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Rumilluminations July 2013
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Tue, July 02 2013 - 2:17 pm

July 30, 2013                                    Madison, IN

Corrections time.

In the very early spring I wrote about a monkshead flower struggling to grow along the Heritage Trail.  After all kinds of wild dwarf larkspur started blooming in the same area, I had to confess to myself that interpreting the pathetic plant as monkshead was wishful thinking.  It was a very early wild larkspur, probably blooming so soon because of its proximity to the asphalt of the path.

Another mistake I made was confusing geese hanging out with the wild Canada geese and an all-white domestic goose or two with another wild species not found around here.  (I have seen "stray" species before, so I figured my guess was close.)

I now think it wasn't.  I started looking up domestic geese, and think the pair might have been American buff or greylag geese.  Yet another "stranger" appeared to us for the first time this summer, and there is no doubt in my mind that this one is a domestic "swan goose."

A good source for clearing up goose confusion is or some approximation of that.  For some reason I can't keep a website address in my mind, oh what a goose I am!

You can Google the subject, though.  That's how I found out about the swan goose.  My link function doesn't seem to be working anyway.

Hmmm... I just remembered when I was watching these critters I got a little disconcerted thinking some of them might be swans!  That bird's name consoles me a little.  There was a reason that the word "swan" came into my head.

Oh - another little tidbit of information.  The website said that domestic swans have blocky bodies, thicker bills (usually) and orange feet!  So orange feet are a red flag for goosey domesticity.


July 29, 2013                                    Madison, IN

Am I depressed because the light is going away?

Am I still determined to be on vacation, to vacate my virtual home if not my physical one?

Am I suffering writer's block, or are the bridges between the areas of my brain going poof like the old Milton-Madison Bridge?

Or have I merely been addicted to game-playing at the screen?

Playing hooky from writing, chores like email, mixed pleasures like Facebook, I have been walking, sending snail mail, and reading.

Has reading Tristram Shandy, exposing to myself where so much of my writing technique (if you can call it that) has come from, made me pause?

I don't know.  The summer doldrums I do not have; the weather right now is cool and bracing.  I have no excuse.

Or perhaps, as Sterne has Tristram claim, I don't control my pen - my pen controls me!

Ah, the changes down over the centuries!  It is the keyboard that controls me.

Or, more sinisterly, the MOUSE!

July 24, 2013                                   Madison, IN


A cloud surrounded the bridge and a lacy structure, fragile-looking as a paper Valentine, fell into the water.

I was startled.  We had been led to expect three warnings from a siren starting at 10 or 15 minutes before the blast, but I heard nothing before the visual poof.

Immediately after, of course, we did hear the explosion and see the bridge fall.  Yesterday's event was not unexpected.

What was unexpected is that the charge did not seem to bring down a clean section of bridge.  What did fall protruded from the water (I did not know the Ohio was so shallow there!) still attached to the unfallen portion above.

Probably a glitch.  Mary, our neighbor, speculated that some of the bolts had not been loosened enough before the blast.  Who knows?

The historic Madison Milton Bridge is not quite gone yet.  Only half of the major part of the bridge is down, presumably so river traffic can continue under the part of the bridge that is still standing.

It is not too late to see the next part removed, although I don't know when that will be.

Crowds came to watch the last time.  Will the next crowd be bigger or smaller?  My guess is that the biggest crowds will be here for the "slide" when the new bridge is supposed to be moved into place.

Looking at that massive, long structure, what seemed so easy in my imagination when I first heard the plan seems impossible to conceive now.  How the hell are they going to make that happen?

Now, that I have to see!

Come on over to Madison!  There's going to be some kind of bash at the Bicentennial Park to mark the occasion as well.

July 18, 2013                                   Madison, IN

If the hermit thrush was the natural highlight of my vacation, the young black bear bounding across the road had to be Jos'.  I missed it.

We saw very little mammalian wildlife because of the bears.  Because of the bears, people are careful about food, so there aren't a lot of squirrels and chipmunks nearby foraging, let alone raccoons clanging around the clean pans and utensils left out on the table.

Jos scoffed at me when I disapproved of his putting his cereal-bowl rinsing in the circle of stones meant for fires.  "That isn't enough to attract a bear," he said.

Well, maybe not, but before a minute had passed a squirrel made its appearance and paused.  "Watch where it goes," I said, and waited.  It headed straight (if tentatively) toward where the few morsels of cereal were.

Bears can smell stuff for miles.  Maybe they wouldn't bother with our cereal, but who wants to be the camper that finds out?

Personally, I think that the people who were camping in the dispersed sites along the Grandy River, where Jo's bear crossed the road, deserve a medal for courage.

Or at least a metal cooler!

