

But the shoreline won’t be the same in the spring–where would I plant them? It’ll be a massive wall of rocks, and any vegetation that had grown in the mud or in the water will have been crushed by the machinery. Forget for a moment the fact that we had to take apart the dock yesterday so Dad could walk it through the water and anchor it on a nearby shoreline where it can sit, undisturbed, for the winter. Forget for a moment that when we reassemble the dock it will have to be rebuilt to go up and over the riprap. Forget for a moment that no adult, dog, or child will be able to access the water without breaking a leg or an ankle. I don’t love those components of this process, but I can live with them. We can use ladders. The dogs will find a way.

My biggest concerns revolve around the riparian zone. What is going to happen to the shoreline habitat? The sub- and emergent-aquatic vegetation? The animals like turtles who may be trapped as they try to enter the water?

That’s a real question that’s milling around in my head. I don’t know the answer. What will happen? Thus far I’ve written this piece with a rather dour tone, haven’t I? Research into other states’ DNR pages indicates that riprap isn’t going to be the end of the world. If done properly, it will stop the erosion and still provide fish habitat. If erosion due to runoff is reduced, so too will be pollutants carried in that runoff, thereby reducing algae blooms. Additionally, riprap may protect wetlands by preventing floating vegetation from being stripped away.

Still, I don’t look forward to the riprapping.

Enter the marital disagreement. My husband, the fisherman, is whoop-whooping the incoming riprap with boundless enthusiasm.

“You know how many fish we catch at the dam,” he always reminds me. “Have you not read about the smallmouth and largemouth populations that gather around a rock wall?” I have read about them, and he’s right. Craw love a rock wall. Where there are craw, there will be smallies. Where there are cracks and holes, fish will hide and spawn. This project has the potential to create bountiful fishing opportunities if they do it right. Algae grows on rocks. Small fish eat algae. Big fish eat small fish. Bigger fish patrol the shoreline.

Bass magazines back this up. Anglers never pass up a good stretch of riprap.

If they do it right.

Thus, the family remains a hung jury. My father mourns the swift death of his shoreline, of his trees, and of the way it’s been for 40-some years. Shawn is eager to reap the benefits of a bouldered habitat. And I find myself torn, both hoping for the best and expecting the worst. It’s difficult to find ourselves “in the way” of a judgment that’s already been passed. Might we have been able to bring in more natural rocks? To plant shrubbery and more trees? I think I’d have more faith in the engineers were they not working for the organization that sold its soul to Antero, the frackers, for $95 million dollars.

Passing our dock around the neighbor’s.

“We’re doing this for you for free,” they told the residents at the Goodrich Road meeting. You don’t have to pay a dime. We’re fixing things for you.”

Fixing. I’m suspicious of that word when it comes to environmental engineering.

I know that in this world we have to trust some people and suspect others. But only hindsight reveals how we did with our gut feeling, if we chose wisely or poorly. I find myself fighting the urge to cling to the way it’s always been, to rebel against riprap simply because it’s a change. Change is not a bad thing, usually. Nature herself is not static. But riprap isn’t nature. Show me a time when man tinkered with nature that ended with a result better than one nature could have achieved itself.

Then again, the whole lake is manmade, the fish dumped in out of the backs of trucks, the water levels raised and lowered by a set of steel doors. Perhaps this entire experiment is just one wild adventure in commerce. As of the posting of this blog, I remain doubtfully hopeful.

The future, for now, looks rocky.

*Roy Blount Jr., Robert E. Lee

Lesson from the Lake: Soggy Dogs and Smelly Fish

I went to the lake yesterday. I wish I could say that with more enthusiasm. Actually, since this is type you have no idea how much enthusiasm might be going into my typing; my fingers could literally be bouncing off the keys with zest and verve. However, the distinct absence of exclamation points should clue you in.

As an aside: I hate exclamation points. I have a friend from childhood who peppers her writing–she’s not a writer, but in emails and letters and posts–with exclamation points. Everything deserves one! She’s always terribly excited to tell you that she picked up some new shoelaces and a head of cabbage! Things are looking up!!! And the more exclamation points she includes, the more vividly I envision myself beating her senseless with her own keyboard. Er, with her own fucking keyboard!!!!!!!!

Anyway, weekday lake trips buoyed this blog into existence during my second semester of graduate school. (I still cannot believe I’m writing about it in the past tense, now.) I went out there in the snow, and in the frost, and eventually, in the warmth and sunshine. I hiked and sat and wrote and ice-walked and kayaked. It was great. But in all that time, I never once went to the lake in the rain.

Now wait a minute, you say. The rain isn’t a bad thing to a nature-lover. The world feels different in the rain. It’s quiet and wonderfully solitary. Provided you have the right clothing, a hike in the rain can introduce you to things you won’t ordinarily see. The forest smells peatier; tiny creeks form, giving you hints of where ravines will someday turn into foothills and gulches. (Gulch is far and away my favorite word in the English language. I’m going to name my next cat Gulch.) The rain reveals a little-seen world in the woods if you’ve packed the right shoes. And even if you haven’t, as the cantankerous bag-lady at Kroger once sniped at me when I frowned at a downpour, “You’re not made of sugar; you won’t melt.”

You know, I’d really like to stick that bitch in the mouth. I had a pie with me. Meringue.

