Thursday, October 31, 2013

Huginn's Aerie

A wind storm came through about a week ago and left the place a wreck.  The clean-up endeavors involved a vast array of tools from weed whip to chainsaw, and most everything in between.  During the course of my chores I was reminded, once again, that there are plenty of usage and meaning voids in the English lexicon.  I think we need a term for that particularly enraging inability to get lopping shears around the branch you want to cut due to the inability to see it through the other branches or the skewed angles at which one is often forced to attack the offending branch through the brush.  "Lopper Rage" seems many degrees too banal and not nearly visceral enough for that moment of blinding white infuriation when you can't get the mother$*!#&^% blades... around this mother%$*$#(@ branch... !!  Shwew.  Sorry.

Minor clipping conniptions aside, I soon found myself wandering between a good amount of brush, piles haphazardly dotting the yard.  I decided to drag it to one corner that abuts the woods in back, and just yards beyond, a steep drop off to the forest floor deep below.  It had occurred to me in the past that this would be a nifty spot for a ground blind as it overlooks a rather open section of the forest often flooded by the creek when it overflows its banks in spring.

I hadn't gotten around to building the ground blind before now, in part, because I am not a bow hunter.  Nor am I predisposed to be one, truthfully.  For decades, autumn weekends have meant tromping along behind a good looking mutt or two, and swinging on startled birds as they claw and flap for altitude before the backdrop of standing corn or golden leaves.  I've suffered more than a moment's pause thinking about trading all that to sit in a tree waiting for a deer to walk by.  Still, with the weeknight opportunity staring me right in the back deck (I could see the blind as I sit here if I cut just two spruce trees down), that personal opinion is bound to change.  I only wish the urge had truly struck in time for me to be ready to bow hunt now.  That, of course, would involve the possession of both a bow and the ability to shoot it well, apart from a good many other things, none of which I see laying about here.

So I rearranged a few landscaping ties between a tree and couple well-driven re-bar stakes on the precipice of the the drop-off, and screwed down a scrap of plywood to give myself a fairly level platform on which to park a handy chair.  If the whole works isn't actually cantilevered out over the abyss, it's close enough to feel like it sometimes.

All that was left was to drag in my recently trimmed brush, and have a good sit., which I did almost immediately.

Huginn's Aerie- with all the eye rolling, tongue in cheek pomposity I can muster
I've dubbed this new blind Huginn's Aerie partly because, if you're gonna pose as a faux-pretentious douche bag on the internet, as I sometimes find to be enjoyable here, you have to really swing for the fences to make it play.  And, more to the point, if you've managed to pick up some Norse mythology from anyplace other than the Marvel movies, you may remember that Huginn (or Hugin) is one of the ravens that flies all over the world and brings news back to the big cheese, Odin.  The name Huginn comes to us from the Old Norse "thought," and so I chose him for a namesake because that's what you do most of the time in any blind -- you sit and think.

Sometimes you ponder the actual hunting happening in front of you, but just as often the mind wanders wherever it pleases.  In a few short evenings of sitting and cogitating, I've already seen a respectable array of passers-by including the resident pair of great horned owls (I'd guess Jacinda has flown the coop for greener patches of hardwood, but I know little of juvenile owl habits), the somewhat more secretive (but still a local denizen, I believe) sharp-shinned hawk, a red fox, a family of three lumbering raccoons, annoyingly screechy blue jays (of course), plenty of deer, and chippies and squirrels too numerous to count. The most comical and consistent visitor thus far is one spectacularly unafraid chipmunk in particular, who seems to quite enjoy gnawing hazlenuts right in the blind with me, well within kicking range were I so inclined.  I'm probably the interloper, probably built the blind right on little dude's house, but he seems happy enough for the company and we get along in any case.

Almost all the green you can see in this view from The Aerie (except the
blind itself in the foreground) is invasive buckthorn,
about the only deciduous plant still green in the woods.
I got to thinking about buckthorn while taking in the sunset the other night.  If you've ever left the gravel parking lot at the trail head anywhere in this part of the world, you've encountered buckthorn.  You can't not have.  It's as ubiquitous as it is detrimental to native plants.