July 17, 2013                                   Madison, IN

Everybody has heard of the Nightingale.  Even Americans have heard ad nauseum, via (ha! two foreign phrases next to each other) Hans Christian Anderson, poetry, and other forms of literature about the Nightingale.

The Nightingale has no peer! these odeous (hmmm, any relation to odious, I wonder?) fans exclaim.

Well, I have written elsewhere that I beg to differ with them.  The Mockingbird, for sheer rollicking variety, even in odd hours like two or three in the morning, beats the Nightingale all hollow.  (Of course, I have so far only heard the Nightingale tape recorded and put on the Internet, so it is not a fair comparison.)

That's not why I am writing, though.

I am writing in praise of the Hermit Thrush.

I used to think it was the Wood Thrush that produced this flutelike meditation echoing through the woods, but now (also from Internet listening) I know it is the hermit of the family.

The barely-light early morning after the night of the Fourth of July, there was little wind and no rain, and I heard what I had not heard the morning before.

Lying awake in my sleeping bag on my cot, I heard a bird singing early in the morning all alone.  It sang a single note, paused, and performed an arpeggio of warbles and trills.  Then, another, different note followed by a different musical commentary, succeeded by yet another tone and another melody, too complicated and quick in content to be analyzed by my slow human ear.

This was one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard in my life, all performed for an audience of possibly only me.

Why is the Hermit Thrush not as famous as the Nightingale?

I think it is because the Hermit Thrush loves solitude more than civilization, and because the Nightingale is for those who are awake at night:  late night revelers and poets and insomniacs.

After an extended solo concert of the Hermit Thrush which still was not long enough for me, a Robin woke up and started doing its thing.

Now, I have always been a fan of Robins' early morning warbling, but this morning I felt like saying, "Hush.  Be quiet!  Shut up!!!" because compared to my favorite singer, the Hermit Thrush, the Robin is a bumbling amateur.

And I had to travel all my life and into the mountains of West Virginia to hear that song, the best even of all Hermit Thrushes, at 5 o'clock in the morning.

Not only beautiful, but rare. 

July 16, 2013                                  Madison, IN

After we left Seneca Shadows Campground near Seneca Rocks we set up camp in a more remote place, Spruce Knob Lake Campground, named after the highest point in West Virginia, Spruce Knob.  Kevin, the American Land and Leisure employee who managed it, assured us that we would be untroubled by bear (as long as we observed common sense about leaving food around) and after dark had friends of his perform a walk-through with their dogs to be sure of it.

Spruce Knob Lake is a primitive campground, which means no showers and no flush toilets, although I must say I never smelled a less stinky no-plumbing toilet in my life.  (Er, the first day, that is.)  More primitive also meant less traffic noise and fewer people.  This campground was away from highways.

The first night we were there, the 3rd of July, we were possibly the only ones there.  It rained that night as it had every other night so far on our trip.  The tent held and we were dry.

The next day, the Fourth of July, people began arriving.  It was the first Fourth of July I can ever recall spending away from fireworks of at least the televised variety, and this campground did not escape the enthusiasm entirely.  There were three modest explosions, followed by silence, except for the sound of Kevin's truck driving by on the the one-way after he had quelled the forbidden celebration.

That night, for once, it did not rain, and the next morning I experienced what was the auditory high point of my vacation.

But, dang!  Look at this - I have written enough for one day.  Tomorrow.

July 15, 2013                                 Madison, IN

This note may say Madison, IN, but really I am putting myself back into West Virginia.

We spent three nights at the Seneca Shadows Campground near Seneca Rocks.  The first night it stormed like crazy. 

("Does it look like it's going to rain?" said Chris, in charge of the campsite, looking up at the mid-afternoon true blue of the sky the day we got there.  Well, so much for the true blue of the sky.  For one thing, duh.  It turns to black every night.  For another - well, you have all seen the sky when it was not blue - every last one of you!)

The third and last night, when it was a little dryer, the trucks tearing by on U.S. highway 33 sounded as if they would hit our tent.  Not as far from civilization as it seemed in that woodsy campsite!

So, in spite of the undeniable sweetness of the employees at Seneca Shadows, we moved farther into the woods.

Seneca Shadows is a good place, however, from which to walk to the town and the Discovery Center.  Just go to the Meadows area and bear a hard right.  This gives you a wide grassy path to the town, with blackberries along the walk.

At the Discovery Center you can see what invasive species of plants and bugs plague the area, and you can look up at Seneca Rocks.  We hiked up a trail to an observation deck from which you can see the town, surrounding mountains, and birds.

The Discovery Center is foremost in my fondness, however, for the wonderful broom I bought there.

Ha, ha!  Sounds like an anniversary-facing husband's dream, doesn't it?

