Possumhaw: The wonder-filled world



Shannon Bardwell



"The world of life, of spontaneity, the world of dawn and sunset and starlight, the world of soil and sunshine, of meadow and woodland, of hickory and oak and maple and hemlock and pineland forests, of wildlife dwelling all around us, of the river and its wellbeing ... " 


Thomas Berry, cultural historian and ecotheologian (1914-2009) 




Another month of spring lay before us. Many years it feels like there is no spring at all; the days change quickly from winter to summer. I vowed not to purchase any more spring sweaters as they turn out not to be useful. This spring is a different story. When waking to mornings and temperatures drop briefly into the 50s, a spring sweater turns out to be handy. The trees are lush, the grass grows high, and there is no need for watering. Rainfall for the year is way above normal. Lake levels are high, rivers and creeks are flowing fast. Rains muddy up the water, making conditions less desirable for crappie fishing and more so for catfish. I told Sam though I prefer crappie, catfish is not bad. He said he'd just go scouting to see what the rains had done to the river. High, fast water changes the lay of the land. Trees fall, debris floats, structure moves, that favorite point you used to fish is no more. Nothing stays the same.  


We took a Gator ride around the Prairie lake toward the spillway to check out the dam. The lake level was high but manageable. The dam had been built up once we figured the beaver had a good idea. When we added to the dam, the beaver left. Sam hoisted 50-pound bags of concrete into the spillway. Water rushing over the bags turned the concrete stone-like, smooth and mud-colored. 


The grasses in the sedge field were as high as the hood of the Gator. It felt like being on a safari, or as I imagine a safari would be. Tall grasses lay down in front as we passed by. I kept watch, making sure nothing was hiding unseen. There were blackberry vines with small red berries, and a few milkweeds that would be good for the monarch butterflies. There's still eight or so Canada geese and our two Pekins.  


Last week one Pekin was thought to be lost. Helen was alone, which is unheard of. Sam came inside and announced, "I think we're down to one duck. I fed Helen but Hilda didn't come." 


I walked to the lake and sat on the dock talking to Helen. I was sadder than I thought I'd be, having gotten somewhat used to the way of the world with prey and predators. "I won't replace her," I told Sam. "No more." 


The next day Sam had gone fishing or scouting and, lo and behold, there foraging were Hilda and Helen. I have no idea where Hilda could have gone or why, but there she was, alive and well. 


While sitting on the dock feeding the two ducks with Harry, the cat, sprawled out beside all three of us, a large bird circled the lake and landed in a tall tree. A short while later two birds soared high. They were "bald-headed" eagles as Sam likes to say. A pretty magnificent sight.


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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