Short Post, With Snakes

I’m tired. I’ve had a busy week with a lot of frustrations, and every time I start writing something I keep second-guessing whether I really want to say that, and wondering if it will invite conflict that I am not up to dealing with. And it’s not just events in my life that have exhausted me this week; it’s also the endless drumbeat of bad news and worse news and downright horrible news that keeps filling my inbox and my podcasts and my social media feeds. So many people are marginalized and under attack, and it just feels…relentless.

At the same time, I don’t want to completely disengage, because I want to stay informed and able to contribute, in whatever ways I can, to the efforts to make things better. I have also realized that I am fascinated by the research I have read around prejudice and stigma, and while my main focus for the paper I am writing is the stigma surrounding autism, I am drawn to read more broadly about stigma. This doesn’t make my reading list any sunnier, of course, but there is something about approaching this subject in a systematic, sociological way that helps me think more clearly instead of feeling like there’s nothing to be done about it. Understanding a problem is the first step toward addressing it.

So I am going to dive back into that for now, and leave this blog post short. And here’s a photo of a nice little garter snake I met today—snakes are stigmatized, too, after all.

Slender garter snake next to a small rock on a dirt road, in mixed light and shadow

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Crunch Week, With Ducks

This last week felt like a marathon run at a sprinter’s pace. My work schedule became something of a crunch just as I was finishing up the last week of my school semester. But finish it I did, and all of my work, too; there just wasn’t much time for anything else.

I did go to Pride last weekend, which was my first time. And it was fun, but very…overwhelming. I felt like I was constantly immersed in waves of people, and the sound system for the staged events was ridiculously loud (and I was wearing earplugs). If I wanted to be close enough to be able to see the stage, I had to put up with a volume level that threatened to give me a headache. I don’t understand how anyone could stand it, to be honest—especially the people who were even closer. I’m still happy that I went, but it was hard to enjoy it as much as I wanted to.

So I started my week feeling already a bit fried. Then I had a number of “extras” sprinkled throughout my schedule for the week—one-off events, or monthly appointments—that filled in a lot of the time and also made me feel continually pulled from one thing to the next. That also tends to leave me feeling fried. So here I am at the end of the week, trying to remember what it is I wanted to write about, and deciding I’ll just write about feeling fried.

This weekend is a busy one, too, and Monday is looking like a bear, but at least after that my schedule “should” be easing up now that my classes are done. But there are so many things that I’ve been wanting to get back to, or wanting to make time for, and I keep saying, “Ok, over the summer I’ll…” I want to make sure I don’t let those things slide, but I also need to give myself time to decompress from this latest crunch time.

Luckily, our beautiful land is full of spring wildlife, and the pond in particular has been a source of relaxing visuals and lovely sounds. (Although around dusk, those sounds can really ramp up. If you haven’t heard it, you’d be amazed at how ear-splitting a pond full of frogs can be.) I can’t help but take moments throughout the day to pause and look out at all of it.

So, here: have some ducks. In the past couple of years, we’ve had wood ducks bringing up ducklings in our pond, but this year it’s the mallards who have been around the most. Hoping for ducklings either way, though!

Pair of mallard ducks standing at the edge of a pond

Beneath the Snow

I’ve been in pulled-back mode lately, quietly creating underground. It’s still winter, after all, and not yet time for outward growth. But there is something more than that; I know I am affected deeply by many things in this world, but sometimes it takes me some time to recognize just how deeply. And there are many things that take me time to come to talk about, or write about, in a way that I can put out into the world.

Maybe that’s been my primary challenge when it comes to maintaining a blog. I start one in a period of expansion, of putting my words out there for others to read. But then comes a time of contraction, when my focus turns toward taking information in more than sending my opinions out. Often I am still writing, still creating, during this time, but it is more raw, not yet ready for public consumption. Or perhaps I am more raw, not yet ready to have my words read and judged by others.

Like the woods I live in, I need this time of (apparent) dormancy, of gathering energy for the next season of expansion. I look out on the snowy landscape and know that life is doing its work, as am I.

A Trickster Appears

I have always loved animals, especially wild animals. Living where I do, I have some amazing wildlife sightings at times, as well as other indications that there are non-human neighbors all around.

Sometimes this is startling, as when a bear tore down the bird feeders hanging right beside the house. Other encounters are more of a nuisance, as when some temporarily-visiting beavers flooded our yard. And I am well aware that if we ever decided to venture into, say, chicken-keeping, they would need the equivalent of a doomsday bunker for a coop if they wanted to survive even a week. But there is still nothing like looking up to find  yourself sharing space with some other creature, especially those that most people rarely see.

I bring this up now because this morning, I looked out my window and saw tracks crossing our pond. We’ve been hearing coyotes off and on at night, and seeing their tracks everywhere, and these looked like the right size (and made the right kind of pattern) for coyote prints. A glance through one of my field guides turned up a picture of coyote tracks crossing a frozen lake that looked exactly like what I was seeing. So I figured, “Ok, most likely coyote, but I’d like to go out and look at them up close after I’m dressed.”

So I took a shower, got dressed, brushed my teeth, turned around…and there was a coyote sauntering straight across the yard and onto the pond. Holding my breath, I ran for my camera. My dog hadn’t seen the coyote yet, and it was very close to the house; even through a window I could probably get a good picture as long as she didn’t scare it away.

Important note: My dog is amazing. She has learned the specific sound of the zipper on my camera bag, and if I open that up she comes running from anywhere in the house to see what’s caught my attention. I heard her start up the stairs as soon as I had the camera in hand, so I ran for my bedroom window instead of the one nearest to me. See, the bedroom windows are higher up, taller than my dog can reach, so it would buy me a few minutes while she chased me in there but still couldn’t see what I had grabbed the camera for.

The quiet didn’t last, of course; she saw my attention was focused outside and went to where she could see. The coyote ran at the first volley of barks, but it didn’t go far before turning back to look. That’s where I got my best picture, as the coyote looked back across the snowy pond.

Coyote standing on snow, facing the camera

Now, the eastern coyote is a hybrid with a liberal percentage of wolf DNA and a small amount of dog ancestry as well. It is larger than other coyotes as a result, and I think it looks more wolflike overall. When we hear our local pack sing (and I think there are three of them right now) there’s a quick chorus of barking yips, and then one voice raised in a long, smooth howl that sounds exactly like a wolf.

So that was my excitement for today. And perhaps it is fitting that a creature characterized as a trickster in so many cultures should turn up to show 2016 the door. But is that a commentary on the year just ending, or the one about to begin?