But for whatever reason, Piedmont Lake has never been a place I want to be in the rain. I’m ashamed to say that it has something to do with the fact that I’m unplugged out there. Even with the world’s biggest pile of books, I sometimes need to feel connected. Now, not often. I usually go to Piedmont to get away. But when it rains, I’m forced into the house, and when I’m forced into the house, I’m also forced into sitting with myself in the silence. And myself and I have trouble when it’s just the two (one) of us. We start thinking about the rejection email we got from McSweeney’s (again), and the fact that we just spent $40k on a degree that offers rejection emails rather than paychecks. And then we decide to open the fridge and dig out last summer’s s’mores kit, which by now is just a bag of sugar-rocks and broken graham crackers that taste like freon. And we gnaw on them and gag at the taste and our self-pity, and I tell myself I can’t stand her presence because she brings me down.

On a dismal day, Piedmont Lake throws off nothing but gray and self-pity. And I hate self-pity. It’s an unattractive quality and a bad habit. Today, though, I just couldn’t shake it.

Some days, I just feel like a jacked-up dock in a cold drizzle.

I went out to clean the cabin in preparation for the summer season and tackled the filthy beast until every dead millipede and every live roach (especially the one I found skulking under my pillow) had been swept away. The dogs waited as patiently as they possibly could for me to finish so they could trot down to the lake, where the scene was quite dreary. As there was no wind, the rain fell straight down onto a mirrored surface. One miserable fisherman puttered along the shoreline past the dock, and I wondered if he felt as cranky as I did. The fish rarely bite in the rain.

To my surprise, Nugget and Maya reacted with an initial lack of enthusiasm too. The one thing I’ve learned from 37 years of owning dogs is that they like the rain about as much as I do. They’ll allow their bladders to fill to the point of rupture before they’ll pee in a heavy downpour, and if she can sneak away from the humans, Nugget will happily leave a steamy pile in the foyer rather than get her girly paws wet. Down by the lake, both girls picked their way through the long grass, which was overdue for a mow, and looked about as happy as I felt.

But of course, dogs impart teachable moments to us wherever they go, if we’re receptive. When you’re a dog, something always comes along to perk you up. Rather than mope and pity themselves, they keep their noses to the ground, always seeking treasure, ever-confident that it will appear. Dogs’ opportunistic nature should be a lesson to all of us; something great lies just around the bend at any given time. For my girls, something great did indeed lie around the bend. Something great and dead and decomposing.

What can we learn from the dog?

First and foremost, we too must keep our noses to the ground so we don’t miss whatever wonderful, smelly, desiccated corpse happens to be lying on the shore of the lake. And when we find it, we should roll in it with abandon, digging our shoulders into the acrid, rotting scales because these rare jewels come along infrequently in life.

Follow me through the guts of this metaphor, if you will.

Yes, I’m telling you to roll in the dead fish like a dog. Carpe carpem: seize the fish. Roll until the stink of joy covers you, because that joy, that stink, is fleeting, and all too soon some higher power will come along and lure you out onto the end of the dock and throw you into the lake.

Poor Nugget never saw it coming. She was so happy to reek and so stunned when I tossed her in the drink. Yet, like any dog, she bore me no ill will and came right back onto the dock with a sodden, wagging tail, never once imagining that I might do it again. I didn’t. And while I apologized to her, and wrung out her dripping beard, Maya found the fish and plucked it from the wet grass in her jaws, carrying both it and her tail high. A most precious treasure.

I admit I didn’t see it this way at the time. Possibly, I yelled, “Oh my gawd put that down you dirty dog!” Possibly, I ended the excursion and went back inside, wet and resentful and appalled. Possibly, I’m now only realizing that I stripped them of their beloved prize in a predictably human way.

I mean, it was a rotting carp. The girls stunk. And I despise the lemons-into-lemonade cliche. But, perhaps we should all look for the dead fish on dreary days. Otherwise, it’s just a soggy walk in the rain.

The Weekend of the Century

The blog goes back to Piedmont, now. And what a weekend we were blessed with.


It takes an awful lot of work to get six people and five dogs out to the cabin for two nights. I am the designated organizer, now that my mom has health problems. I made the list, I did the shopping, I did the packing, and the hauling, and the children’s overnight bags. I filled the gas tanks, and remembered toilet paper and sunscreen and dog food. And when we got there on Friday afternoon, Mom and the children and I, I did the unpacking so she could rest. For the first few hours, I hated every minute of it.

Being the sole soul in charge is trying. Shawn helps me by hauling, but this time he was at work and in addition, he has ADHD, so his contributions are usually limited to asking where we’re going and putting milk in the liquor cabinet. He is my partner in this life, but the weight of forward momentum is always on my shoulders. At all times I am responsible for three lives, plus my own. At times, I feel very tired, deep in my soul. Friday night was one of those nights. Shawn joined us late, after he’d come home from work and loaded up his own collection of things, like his smoker. I made food for the kids and they had a grand time jumping off of the rock, when they weren’t fighting.

Two months ago that rock was high and dry, and encased in ice. This has been an extreme year, so far. The air was 90 degrees, and the water had risen to 76. Far too cold for me to go in past my waist, but the kids toughed it out until their shivers prevented them from speaking. As they stood on the rock we saw two water snakes go by. They are Northern Water Snakes, and they lurk along the shoreline living under tree roots. They eat frogs and craws and minnows, and they’re a snake that gives birth to live young.

The mental image of a snake giving birth is icky, by the way. I’m not anti-snake, but any time wiggly things come out of other wiggly things….it’s just a lot for the old brain to handle.