But really.  We left home without our whisk broom (heh - I almost wrote whiski - Freudian slip) and had nothing with which to clean our tent.  These handcrafted brooms were so attractive I wanted one for its looks alone, but first I told myself no.  Then, on the way out of town, we stopped by the Discovery Center to get one.  It would be my one physical souvenir of the trip.

I had occasion to use it to sweep off the tent during our rainy wet trip and it was a dream!  The Turkey Wing Broom was the one I chose, and it is much easier to use than the symmetrical brooms used by my father and by us in the past.

When we got back home I caught sight of our old one in the space under the sink.  Pathetic!  It can be for teeny-space cleanup, maybe.  Like a glove compartment.

Our new broom, made by Jack Mountain Crafters, is such an objet d'art it could be used as an ornamental feature hanging on the wall!  You can see a picture that features Gary Robinson and his turkey wing broom at whatever happened to my automatic link feature?  Anyway, that's the address where his photo is. 

Well.  This is not the way I wanted to introduce my special long-awaited (by me!) subject.

I'll write about it tomorrow.

July 14, 2013                                 Madison, IN

We have been back home for a couple of days now, and it has been difficult for me to contemplate writing, I don't know why.  At least I am sitting here now.

Maybe the stress of the trip and the getting home and catching up on bill-paying and housework has been putting me off, maybe the infernal racket and cold blast of the air conditioning unit in the window by the desk.

At any rate, now the air conditioning is off and I am on!

So much to write about - including the fact that I am so happy to have been out of range of the eternal trial of Zimmerman, that crowned prince of mediocrity and stupidity who has put so many people through so much and has only suffered the waste of his evidently worthless time.

To come home to an acquittal of him is depressing.  The only thing I can do is consign him to the dumpster part of my memory.  When I think about how many people have worked so hard and done so well with their lives in thankless occupations and received not even their fifteen minutes of fame, it makes me sick how many hours' attention (even if it is infamy) he has been deemed worthy of in our national consciousness.

Away with him!

Tomorrow I will start writing about our trip some more, including places and people and beings worthy of praise - and some not.

My favorite object of praise right now, the one I have been waiting and looking forward to writing about, is - but no.

I will write about that tomorrow!

July 7, 2013                              Keyser, WV

Yesterday we visited family I had not seen for over forty years in Winchester, Virginia.  My uncle had many compelling stories to tell, and being with him for a few hours, in addition to being good listening, provided me with hints of my dad, his father, and his mother such as I have never experienced in my life.

My orphaned mother's immediate family I never met except for a sister met when I was about five years old.  My mother passed away last month, and it is sad to think that she has no relatives left to remind me of her.  Sure, there are my own sisters, but they are so much simply themselves in my mind that I'm not sure I will ever extract essence of parent from them.

Eww.  That sounds very vampire or zombie.  I don't mean it that way at all.  It is just that memories are one thing, but seeing in the flesh your family's physical and personality characteristics after years of absence is a powerful experience.

My cousin took us to the Courthouse in Winchester, which having acted as a military pow prison  during the Civil War, sports the liveliest most imaginative curse I've ever seen.  It also has relics and photographs.

The set-up of the courtroom seemed really unusual:  the jury benches were beneath the judge's bench, facing outward towards the defendant and his attorneys.  Imagine having your jury in a position to observe every single move you make for hours on end!

It would disconcert even an innocent.

Today, after two nights in hotels, we return to the camping element of our vacation.  Tonight we are camping in Swallow Falls, Maryland.  This will be, I believe, my first experience of the state.

July 6, 2013                               Winchester, Virginia

Here for what has turned out to be a delightful visit with my uncle, his wife and one of my dozen-odd cousins!  Not coincidentally, the one who has been most in touch in recent years.

Want to write more, but she will be here any moment!  I have a lot to say about our camping experiences - more later!

July 2, 2013                                Harmon, West Virginia

We have been on the road for a week now, and off our particular cell phone grid for days.

The best thing I can report is numerous wildlife sightings, including a magnolia warbler at Spruce Knob Observation Tower, a bear cub running (bounding!) across the road in front of the car (Jos' sighting) and several deer, including a charming young buck with fuzzy antlers.

The worst is - well, rain.

It has rained every night we have camped, night before hard and long.  We grab our hikes between rains.

Today we hiked the trail up behind the Seneca Rocks.  We couldn't see them from our goal the observation deck, but we had a great view of the valley which we had just left.

Yesterday we took refuge from the rain by taking a tour of the Seneca Caverns which are well worth seeing.  It is a family tour, so every rock had to represent something or someone other than a rock, but it was still worthwhile to experience West Virginia's answer to Carlsbad Caverns.

In the forecast?  Rain, rain and more rain.  I'm tired of dampness, and don't know if West Virginia can ever be separated in my mind from soggy.  We'll see.

However, the other best thing I can report about our camping experiences is that the tent has kept us dry.  Halleluia!  

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