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Archive for the tag “grizzly bear”

Seven swans a swimming

I was out driving this past Sunday, doing some drive-bys on homes listed I thought I might be interested in.  As part of the process I’ve learned that you can pull up the pictures – hopefully there’s  a nice balance of indoor and outdoor shots – and check out the aerial view (look for power transmission lines adjacent or on the property, other property features (wet? flood plain? flat? steep hillside?), and neighborhood features–what’s that down the street?  A junkyard?), and map it, and if all systems look good, it’s time for a drive.  I put the bird dog in the car and took off, feeling glum about my “maybe” house (short sale that’s been vacant…and unheated during our recent week long artic freeze; I was worried about the frozen pipes bursting and causing damage to the home), and thinking I needed to step things up. 

We drove to the first property, the one I was most hopeful about, and found that although the land was quite nice (six acres), the home was much too close to the rather busy road, and worse, the neighbors home was on the property line as stone’s throw from the front door.  Six acres and no privacy?  No thanks.  Next! 

We drove by three more I had targeted – a couple of maybes, but nothing that blew my hair back.  Farley was climbing back and forth from the front seat to the back and starting to irritate me.  He was excited, with no outlet (I’d promised a hike, but the drive-bys were first) and I scolded him to either stay in the front seat or get in the back.   Finally he laid down in the back, evidently giving up on any release.  (“Hike, my tail feathers.”)  Few dogs can do pathetic better than a Setter.  So now we were both glum.

I was feeling discouraged and wondering if I should put moving out of the area completely back on the front burner.  Oregon’s pinot noir wine country, or Bellingham by Mt. Baker (where there was what may have been a grizzly bear sighted in recent years – a huge plus for me), or to my beloved Okanogan Highlands.  As I drove through the Sunday snowflakes (it looked like dandruff, though was accumulating in some areas) and mulled these ideas, I saw them.  Trumpeters, a formation of six or…seven, flying low overhead.  I looked over and could see dozens more in a fallow corn field back from the busy road.  There were plenty of adults and youngsters mixed, the immature swans a sooty brown color in comparison to the adults’ pure white plumage.

I’ve been looking for them for a few weeks, ever since I saw about ten  flying low over the river by home when I was out with Farley over Thanksgiving weekend.  I’d heard them first, their trumpet-like call causing me to crane my neck looking for them.  They’re back!

Sunday’s group was a little farther from our usual haunts, and  I pulled off on the first side road I could find.  These farm roads are a series of els, and I zigzagged along, hoping I could find some swans to view a little closer.  I pulled down one road with an old dairy barn (no cows seen), and watched an immature Red tail hawk swoop on something in a plowed field.  It didn’t look like a killing dive, but he stood on the ground next to something.  I stopped the car across the road and watched him.  And he watched me.  Finally I pulled the car away a little.  That’s when he grabbed the meal; it looked like a mole, perhaps turned up by the plowing, and flew off to a nearby tree with it. 

I rounded another sharp turn and saw them then.  Dozens of swans a few dozen yards from the road in a cut corn field.  By now Farley was practically singing, whining with excitement at all the birds.  I rolled down my window and snapped a few photos, careful to keep him from leaping out the window or making enough noise to scare them.  After we’d been watching them for a few minutes they visibly relaxed, the sentry swan even foraging for leftover corn.  As we sat there – no more than five minutes total – dozens more flew in, mostly in small groups of four or five, or sometimes just one or two.  The noise was as thrilling as the sight; they called to one another constantly, sounding like an orchestra of trumpets tuning up before the concert.

Seeing them brightened my whole day, and my worries and woes disappeared.  And of course it  reinforced my emotional bond to this area, and my desire to find my peaceful little farm somewhere close.  Maybe all is not lost.  The promised hike with Farley was a treat for both of us.

The secret yearning

Well, not a secret, exactly.  More like something I’m trying to talk myself out of, like an illicit vice or lust.  And lust is probably the most apt description, though there’s nothing illicit about it.  You see, I am in love with the Okanogan and Columbia Highlands areas of Washington State.  I have lust in my heart for these areas, and don’t quite know what to do about it. 

First, let me describe, if I can, why these lands make me giddy…  Okay, forget it, I can’t.  The descriptors that come to mind seem tired and trite, and wholly inadequate.  Stunningly gorgeous?  In spades. Next.  Breathtakingly beautiful?  Check.  Next.  Glorious?  Um, yeah.  Like, a chorus of angels singing glorious.  Like, so pretty it will bring tears to your eyes and a lump to your throat.  Like, something here speaks to me, at some visceral, elemental level, and the vistas are so achingly beautiful they make me want to cry.   On a September afternoon, with the sun warm and the breeze blowing, the giant, fluffy clouds sailing overhead like clipper ships, you want to yelp with joy for being alive and able to appreciate this.  And this is the “ugly” time of year, according to a local.  Can you imagine how perfectly glorious this scene would be with my bird crazy bird dog quartering the field a couple hundred yards out?

While much of the eastern part of Washington State is essentially high desert–dry and unforgiving, with sagebrush as the most abundant vegetation (aside from the multi-dammed Columbia River irrigation and the miles of apples, cherries, peaches, and more apples)–if you head far enough north and east, you find this wonderland.  It has just the right combination of wide open, big sky vistas and evergreen forests, of rolling hills you want to snuggle up into, with puffy white clouds dotting the oh-so-blue skies, snow covered mountains, and verdant green valleys.  And land is affordable.  I scan the real estate sites and find parcels with decent homes on 10 and 20 acres, and, be-still-my-heart, sometimes even more acres, that fits in my budget.  Why acres of land should make my heart beat faster is beyond me, but the idea of settling on a chunk of this heaven on earth beauty is thrilling to me. 

And the wildlife!  Not only do you have all the usual players of western Washington State (deer, elk, black bear, cougar, bald eagle, hawks, etc.) but you also have the most recent confirmed sighting of a Grizzly bear in the state (Chesaw) and the Lookout Mountain wolf pack, the first confirmed wolf pack in the state in 50 years.  I mean really, does it get any better than this?  Imagine stepping outside on a brisk spring evening, the stars a canopy of lights above you, and hearing the sounds of wolf howls in the distance.  Sure, your hair would stand on end, but you would know you were alive, and the Earth was singing. 

So why haven’t I packed up and left for the hills to satisfy my yearning, my lust for this country?  Ah, yes.  That.  Just a handful of reasons I can’t seem to get around.  While my heart sings, the head says, whoa Nellie!  Can we talk snow and cold?  Like feet of snow and temps in the teens.   For weeks.  Have you heard of remote?  Well, this is north of that.   Like Ted Kazynski north.  Like “The Shining” remote.  Like, no jobs to go to even if you could get there during the winter.  Okay so I’m exaggerating a bit.  But there are a million little and not so little reasons for my heart’s “cold shower”  (good vet care for Cutter is one).  And the thought of moving to a place where I know no one, where I, as tree hugging, Obama-loving liberal,  single woman, (again) don’t fit the demographics  (I’m not anti-hunting or guns, just to set the record straight there), and the winters are below freezing cold (but it’s still blue-sky sunny gorgeous) for weeks on end…well, I’m just not quite ready for that leap.  So I lust.  And yearn.

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