As we sat on the deck, Mom and I tinkered with my new Cornell Ornithology bird app. A towhee and his mate were fluttering around the yard and when I played the bird call, the male immediately approached me. He dove at my head, he sat on the roof above me and in nearby branches, calling and calling. His mate was on her nest in a boxwood beside the screened porch, while he flirted with my phone for several hours. Not that I’m anthropomorphizing or anything, but he was quite the sleazy guy. Looking for cloaca on the side. (Actually, in truth I felt I’d screwed with his little bird brain by playing the app, and I had a serious case of birder’s remorse.)

On Saturday we were fishing and heard a tremendous murder of crows in the nearby woods all calling and cawing together in fury. Interspersed between these calls were the angry screeches of a red-tailed hawk. Whether the hawk was too close to the crows’ nest(s) or the crows were too close to the hawk nest, we couldn’t tell. But after twenty minutes of bawdy hysterics, the crows came flying out of the woods and over our heads with the red-tailed hawk in hot pursuit. The hawk swooped low over our heads on his/her way to the west, and settled into a yard a few lots down. The crows didn’t come back.

Within an hour of the hawk sighting the lake’s resident bald eagle appeared. This was very exciting, because I hadn’t ever seen the eagle leave the southeast end of the lake, the headwaters. Nor do I know if there are now a pair of eagles or not, but I hope there will be. The eagle was in our large cove and swooped over our dock, heading eventually back to the southeast. It was very exciting.

On Sunday morning, I saw a hooded warbler, which I have never seen before, and was delighted to encounter. The woods are full of such different birds than the urban backyard, and the songs are all new to me too.


The weekend’s spectacularity (that’s a word, right?) really stemmed from the fishing. We rarely come out in May, and this past weekend the water was cold, the air was hot, and a vast school of white bass moved into our cove. In 36 years at the lake I’ve never seen a white bass, nor have I seen them school around the dock as they did. It felt like a swarm of locusts, almost, because they hit on every single cast. I caught 10 fish in 10 casts; Andy caught 20 in 20. In fact, I caught more fish on Saturday than Shawn and I have caught at Piedmont in our entire 13 years together, combined. The four of us brought in well over 100 fish on Saturday, and it continued into Sunday.

While 90% of the species during the day on Saturday were white bass, aka stripers, as the afternoon progressed we began to pull in a few saugeye. White bass school and hit in a frenzy, but saugeye are bottom-dwellers. Unlike bass, they have sharp teeth and razors on their gills, and a frustrating habit of extending their gills outward when handled in an attempt to slice open human fingers. Ben and Andy became rather adept at “lipping” the bass, but we had to handle the saugeye for Ben, at least, because of the potential for injury. Saugeye are a farm-produced hybrid between a female walleye and a male sauger. They do reproduce on their own but are easy to grow and stock. Walleye need colder water, so the saugeye is particularly well-suited for the warmth of these Ohio reservoirs. They’re a favorite fish in Piedmont, along with the muskellunge. Anglers often troll slowly around the shoreline for saugeye. They have the creepy walleye eye, which appears iridescent and wonky at times. Though Piedmont is known for it’s saugeye, Shawn and I have tried unsuccessfully for years to catch them. We caught more this weekend than we knew what to do with. 13-year-unlucky streak: broken.

In the evening we began hauling in large crappie. They like cold water and they were lurking in the growing weeds about 10 feet off the dock. We caught several the size of dinner plates. Well, salad plates, anyway.

Get ready for some fish photos.

Dad’s 14-inch crappie on Sunday at dawn

Ben’s big crappie

Ben’s beefy striped bass (white bass)

Lengthy saugeye

Andy’s crappie

The record fish of the weekend: Ben’s 16-inch saugeye caught on his Spiderman pole

The children, I think, have no idea how unusual this weekend’s fishing was. Piedmont is a spring and fall lake, and we really only use the cabin in the summer. By the time we get established out there, the only fish to catch are bluegill and catfish. Fishing is terribly slow in the summer. In the pre-children days, Shawn and I spent a lot of time spring fishing, but it’s a fading memory. When the water warms another ten degrees, the lake will shut down and the poor kids won’t understand what happened.

Nevertheless, this weekend will remain in their memories for most of their lives. They may never catch that many fish in 4 hours ever again. I certainly haven’t. And our experience reiterated why I think fishing is such an important hobby. Somehow, I differentiate it from hunting quite a bit, though not everyone does. It’s the idea of catch-and-release, the idea that humans can be part of nature, dip into nature for their own enjoyment, and at the end of the day, restore it and go home to our world. Anglers, assuming they are responsible, don’t hurt anything, and I think anglers are some of the strongest proponents of environmentalism you’ll encounter. We don’t want chemicals in the lake, we don’t want jet skis on the water. We want our fish to have structure, and we want stable populations. Anglers are sticklers for the rules. (Insert paragraph about the rapacious Amish who disregard fishing regulations and catch limits, who catch as many fish as they can and grind them up to put on their fields. We can’t stand the Amish anglers. In fact, I saw a pontoon boat struggling along with about 20 of them on it, each with about 8 inches of room to cast.)

Fishing is a perfect way to introduce kids to nature, to instill a love of the outdoors without asking them to do something they can’t: sit still. Kids need action, and meditating on the dock doesn’t do it for them. Andy learned how to take the fish carefully off the hook (and how to avoid dogs), and Ben learned how to “lip” the bass. Every fish went back into the lake. Not that there’s anything wrong with eating fish, but there’s something to be said for the thrill of the catch followed by the impact of watching your hard work swim away. It’s not a lesson they’ll realize they’ve learned for many decades. And I’d love to say, “America, take your kids fishing,” but I find that any time “America” makes up its mind to do something in droves, it inevitably screws up the natural world. So I’m not really sure I want every family out there with us. In fact, we told nobody about our white bass school.

