augury doggerel

Sunday, March 17, 2002

Woods, Birds, Mice

A clear, sunny Saturday out. The kid led, as usual, though I nudged her left or right with light reins to avoid traveling in circles, especially when circles in our woods include steep hills I don't want to climb three times.

Some of the slopes were scrambles, almost more vertical than horizontal, so that we had to hang on to bushes and trees and try hard not to slide away in the muck. On one slope I had to walk down like a ten-ton ogre on my heels to leave steps in the mud for her feet, but more often she sprang ahead, all legs -- eight years old, a spider, an octopus -- and left this olding man huffing slowly up through leaves. To catch my breath, I stopped to pick up the empty white shells of snails and saw the last frost still underneath.

A woodpecker knocked invisible. Dark birds with blue wings -- what are they? -- hopped in shadows and posed in trees. Then the woodpecker revealed, black and white and red, showing off in profile, tapping a dry branch while we tried not to speak. A chickadee clutched something white and pulled at it. Great fun at a fat tree (hollow?) debated over by two red squirrels and two black-and-white magpies, a battle of finders and hoarders. It looked as if the squirrels won the tree, but the magpies made amazingly tall red squirrel ears even redder with bird curses.

We followed the abandoned railway to where it ended, by chance near where mama works and was working then, a part of town easily recognized by the only mosque for miles. The kid talked me into visiting mama at work, though we were filthy. To her great luck, the love of her little life, the son of another employee there, was also visiting mama at work.

After an hour and a couple of warnings from the warners, however, I had to pack my half of the two squealing scramblers off to the woods again, leaving a sad boy eyeing me, the ogre again, and the girl telling me all down the walk how I had ended her world. On the old railway bed, she scratched this in the mud: a sad face (frown and tears) with a cartoon thought-bubble of a heart crossed out.

This sad state was mostly cured by the reverse trip through the trees and an ice cream demanded and us pretending we were cats. When mama came home, each lump of meat the kidcat ate was a big mouse, each French fry was a baby mouse, and the jelly was mouse jelly.


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