December 3rd, 2008 - Dusting off an old mystery, and then putting it back in Pandora's Box


In a post earlier today I had backlinked to a post about a shrike sighting at Springbrook Nature Center I wrote about back in February. Within that post was a picture and text that laid the groundwork for a mystery among the willows of Springbrook. 
I had conjectured that Nick the Naturalist had a lot to do with the strange cutting of some young willow switches, and I had it in my head to ask him if he was making arrows or cutting them for a stretching rack for skins or something, although they were definitely cut with a sharp knife or small axe and in a strange fashion. All things considered, all of that wouldn't be too much of a surprise coming from him.
I finally crossed-paths with him a few weeks ago, and just before he was going to walk away I remembered the picture from the blog and the question, so I dug it up and showed it to him.
His response: "Hunh? Wasn't me. Oh yeah... I've seen those cuttings too, and I'm not sure who's doing it. Or why. Every once in a while I see one in a different place around the property."
Hmmm. 
Crop circles, The Shroud of Turin, an effigy of Rosemary Clooney in fireplace ashes and now this.
I'm sure we'll be revisiting this particular mysterious circumstance the next time I can't think of anything to write, that's for sure. Hmmm. Bit of a gadfly, this.

Decermber 3rd, 2008 - The Trees Are Watching...

Yesterday, a very clean Hap Dog

and I went walking at Lake Nokomis.

We had walked there the day before too, but this time we started on the west side of Cedar Avenue; the swampy side, where I saw the first shrike that I've seen in quite awhile.

Interesting little predator bird. This one was not so little actually. It's hard to tell by the photo but it was as big as some Cooper's Hawks I've seen in the area. Didn't see any larder, but I'm not sure if they do that in the winter. It would be like giving your girlfriend a popsicle for breakfast.
ANYway, we decided to cross under the bridge and walk around the east side of the lake as well.

The previous day we were skirting the shoreline as much as possible around this eastern side of the lake when we got to the area where a little "point" with a few pines on it juts out from the otherwise gradually rounded shoreline. The sun was fading fast and was hitting some birch trees that are inland from the point, and with the low sun they were showing extremely WHITE, one could almost say, glowing. Well, okay, they were GLOWING, really.
I had never really taken notice of them before, but I made a mental note to come back to see if I could catch them like that at another time.

Yesterday being that time, Hap and I were walking inland along the paved "Walking Trail" (hence the name) and I decided to take the off-trail "shortcut" over the lump that is "The Point". 
This is something I do about one in a hundred times because I like the little view from the Point, and because many walkers and joggers shortcut the paved trail here and have eroded a singletrack that I didn't want to be another set of feet adding to. I never really understood this particular shortcut, because it only shortens your route by about thirty feet from taking the paved trail around the Point. It's like the people that circle the grocery store parking lot for fifteen minutes so they can get a spot by the door, whereas everyone else parks in the next row and is in and out in twelve. I never pictured those people as runners, but who knows. They may be the people who take a shower and douse themselves with cologne before they go running, and then think, "Ugh, let's get this over with so I can get home and put on some more cologne." I'm not sure.
The thing is, this little trail takes you right past the EXTREMELY WHITE birches. So that's the way we went, and as we got over the little hill... 
I noticed... 
the b i r c h e s... 
were  l o o k i n g 
at... us...

From many different angles. In sort of a sad, weepy, but inquisitive manner it seemed to me. Although some had a bit too much eye white showing for weepy.
It was like being trapped in a Dali painting. Or in the lyrics of a Cramps song, anyway. 
Very strange. But super crazy cool nonetheless.

Now these eyeballs were not drawn upon the trees, oh no. They seemed to be where branches had been pruned off some time ago. And the birchbark had strange wrinkles and folds, as come only with age and hardship. How sad. 
I wonder if Tolkien has ever taken this shortcut...