But, America, take your kids fishing. Just be careful. Be calm. Be sustainable.


During our campfires on Friday and Saturday nights, we heard frogs. It sounded like a great chorus. Two notes: an ascending trill followed by a descending trill, something like this. It came from the forest. On Saturday night, Dad and Shawn and I went down to the dock to look at the Milky Way (which wasn’t visible thanks to the light from a new derrick the gas company has erected across the lake, thank you very much Antero) and we realize it was one damn frog making a noise so loud as to be heard for half a mile. Research indicates it was a Gray Tree Frog, and a loud mother humper at that. I don’t know what I’d do if he was on a tree near my bedroom window.

The second night we were sitting there with Mimi and Pop and began to hear a series of yips and barks and howls. Someone made the idiot mistake of identifying it as a pack of coyotes, which it surely was. The kids were terrified. On the lane a few years ago someone left their golden tied up outside over night and the dog was killed, and on Saturday another neighbor lost her pug for several terrifying hours. I worked very hard to explain to the kids the nature of coyotes, and the bad-guy image that they and wolves have unfairly earned. Still, it was an ongoing ruckus and both kids ended up in their dad’s lap.

The eastern coyote is actually a cross between a western coyote and an eastern wolf. They’re larger than their western coyote counterparts, thanks to the wolf DNA they’ve absorbed over the years. There’s a fascinating documentary about this “Coy Wolf” on Netflix. And eastern coyotes are well-suited for urban life. We have them in our neighborhood at home, from time to time. They are one of those species who thrive around humans. A critter cam in our backyard would be more likely to catch a coyote than one at the lake.

Google Image of an eastern coyote

Also of note is the sudden appearance of gray squirrels at the lake. In Wheeling we have red and fox squirrels, and never a gray. Suddenly, the gray squirrels have come to Piedmont. Or, perhaps, I’ve suddenly noticed them.


I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the ribs my husband smoked from 9am to 6pm in his smoker, with hickory chips. Phenomenal.

Not so phenomenal was the doggy diarrhea had by my parents’ sheltie on the boat the next day after she snuck a rib out of the trash. It was Mother’s Day, so I cleaned up the mess. (Dad, apparently, doesn’t do dog poop, period.)

When the shock and effort of getting out there with two squabbling kids wore off, I had the weekend of my life. In fact, on the boat ride, when the spring-green hills were sandwiched between the blue of the sky and the blue of the lake, I was 100% certain that I’ve never loved any place on earth as much as I love that lake. It’s not sexy; it’s not the Grand Canyon or the Caribbean Sea. It’s the element of my childhood home, I think, that makes it so vital a part of me. “Happy” isn’t even the proper word. Rather, the lake brings me a deep contentment that I don’t think I’ve ever felt anywhere else quite so strongly, including my own home.

Finally, a view of the cove where I spent my cold winter walks.

The dam at the northwest end of the lake.

Muddy Floody Rampy Joy

Flood control lake, doing its job.
Today made up for every single degree below freezing I endured this winter. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoyed every visit to the lake, even the one where the critter squalled at me and my tire was punctured by the world’s tiniest, most benign-looking rock. Even the one where I let my son fall through the ice and then also fall through a hole in the floor of the church camp playground. But as much as I love a good ice hike, I love a balmy paddle far better. 
Dad’s dock looks worse than ever. 
Last week we had flash flooding after days and days of storms and rain. The lake is up more than two feet. Dad’s dock, and everybody else’s dock, looks pretty gnarly. Er, even more gnarly than over the winter. The rock, my ever-present landmark, is gone, and its absence makes me feel like I’m out of place (like that time I walked into the men’s room at Ruby Tuesday). But the flood, even as it crept up the hillside, provided a new perspective. And though that is an overused phrase and a hackneyed subject at times, I can concede that, after a brutal winter and a very difficult semester full of writing, stress, anxiety, health problems, and a rash on my armpit that just won’t go away, shifts in perception may benefit me greatly. 
Where is the rock? It’s 24 inches underwater!

Behold: The sacred ramp in all its rampy goodness.
Boil ’em, bake ’em, stick ’em in a stew!
In keeping with this shift, I bushwhacked my way through the woods on a non-existent path, and this is only possible in early spring, before the thicket rises to ensnare bodies that try to pass. The forest floor was covered in leaf litter, as usual, but also in little pink flowers. Everywhere bits of green had periscoped their way up out of the ground to have a peek around. Daffodils were here and there, and I was lucky enough to stumble on the forest’s first patch of 
ramps. In West Virginia we adore ramps. A garlicy little tuber not unlike a wild onion, ramps are the guests of honor at many an April festival, and in many a WV dish. We do ramps and potatoes, when we can find them, and Shawn will be very excited to know that it’s almost time to harvest. I also saw the beginnings of May Apples, waxy little green umbrellas which, in May, develop an apple-like fruit underneath their canopy.
Little Mayapples, which will
unfold next month.
I have yet to see any trilliums. I wouldn’t ever go on a trillium hunt without my father, anyway – it’s our sacred tradition stretching back 36 years. (Did I say 36? I mean 27. Yeah…) They should arrive in another two weeks, though our numbers here at Piedmont are very, very small of late. Very delicate flowers, they cannot be disturbed at all, and if they are picked or munched by a deer, they’re toast. 
I pawed through the vernal frog pool with my bare hands—bring on the muck!—but found nothing much. Mosquito larvae and waterbugs. I was hoping for tadpoles. A caddisfly landed on my arm and stayed for a few seconds, long enough for me to identify it. This is good news; the presence of caddisflies, mayflies, and stoneflies indicates the stream behind the cabin is not too terribly polluted. Stoneflies are the most delicate and sensitive to toxins, if I recall. I also saw a carpenter bee, my least favorite bee. He was digging around in a flower. I read just yesterday that a carpenter bee will bore a hole through the side of a flower, effectively destroying it, if he cannot reach the nectar. Jerk bee. Important bee, but jerk bee.

