Thursday, December 29, 2011

It is now the time to be thinking about making New Year’s resolutions. I don’t do that. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions any more. I used to. For many years I made a passel of them. But I never kept them for long. I think the record was a couple of months. In hopes of rectifying that situation, I quit making so many each year. I cut it down to one a year, thinking one would be easier to keep than many. That didn’t work. That one resolution lasted no longer.

Finally, I made a resolution that I kept. I vowed one year to never, ever make another New Year’s resolution and so far I have kept that promise to myself and I believe I am much happier because of it. Since that time, I’ve made many improvements in myself—I have given up smoking, lost weight, started and kept up with exercise programs. I even got rid of a pile of stuff and streamlined my life. And I began writing and am sticking to it. And I did all this not because of obligating myself to a program that I didn’t really want to follow. I made changes when I felt the need to and felt they were right for me. Perhaps I should have made a resolution to do that very thing years ago. But then, would I have been able to keep it? And if I hadn’t, could I have brought the change about any other way? Interesting. I think I’ll stop thinking about it and be satisfied things turned out the way they did.

Monday, December 19, 2011

I put my Christmas tree up the other day. It’s a small artificial tree a bit under four feet in height that I have sitting on a trunk in the living room. That, some electric candles in the windows and a wreath on the porch do me as decorations for the Holidays. One of my main concerns this year was what reaction Penny, my cat, would have to the tree. Would she leave the decorations and tinsel alone? Would she be overly interested in the lights? Would she try to climb the tree? I needn’t have worried. So far, she has ignored it and indications are that she will continue to do so for the duration of its existence in the living room.

I was not always so lucky. Years ago my wife and I had a black cat with a strong will and a mischievous disposition, whose name was Donnie. When Christmas came around, Donnie watched us put up the tree, a real tree about seven feet or so in height. He was very interested in the process. That should have given us a clue. All was well until half an hour or so after the tree decorating was complete. We cleaned up the boxes the ornaments had been stored in and retired to the kitchen to make dinner. Donnie was left alone in the living room with the Christmas tree.

The crash came about five minutes later. I ran to the living room and in the process was passed by a black cat heading in the opposite direction. You guessed it; Donnie had climbed the tree and tipped it over, sending it crashing down on the television set. The damage wasn’t bad, a few broken glass ornaments, a bent aerial on the TV (these were the days before the advent of cable), and a large share of tinsel spread over one corner of the living room. We considered ourselves lucky. Donnie was banished from the living room and the door closed firmly behind him, but his cunning and determined nature persisted and the tree was tipped over twice more during that holiday season, once during a small party we were having.

Donnie is long gone. No—we didn’t do him in that Christmas season. He survived and went on to involve himself in other escapades rivaling his episodes with that Christmas tree. He calmed down somewhat in his later years and finally passed away of natural causes. He was a memorable cat, but I much prefer Penny. She’s not as adventurous as Donnie was but neither am I and at this time in life I do not care to deal with tipped-over Christmas trees, even under-four-foot artificial ones decorated with supposedly unbreakable plastic ornaments.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Small game hunting season is over—I think. There may be a few more weeks in January for rabbit. I’m not sure. I don’t keep up with it any more. Quite a while ago, when I was young, I loved hunting and was well acquainted with the seasons allowed for different animals and birds. And back then, it was easy to hunt. All I had to do was go across the back yard and into the fields. I could be out all day and never see a house if I was careful to avoid the places where I knew houses existed. There was enough open country to be able to do that. There was a lot of game, too, and a variety of it—rabbit, pheasant, quail.

I concentrated on hunting rabbit and pheasant. I left quail alone. They were small birds and, besides, they gave me too much joy. In the evenings in the spring and summer I could watch one or two of them in the orchard on the branches of a brush pile giving out with their song—“bob-white, bob-bob-white.” If I were careful and clever enough I could whistle an answer and, little by little, get close to the singer. It became a game. Sometimes I didn’t know who was fooling whom.

There are few quail around anymore. I’m not sure what happened to them but I can speculate. I think it’s a combination of loss of habitat and the use of pesticides. Pheasants are scarce, too. They are raised in pens and stocked, but they are not “native” birds. I remember walking to the school bus stop on mornings when the snow on the ground was deep and the temperatures cold. I passed hemlocks under which pheasants had gathered to gain shelter and my passing caused them to fly. In succession they ran across the frozen snow and took off with a flutter of wings. I counted gatherings in the high teens, both male and female birds. That was in the 1940’s.

But neither scarcity of game nor lack of easily accessing large tracts of land nor my age is what keeps me from hunting. It is simply that I no longer see any redeeming quality in it. I don’t need food and to simply kill for the “fun” of it is something I no longer need to do. I’d rather see a living creature than meat on the table. Nor do I see them as a threat. As for the other reason, I do not see why the killing of anything should be called a “sport.”

Monday, December 5, 2011

It’s December 5th. Winter is well on the way. But it doesn’t seem like winter. It hasn’t snowed yet—an appreciable fall, I mean. The winters I remember from the times when I was a boy began earlier. This may sound like a standard tale older people tell children about how hard they had it when they were young—eight foot snow drifts and walking to school in the frost of morning and all that. But this isn’t a tale of hardship, simply of observation.

Many years ago when I was young, I loved hunting and in those days the small game season began on November 1st, no matter on what day of the week that fell. The season lasted until December 1st and before that season was half over, and certainly before Thanksgiving, there was snow on the ground. And I mean SNOW. Not just a dusting. Snow that piled an inch or two or three on the ground and clung to branches and covered roofs and had to be shoveled off drives and plowed from roads. There were times when I tracked rabbits or pheasants by the trails they left in the snow. That wasn’t a really productive way to hunt but it was fun.

It isn’t that way anymore. Over the years I’ve found that snows don’t come as early as they used to. There are years with exceptions, of course and there is an uncertainty inherent with memory, but I’m fairly certain that I am right. We do not generally have snows as we used to. I’m not sure I would wish such snows back. There is comfort in not having to deal with their negative qualities. I wouldn’t mind if warm weather continued right on through until spring when consistent warm weather returned with singing birds and blooming flowers.

But if that happened I would probably really miss the snows. Ah, well, are we—am I—ever totally satisfied?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I read a book recently—Off On Our Own by Ted Carns. Ted is a resident of the Ligonier area. He and his wife, Kathy, live on a five acre site on Laurel Mountain, east of the town of Ligonier. Ted and Kathy live off the grid—hence the title of the book. Ted has, in his years of residence on the mountain, built a sustainable life style with his own heating, refrigeration and waste systems and his own sources (plural) of electricity.

Ted demonstrates that it is possible to live a comfortable life without constantly taking from nature. He gives back as much, even more, than he takes. In doing this, Ted gives as one of his principles paying attention to necessity over desire. “Necessity” might sound rather harsh but to me it is simply recognizing whether you really need something or only want it. In this society we are taught to want much more than we really need. Then we waste what we no longer want. Through application of his philosophy and attention to recycling in both standard and unique ways, Ted has reached a point of Zero waste. He has done this without any huge outlay of money, by simply living as he feels he should.

A great part of Ted’s message is spirituality. He applies that to his endeavors and to his life.

It’s a good book. It’s well written. It’s informative. Get it.