One of the main "ploys" buckthorn uses to out-compete native species so effectively lies in its ability to green up first in spring and stay green longer than most other woodland plants in fall.  With just such an extended growing season, it has little trouble sucking up more sun and nutrients, growing faster and longer, and choking out the less aggressive species around it.

Check it out.  This nimrod is about to wade directly into a possibly derisive religious discussion right in the middle of his perfectly harmless little outdoor blog.  Idiot...

I am and almost always have been more of a science-y guy when it comes to explaining the universe and everything in it.  It's more comfortable for me, but due maybe to my upbringing, I do believe there is a higher power out there somewhere as well, humming along in the background.  It, this higher power, is just very much more hands-off in my mind than it is in the minds of some of my more religious friends.  It may be there, but we don't hang much.  And I don't go in the for the big beardly guy sitting on a cloud either.  If anything, I hope it's Morgan Freeman in an all white suit.  That'd be pretty rad.

Nor was I ever much of a "be one with the forest" crystal-wearing spiritual New Age type, until one day when I thought about it through the prism of the periodic table.  If you look at the most populous elements in the universe and the most common materials in us as people, it's the same stuff.  Excepting helium which doesn't really do much for us at the temperatures we hang out in, you check off the list of stuff floating around out there... hydrogen, oxygen, (hi, we're predominately made of water), carbon... we are quite literally one with the forest, not to mention everything else that ever has been.  It's all from the same box of Legos.  Everything that is ever gonna be was puked out in a few seconds or so, and that's it.  We're molecularly one with most everything... or at least the four percent of the universe that isn't dark matter.  That's a different blog entirely.

So as I sat there, elementally at one with the roley-poley raccoons and brave little chipmunk, wondering how many gallons of  Roundup I'd need to put a dent in the local buckthorn population (now is the time of year, after all), it occurred me that maybe it was "meant to be" in some grand plan.  Maybe God or whoever is in charge has decided that buckthorn should take over this corner of the world, and that's just how it is.  And that kind of thinking brought me to thinking, in a roundabout way, of the classic God of the gaps conundrum.

God of the gaps, simply stated, is the practice of inserting God into any situation that science cannot define or explain.  It is taking the holes in our understanding of the world as proof of God's existence.  I have no problem with that on the face of it, except that it leads, without fail, to one massive problem.

Think about when there was a lot more stuff we could not understand scientifically.  Gravity, Newtonian physics, the motion of the stars and planets, self tanning lotion.  Many of them were given to God of the gaps through the ages -- the universe revolved around the Earth because God said so.  Fair enough.

Until we are able to put the observations to a thing, to formulate hypotheses, run ever-evolving experiments and prove scientifically why or how something happens or doesn't.  When that happens to a phenomenon previously attributed to God of the gaps, that deity becomes, by definition, nothing more than an ever-receding shadow of the unknown.  I don't like the thought of that.  It's jarring to me.  I much prefer the Morgan Freeman model, as a matter of fact.

This is what happens when you get some time in a new blind to hash things over.  At least it is when I do.  I'm old enough now that I can occasionally have upwards of five to seven complete thoughts before boobs pop in again, and put everything else back on hold.  I'd be babbling about even more random topics here if it weren't for the one thing I'm most excited about in The Aerie.

There are deer here.  Seemingly lots of them, to my frame of reference.

I'm used to deer hunting in the much larger, much thicker northwoods where deer have not been nearly as common as they are down here for quite a few years now.  There are wolves and bears and inexorably long, cold springs up there that often lay waste to the deer herd.  And there aren't thousands of acres of corn and soybeans for the deer to leisurely grow fat and abundant on up there, as there are down here.

I saw 5 deer the first evening I sat in Huginn's, and that was mere hours after I'd been in there stomping around, raising hell with the chainsaw and stinking the whole place up.  I've gone entire rifle seasons up north without seeing that many deer.  Hell, I think I've gone entire consecutive rifle seasons without seeing that many deer.  Not that you'd ever convince me to hunt during gun season anywhere but The Camp as long as they'll have me, but it is rather exciting, even somewhat startling, to actually see deer every half hour or so while sitting on a stand.  What a novel concept.

I may have to get into this bow hunting thing, after all.  And quickly.

Buckthorn about to block the vitals.  Imagine that.  Call in the Roundup truck.

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