Male carpenter bees cannot sting but make up for
it with an abundance of testosterone.
Awesome moss.

The girls had to wait on the porch while I went for my paddle. The fowl were all out today. I saw no loons, but several species of duck I’ve never before encountered on this lake. I went around the little cove depicted in most of my photos, and wherever I went I seemed to disturb the ducks. There was a little flock of five Lesser Scoups, which are diving ducks, and they were on their way to the Pacific Northwest and Canada, if research serves me correctly. Also, I saw a very distinct pair of ducks which I cannot identify, yet. They were terribly shy and my photo is quite blurry. Hours of combing the internet has not yet confirmed what I saw, but I suspect they may have been mergansers. 
What kind of duck am I? Merganser? Please ID me.
The lady in the kayak wouldn’t leave me alone.

The wind was warm but strong, and I did a fair amount of drifting, which afforded me the opportunity to put up my feet and watch the clouds fly by. I saw a mylar balloon a thousand feet up, flying along. I hate balloon launches; they’re toxic to animals, and if they land in the ocean they choke turtles, among other species. I’m very anti-balloon, but something about the way this thing blew around in wild circles like an uncaring crazy person (my reference point here is Easter dinner with my husband’s family) made me feel like the happiest idiot in the world.
So, what have I taken from my eight trips to the lake?
I’ve learned about ice. It’s never the same beast from day to day, and even when it’s solid, it’s constantly shifting, cracking, and if I were to anthropomorphize it (who, me?), I would say that it almost enjoys fucking with the humans. It’s a moody four-year-old, changing with the sunlight or clouds, constantly evolving and absolutely never trustworthy. But this winter it stayed for a very long time and allowed me to know it a bit better, and every ice walk I took was a worthwhile experience.
What are these revisions you say
I should be doing?
Coming here alone is a far different experience from coming with my kids, or even with Shawn or my dad. Coming without the dogs is quieter still. The silence, when I’m allowed to experience it here, is enormous, so much so that the sounds I hear every day at home feel as garish as a car alarm. As I write this it is utterly silent save for Frank, who lives next door, and sometimes he turns on his circular saw which sounds for all the world like an aural violation.
I’ve learned that I should check the wind direction before setting out in my kayak. And that the spider who lives in my kayak is a pretty cool dude who will sit on my arm while I paddle. 
And if I do bring my children, I cannot expect the experience I would have alone, and more importantly, this is not a bad thing. It simply is. Providing them with the opportunity to have their own experiences here is vital. I cannot fabricate it, or serve it to them. Whatever they find and do out here is enough. And should they grow up to value other places on the earth more, that too is okay.
Lastly, I’ve found moments of quiet here. This lake, this cabin, are not a permanent solution to my problems. Life is always waiting for me when I drive back into Wheeling. But the act of coming, of severing the cord with the business of my life for an hour, or a weekend is enough to dose me with a few milligrams of very necessary nature, in whatever form it takes.

I think this calls for a nap. 

Forest flower known as “Spring Beauty”
Five petals with pink veins. Known as a “spring ephemeral.”
Thought by native peoples to prevent conception.

There’s a fungus amungus.
Shelf or bracket fungi known as
“Turkey Tail”.

The vernal fool just before she rolled in the vernal pool.

My favorite old, gentle German U-boat.

General Disaster and Captain Calamity

Nugget was at the groomers and missed the walk.

Blog 5 is overdue, and I deliver it to you with great pain, my friends. I have suffered for this entry, as so many writers have suffered for their craft. Some bleed for their art. Some starve. Some die with words still unwritten.

My special brand of masochism involved taking my children with me today. And it was every bit the disaster you’d imagine. They’re on spring break and mercifully go back to school tomorrow. I was able to get them out of bed and on the road before 10am. Ben assigned himself the job of monitoring my speed on the interstate; Andy designated himself the head of the Smug Police, and issued a verbal warning to any backseat drivers who seemed to big for their britches. They corrected each other’s grammar and criticized each other’s vocabulary. Andy befouled the car several times and claimed the stink with the pride of an 8-year-old.

When we got off the interstate we drove along the country roads in the bright sun and Ben said, almost nonchalantly, “I see a wolf, Mommy.” I asked him if he was serious, and then his brother chimed in and said he’d seen a wolf, too, naturally. If they actually saw anything, it was either a red fox or a coyote, so I turned the car around and rumbled along the berm peering into the woods while they argued over whether foxes fart and who saw it first. I saw nothing. Andy stuck to his story but Ben finally conceded that it might just have been a bush.


And so it went. When we arrived at the cabin there was still plenty of snow, but it was hard, crusty, and held the weight of the kids, whereas I punched through. It would have been a great snowshoe day. There were tracks by the cabin and I’ve not yet decided what they are. I tried so hard to show the boys and have them guess what might have left the snow prints, but Maya pooped on the driveway and Ben was staring at the pile, gagging and wretching, unable to look away.

