In the Woods Today: Will-o-Wisp

This one was too long for a tweet.

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Windy and warm in the woods today. Not like yesterday, when the wind shifted and died and came to life again and gusted in such a way that everywhere around me trees creaked and branches clattered and I could tell thereby that I wasn’t actually surrounded by distantly laughing children, barking dogs and shouting men even though that’s just what it sounded like. Not so today: a west wind, strong and steady. I biked out to this peninsula I like that sticks out into lake and swamp and hosts a half dozen huge old red oaks. Last year it suffered a brushfire, but the oaks survived. Aspens rise from the marshy ground to the west. I climbed my favorite oak. I heard a voice. Loud, not quite clear, but almost: “not my lake”, I thought I heard the first few times. No–the first few times I thought it was a pine tree creaking.

No kidding it’s not your lake, I thought, it’s everybody’s. Fuck off.

Then, maybe the tenth time, I heard “Caught my leg”, and then for the next twenty or so repetitions, clearer all the time. I stared across pond and marsh. It wouldn’t have done any good to yell–the wind was right in my face. I couldn’t see anyone. I scrambled down out of the tree and started into the marsh. Ice, that slickly clouded ice you only get when it’s been below freezing for weeks and then suddenly well above for three days straight. Twenty paces, no sign of anybody, I realize I am doing exactly what the will-o-wisp would want. His leg is stuck? What’s going to happen to me? So, temperately, but with a twinge that I’m abandoning some poor guy, I turn back. The shouts keep coming as I walk the quarter mile back to my bike. Keep yelling, I thought furiously at him, or I’m never going to find you, as I slogged through thick mud onto the west trail, a mile and a half clockwise around the marsh until I was on the far side of where I thought I’d heard him. I left my bike and plunged into thick brush. Now I was windward of him, so I started yelling. I followed deer trails, meandering all along the shore and out onto another little marshy peninsula I hadn’t known was there, then further out among the ice. I climbed another tree. I kept yelling, kept looking. I clung there in the tree, listening.

Nothing. Wind.

Rarely have I gotten so thorn-scratched and covered in muck for so little. Stupid will-o-wisp.

Maize God’s Journey


On a balmy, wet winter solstice necessitating raingear and waterproof clodhopping boots, Maize God prepares himself for a journey into the wilderness seeking his allies, the forest spirits.


Fox meets him at the standing stone; in memory of the ancestors, she offers wintergreen. Maize God has brought citrus.


They seek out Owl in the crooked tree by the marsh. “And what exactly do you expect this to accomplish?” she asks.


“We know it’s the humans who are really the problem. Nothing we do here is going to make a lick of difference until they quit mucking everything up. But Owl, we must still come together and mark the time like we always do.”


“Change is in the air, in the soil and the water, but isn’t it always? So let’s feast tonight and sing! How else can we be ready for the dawn when it comes?”


“Fair enough.”


At the sacred place under the ring of pines, Maize God prepares the offering fire. The three sit in contemplation, awaiting the appointed hour.

In the Deep Snow

In the deep snow, deer can sink in past their bellies. So rather than walking, sometimes it’s easier for them to get around by a series of leaps. After more snow falls and fills in the marks of the deer’s hooves, the tracks of these leaps–impressions of the deer’s body stretching through the woods in a line–look almost exactly like the footprints of an enormous, snow-shoed man running across the frozen landscape with a twelve-foot stride.

Then, in places where the snow hasn’t drifted quite so deep, the deer switch back to walking, and it looks like the enormous, snow-shoed man has shapeshifted into deer form.

Wendigo?

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Squirrel Print, Winter, Boskone

Yesterday a guy showed up on Hyde Park Ave with a jackhammer to smash up the two-plus inches of solid ice on the sidewalk.

Boskone this coming weekend. I’ll be at a Beneath Ceaseless Skies reading at 8:30 PM on Friday 12:00 PM on Sunday to read from my forthcoming (non-centaur) story, “The Nine-Tailed Cat”. And who knows what else through the weekend. Pretty likely the Harpoon Brewery tour on Sat. afternoon…. then before dawn Monday morning I’m off for Guatemala again. Lots to do until then. Little time for blog lately, I fear. No doubt there will be insane travel ranting and photography when I get back. See you then. Unless I see you at the con!