By Jack McShane

A quick review of my hospital stay which does not include any field notes as there were neither fields nor views nor the physical ability to take notes. Here is a very brief description: in for back surgery that was to be minor but turned out to be pretty major. Hooked up to IV, wheeled through a couple of doors toward the surgery room and in what seemed like a couple of seconds later being moved in the opposite direction. I questioned the dude pushing me along as to when this surgery business is going to take place and when will it be over? “You’re done, it went well” ??? Yes, it was four hours later and I was now going into a “post op room”. Anesthesia works! Having said that, leaving on the third day, which I pushed hard for, smelling the fresh air, the trees and the grandeur of freedom can be overwhelming. On the ride home I saw things with greater reverence. Things that I hadn’t noticed previously and now saw with much greater appreciation: the glimpses of the Ashokan Reservoir, the roiling Esopus, a woodchuck, a few crows, a gliding hawk. Finally, Margaretville and my Pepacton Reservoir! Lo and behold, on the Dingle Hill bend, a soaring Bald Eagle – I was home! On the driveway up to the house I was greeted by the doe and her fawn which seemed to exude the leaping exuberance that excited young fawns often display. I must say that, although in no way was it the real meaning, I did take it as a “welcome home!”

My friend Lori Mahler, over the hill on Brace Hollow, related a funny story about observing a mother robin pulling a small garter snake out of the ground so hard that she actually fell backwards when it finally emerged. Now, with the still wiggling tail and head hanging from both sides of her beak, she hopped over to her young one and tried to feed it but was unable to from this broadside angle. At this point Dad hopped over and force-fed junior the snake head-first. Lori watched as junior gulped and gulped and/or choked but finally completed consumption. Junior appeared to have a tough time lofting after its parents, weighted down by the rather large meal. Lori says: “I strongly believe that all wild creatures, animals and birds alike, can think for themselves and can love their families just as we humans do.” Interesting observation, Lori!

One thing that I have noted during my limited forays into the Bussey Hollow forest is that there is a dearth of mast. There are few to no acorns, beechnuts or wild apples on the trees (although there are plenty of blackberries and raspberries) which means that the bears will be going into den early as it is the lack of food that initiates denning and not the cold as many people think. Early denning this year could save some of the bruins since hunting season opens for archers on October 1 as opposed to October 15 in the past. Although the cornfield, as of this writing August 13, has not yet been raided, more than the usual number of large stones and logs in the woods have been dislodged by the bruins in their search for sustenance which includes any critter taking refuge under them, such as snakes, salamanders, ants, etc. One crabapple tree that I planted 20 years ago which produced an abundant crop this year, has been decimated by one local and obviously hungry bear. I believe it is just a matter of time until the two in the front yard are discovered.

Think of life this way: if you reach a point where you are only able to hobble with a cane, think like an eagle – soar! ~


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