The ice was still there. This weekend was the first weather above freezing in two months. For over eight weeks the ice has lingered. It’s given me an amazing study, watching it change every other week, seeing the many forms it can take and the many, many moods. The Conservancy has closed the spillway and the lake is beginning to rise. Signs of spring! In the photos it’s obvious where the rising water has seeped out from under the thick, opaque ice and has frozen along the shoreline, but this ice is frail. Off the end of the dock I was able to stand on it, and I suspect it will take all of 10 days for it to disappear.

The lake is rising

Before we could begin a hike Ben’s boot fell apart, necessitating my return to the cabin for duct tape. Andy assured me he would keep Ben from the ice while I ran up. When I returned, Andy was standing on the ice. “Don’t put your feet it, kids,” I said. “You’ll get your legs wet.” Ben decided to crawl onto the ice on his hands and knees. I heard him make a noise and turned to find him wallowing in the freezing water like a puffy little seal.

My little blonde burden

His feet were soaked, his pants were soggy. The sun was in his eyes. There was no hike to be taken today. Instead, I let them loose on the empty playground at the church camp nearby and lay on a wooden bench in the bright sun, trying to soak up a little silence. A woodpecker was in the woods, somewhere above our heads, and though it took 17 attempts, I was able to shush them long enough for them to hear the sound of the pecking. Then Ben fell off a tire swing and sobbed, and it was over. His foot hurt, his body was wet, and he was too tired to get his tiny little body down the hill and back up the next hill to the cabin. Guess who did the schlepping?

I tried to give the kids a nature walk. I silently told myself that they were not willing to receive the experience today. But then I realized they were having their own experience. They are little children; they don’t see the moods of the ice. They don’t relish stillness, and the sound of a woodpecker is but an interesting tidbit on the way to the next mudhole. They aren’t capable of seeing what I see, and there’s nothing wrong with that. When I was 8 I probably enjoyed tossing rocks and tire swings more than I did traipsing through crusty snow that came up to my shins. That was where I started, and now I’m a grown adult who put those fun little moments in nature together to form a greater appreciation and desire for nature. Whether I put them in “real” nature or “artificial” nature, I cannot manufacture experiences for them. Nor would I want to. Today I let them play, and I let them take some risks. I didn’t ask anything of them but to walk with me and listen for birds. I may not know for 30 years what these experiences mean to them, but hope they will be worthwhile.

As for me, I did not get my dose of Piedmont Peace. But I saw another perspective, got a stern reminder that my eyes are by no means the only eyes. Take whatever experience you like from nature; it’s all good.

Guerilla parenting

Here you can see how far up the lake has risen since
they closed the spillway.
He decided this was as far as he was willing to go.
The church campers will appreciate that, Andy.
Those two dark blobs in the snow are
my children, 

Hookers and Holes

I took the SUV as a sign. The blue sky, the wind chill warning, the photos on Facebook of ice fisherman with their coolers: it all makes for a lovely day at the lake, and it was, but when I saw the red Ford SUV pulling out of a gravelly drive, a pony-tailed woman on a cell phone behind the wheel, and the words, “Mobile Escort Service” emblazoned on the side, I knew it was also going to be a weird day at the lake.
Funky snow
I guess fishermen get as lonely as the next guy, right? Blech.
Okay, yes, it’s entirely possible this was the kind of escort that follows a large truck from the fracking fields to the gas plant. That actually didn’t occur to me until just now, after several uncomfortable hours imagining a diminutive woman in heels knocking on the creaky door of Big Curtis’s ice shack. 
The desert of ice and the approaching cirrus clouds
In 35 years I’ve never seen the ice stick around for eight weeks. Moreover, this blog has given me wonderful occasion to walk on it every ten days. I thought perhaps I’d go back into the woods today, that maybe everyone is tired of my ice walks. But here’s the thing about ice: it’s constantly morphing into something new. It’s as undependable as my husband at the grocery store. (“You wanted pads, right? These say “Poise”. Is that okay?”) At the moment, because of this extreme, lengthy cold, it feels as solid as the ground. When I jump on it, it neither echoes nor vibrates. And, hidden as it is under the crusty snow, it may as well be a sleeping cornfield. Yet, when the jet stream changes and warmer air arrives or a different sort of snow falls, it’ll be a foreign place again. 
I keep putting off her haircut for these hikes.
In my photos it always appears to be same lake. I’m so glad I’ve got words on my side to explain to you how vastly different it is from visit to visit. In January the ice was glassy and new. Two weeks ago it was windswept, and the snow was thin and spread out as on a blustery beach. Today the ice looked like a desert. There’s no snow on the trees, and we endured a weird snowstorm last weekend that created this Piedmont Sahara. Four inches of snow fell and then it began to rain/sleet/ice. The result is a snow cone, and in places it looked popcorny. The thin crust on the top of the snow cover gave way when I stepped on it. Temperatures have been so cold for so long that the ice can handle a fleet of Hummers. I transitioned from terra firma to the surface of the lake and had every intention of walking right across the cove to the other shore. We rarely get to do that; temps have to be below freezing for about two weeks. Our temps have been below zero for so long that all the melanin has left my skin and my butt now blends in with the bathroom tile. 
The solidity of the footing lulled me into a false sense of security. I walked along and suddenly crack!A tiny canyon shot horizontally across my path. I promptly shit my pantsdid a foul-mouthed two-step as I hustled my buns back to the shallows. My heart beat out its terror in my chest and my throat was dry and I felt the adrenaline surge diminish all the way down in my legs. It made no sense! The ice is every bit of ten inches thick. The Piedmont Facebook page was awash with ice fisherman this weekend. How could it—how dareit—crack under my weight? 
And so Nature gets a kick out of the silly writer who thinks she has it all figured out, who assumes there are rules, that 35 years of ice walks confers upon her a PhD in Piedmont Experience, giving her the rights and privileges to assume her way through all things wild.
I know nothing, Jon Snow.
The cracks seemed to follow me wherever I went. (Way to scarf that lemon paczki this morning, fatty.) I walked on the ice because I had to, because the snow-cone consistency of the land-snow made it impossible to navigate. Every ten minutes a crack tore out from under me heading off in an endless streak of horror. Even though my brain knew that the ice was thick enough to hold a gaggle of grumpy old men and their fishing huts, my body reacted with adrenaline and a sprint for the shore every time it uttered a noise. 
The mysterious hole

I theorized that there’s so much ice that it had nowhere to go, no choice but to crack. It’s almost a foot thick, if not more. It couldn’t have dropped me no matter how many delightful Polish pastries I consumed. Water expands as it freezes. It’s so heavy, so massive, that it inevitably tears itself apart.  Canyons open up, exposing stratifications like the sides of Pennsylvania hills when they’re blasted for an interstate. It heaves and sighs and bitches and complains when the temperature fluctuates. And, in places, it spouts its frustrations. I came to a hole in the ice that had frozen over. This appeared to be a very deep hole, and I could look down into its blackness. Ice fisherman’s plunder? Couldn’t be—there were no tracks nearby. As I walked along the shoreline I encountered many of these frozen holes. (And the wind chill today was probably around zero so I had some frozen holes of my own.)

Frozen flatulence?
Last summer in Russia several enormous holes appeared on the Siberian tundra, and scientists spent considerable effort trying to determine their origin. The fear is that the warming climate is causing methane trapped in the formerly frozen ground to expand and blow. I suspect that something similar, albeit benign, is happening at Piedmont. The ice is so thick that the air trapped under it has to go somewhere. Perhaps it finally blew, like my tire last week. The water flowed up through the hole and froze over again as soon as it touched the chill of the atmosphere.
The site of a weekend ice hut,
tracks from a rolling cart and the
fishing hole.
Are these holes a place where the pressure is releasing? For all intents and purposes, was I down on my knees sniffing an ice fart?
I ran for the shoreline like a weenie every time the ice burped or thwumped. I slipped a few times on slick spots. Maya had another case of the Leon Trotskies and I caught her dragging her butt on the ice in perhaps the least dignified posture ever achieved by a noble daughter of Rin Tin Tin. By the end of the hike I was certain that nature was out to get me. It’s the first time I’ve felt humbled by the lake. I had no answers, only questions, and though the bare hills revealed dozens of cabins I’ve never seen before, they were all empty and I felt incredibly isolated. It was me and the girls and a lone red-tailed hawk.
That’s probably why I decided to pee behind my mother’s boxwoods rather than fool with the frozen toilets.
Ice fisherman on 2/22/15
Who wants to tell my dad that his dock looks a little…askew?

Edited to add: When I told my father about the mysterious holes he said, “Well how do you know that they aren’t ice fishing holes?” I said, “There are no tracks.” He replied, “How do you know they weren’t covered by snow?”

It’s a good explanation. These mysterious fart holes, though…they were all right against the shoreline, in only a foot or two of water. I can’t imagine a fisherman would be in such shallow water, and I know the fish aren’t there. They’re down in the deep.

Bonus Entry: Chatty Writer Blathers Truth

*Please see the next blog post for the Official Nature Writing Blog Post of Week 6. This is a blather that I cannot keep in, because I blather.*

Now that I’ve spent a brief few moments exploring my senses and paying homage to the brilliant sun and a sky that makes me feel as though death would be nothing more than lying contentedly on a slab of ice alone (in a good way…sometimes lying on a slab of ice isn’t as much fun as others, say, after a hockey stick to the face or when you’ve just been pulled out of a morgue drawer), I can tell you what else happened. If you read this one, read the post below first. That’s the official one. It was all true and honest. So is this. Pam Houston and her 20% can go pick an ear.

When I left the house it was in disarray. School was letting out at 11:30am, and I had to make a 50 minute drive out, do my contemplative thing, and make another 50 minute drive home. AND make time to tinker with the toilet because it needs antifreeze and I had so much coffee that there’s no way I was going to get away with a quick wilderness tinkle behind my mother’s boxwoods. I left childen unshodden and a husband in the shower undoubtedly staring off into space having deep thoughts about man things like boobs and NATO.

When the girls and I arrived, they bolted for the lake. In the cabin I donned heavy snow pants, ski gloves, a balaclava that makes me look like an egglplant, and a hat over top of that. (I knit the hat myself, so I might as well have worn a paper towel on my head for all of the warmth it offered.)

I had my phone/camera out taking photos of the rock where I learned to jump as child. I was taken by the way it has a quiet cave underneath its eastern corner, and I always think I’d be the fat little bass that hangs out under there 5 days a week until the children come on weekends to throw sticks and pee off the edge. Being a writer, I can’t really just enjoy looking at a rock. I have to find meaning in a rock. Metaphor. Make a comparison. Find a symbol. Gah. It’s a rock that has an uppy corner. Shut up. You’re not a bass. You’re an ass.

The warmth of the sun called me out onto the ice and I decided to test its thickness with my own body weight rather than something sensible like a rock or one of my dogs. (That’s why I take two out there, right? Let’s be honest. I’ve got my ice-testing dog and my spare dog. They’re like birth control–it never hurts to double up because nobody likes an unexpected swimmer.)

My ego decided to come with me today. In my yoga class we’ve started this baloney of taking off all of our clothing, putting on some gaudy yoga pants and a tank top, going out into the snow and striking a yoga pose. And then we send them to each other and dare each other to top it. I wasn’t about to take off all of my clothing, but I decided to set up the camera, hit “record” and film myself doing a bit of eagle out on the ice. Wrapping my legs around each other, binding my arms was tough in so many thick layers, but I did it. As I retrieved the camera phone, again my vanity got the better of me and I hit “play”. There was my dumpy winter form on the beautiful ice, contorting itself into knots, and there behind me was my German Shepherd succumbing to an explosion of bloody diarrhea. Namaste, idiot.

Eagle ego: dog diarrhea
not pictured

That smart phone has an uncanny ability to reflect buffoonery every time. It calls me out like an overly-honest 4-year-old, the same one who appeared in the shower stall the other day to tell me I had some real nice flappy boobs, and how did I to go the bathroom without a penis anyway?

The commotion was happening along the shoreline. I was down-dogging on a slippery patch of ice uncovered by the wind, and for once there was no hot breath in my face. Again, as with a little kid, silence means they’re into something. When I regained my footing, Maya and Nugget were on the shoreline, digging furiously, and something was squealing. Chirping. Barking?

Boat pose: the only boat on the lake

Moving in snow pants and thick boots isn’t easy when you’re moseying; when you’re hauling buns it’s nearly impossible. I couldn’t get there fast enough, and when I did, there was blood all over the ice. Maya was smiling up at me with a beet-red mouth, and I couldn’t tell if the blood belong to her or the shrieking varmint who was hiding in the sand under the thick lip of the ice where it piled along the shoreline. Clearly, dog and beast battled it out and beast dove for cover. Unable to break the thick frozen barrier, Maya took a different approach and set to work digging from the other end, through the muck. The thing screamed.

WARNING: Some blood

From my angle I couldn’t see at all what it was, but only a few possibilities extended themselves on a such a bitter day: squirrel or woodchuck. The latter hibernates, but this seemed to be making more noise than I’d expect out of a nut-gnawer. Regardless, the critter tangoed with a big dog and probably lost a foot in the process. Most likely, its life’s pendulum would stop swinging within a day or two. Suffering animals prefer to hide themselves away, to make themselves small and quiet, and only in their most desperate hour do they call out in anger and defense the way this creature called out. I could offer it nothing but the peace in which it might die.

Instead I turned on my video camera and slowly inserted it into the crack in the ice, hoping to identify whatever victim lurked beneath the surface.

I had that coming, I’ll admit. Not only did I react with a distinctly anti-eco-feminine nancy-boy yowl when it squalled at me, I also caught it on film and feel obligated to offer it up on the confessional altar of Google’s favorite blogging platform as penance. My name is Laura and I tried to film a wounded weasel-thing under a block of ice because I was afraid it would bite my face if I looked too closely.

Bastard varmint.

The clock inched closer to the time of my required departure and the girls tore themselves away from the ugly scene. Happy to leave it behind, I took an extra 10 minutes for an ice savasana and received, in return, a hot tongue in my ear. Not the good, Saturday-night kind, either. The kind that smelt of resentful muskrat.

Up the hill in the house, I sat one more time on the world’s coldest toilet seat, not having been smart enough to turn on the heat when I arrived. But the car was still warm, and I loaded up the girls and drove out of the empty neighborhood, saying goodbye to the cabin for another week, and considering what I’d learned.

When a nature writer is in her chosen place in the year 2014, she may be doing any one of a number of things which do not include actual reflection. The intrusion of the smart phone into nature will prove to be the downfall of the deep thinker. Too great exists the temptation to amuse ourselves doing stupid-ass things that ultimately serve only to make us laugh, to give us an excuse to stare at our own faces rather than the face of the sun (actually, don’t do that – you’ll go blind). Hidden wonders wait under the ice for the soul un-tethered to her technology. A dog cannot find all of the gems in the wilderness for me. Next time I’ll have to look for myself, look at what’s before me.

For example, the log I smacked with my own face on the way back.

As I rubbed my split lip in the car an orange exclamation point lit up my dashboard, and an icon indicated my right front tire was low.

Low? That sucker was limp. Moreover, it was hissing. A steady stream of air was pouring out of the husk of its bulk. In the rubber flesh was embedded a tiny spearing rock. Like Dillard’s frog, a water bug had come up from under the tire and eaten out the inside, leaving a crumpled skin. Mother f*cker. This is because I tried to film a rat under the ice, isn’t it? As I crouched in the 3-degree air, it occurred to me that today was Friday the 13th. I wasn’t yet out of the shade of the hill, and the cell signal was at least a few miles away. Crap, I thought. Can I roll out of here on what little air is left or should I go back to the house and use the land line to call AAA or Shawn? I decided to gamble on the nearest gas station, 20 miles away.

As I emerged into the sunlight, I dared to pick up a little speed and thought I might just make it.

Rounding the bend, movement caught my eye and I slammed on the brakes as an inky black tomcat shot out of the bushes, crossing the icy gravel road in front of my car.

A better writer would come up with some conclusion. I’ll come back to this blog, soon, and write one. Until then, put that in your corn maze and husk it.

And then I got stuck behind the Amish.