Saturday, May 25, 2013


This'll be a short one, because I'm currently on St. Simons Island for a wedding...I love that I'm here to celebrate with Morgan and Daniel!

BUT, I really wanted to share with those of you who faithfully read my blog that we caught TWO bears this week!  Two!  We caught one Monday morning:
#137 70lb male yearling
 The workup went without a hiccup, and we now have data from him to add to the map that Hooker almost always has on his desktop.  It's really neat to see the bear you touched and put a collar on via satellite information.  Really neat.  This guy was adorable.

The next bear we caught Thursday morning, so I came down to St. Simons dirty and covered in bear smell...but I don't care.  Her workup also went off without a hitch, particularly since we carried her to the  porch of the abandoned cabin that was right next to the trap site.  Casey was in charge of this workup, and she walked me through how everything works.  She even let me do one of the ear tags (Yay!)!
115 lb female (estimated 2yrs old)
You know, the ticks are gross, dirt is gross, it sucks to get stuck in the mud in a 2 wheel drive truck, the mosquitoes are annoying, and it's hot.  But mornings like this when we get a call from Hooker to come to a site, or evenings when we sit looking at Google Earth and bear movement...these moments make all of the bugs and mud worth it.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


Today was a day full of animals.  (Spoiler alert: no bears, though Josh and I saw one running away from our truck yesterday)  I met Josh around 9am and by 9:45am we’d seen countless birds, several turkeys, and a pretty black rat snake.  We played with it a little, stopped at his check station…then Skilor and Ray come up to the cabin carrying the same snake!

We all laughed and then let him go.  Josh and I went on our merry way…and down another dirt road outside of the WMA we found an Eastern Kingsnake AND a Copperhead!  They were having a standoff when we pulled up, the Kingsnake made a threat display at us while the Copperhead hung in the background, also frozen in a defensive position.  I’m afraid we made the Kingsnake lose his breakfast—I feel a little bad for that—but MAN was he pretty.  He managed to musk Josh pretty good before we left, though.  Not the first time, nor the last time Josh has been musked by a snake. Haha
Copperhead in background, Eastern Kingsnake in foreground
Then things got pretty tough.  The hair snares we put out today were all in awful places.  BUT on the way to one (same private property as the snake-standoff), Josh throws the door open and jumps out to chase something—meanwhile, leaving the truck in drive, don’t worry, I flipped it into park quick—that was too fast for me to see.  Turns out it was a Rough Green Snake which he lost in a muscadine vine/bush.  He swears it went up in there, but, you know, rough greens are about the color of muscadine leaves.  Foiled again.

Then we saw an old river turtle (spp?) about to lay eggs!

To continue, we helped some human animals too.  
Correction: Josh helped to ladies change a tire while we were heading down the side of the highway to a snare site.  He wins good citizen of the week award: it was hot, the traffic was blowing past us, and apparently he’s allergic to whatever grass grows on the side of 96.  Anyways, after that was finished, we took off into the swamp.  I should have taken a picture of our shoe-mud-holes we made…it took us forever to navigate through the muck.  And we sank pretty far—ankle deep, maybe—while standing to assemble the snare.  Oh the things we do for science!
We rounded out the day with a wander through a clearcut, where we saw some pretty outstanding tracks:
Pterodactyl...Just Kidding, probably Great Blue Heron
Raccoon Galore!
And a Bobcat! Ugh, these tracks are so precious!
And we put up a pretty hair snare—which I also should have photo documented.  I will later this summer.

The. End.


The boss got here today.  Well, one of them.  We have a hierarchy:

Chamberlain is in charge of all three students, but Hooker is kind of in charge of the rest of us, since he has a decade of bear work under his belt.  Technically, Chamberlain is my boss since I’m a technician, but in reality, I’m working for and with the three students. 

All of that to say, boss Hooker got here today.  He’ll be sleeping in the living room of my check station while Casey and I share a bedroom.  He’s a self-professed grump, which has been evidenced already by the complaints leveled against…well…everything. 

And boss Casey just pulled up.  She’s a goof, throwing humor back in our grumpy old man’s face, singing about her baby tomatoes that are growing outside.

The comebacks are whizzing over my head with a ferocity and hilarity that I wasn’t quite expecting.  If things remain this sharp-tongued all summer, we’ll come back in much need of whetstones for our wit.  I look forward to that.  I’ll keep a running tally of the most interesting comments made: between Eeyore Hooker, Goofy Casey, Cajun Josh, and Puckish me, I’m sure there won’t be a shortage.

At the least, we’ve established a “you don’t touch mine, I won’t touch yours” rule regarding coffee mugs.  Order is in place.  

Day one of living with two other people was…surprisingly chill.  Except I was the last one up at 7:05am.  And that was after I’d stayed in bed a good ten, fifteen minutes.  I woke up before dawn to the smell of coffee (Hooker’s), which was very pleasant and would have drawn me into the kitchen if it had been dawn—and if my bed hadn’t been so warm.  As it was, I tossed for a while then finally gave up when I heard Casey and Mike talking.  

I think it’s safe to say I will continue my front-porch-breakfasts, but the breakfasts will just have to happen two hours before they have been happening.  I’ll get used to it: this is outside-work life.  You have to be up before dawn, so when day breaks you can begin your work.  I’m okay with that—I have to be okay with that.  That is the life I have chosen and love.  

Last night began—and today continued—Hooker’s continual of “what’s the first rule?”  It’s reminiscent of fight club (oops, just broke the first rule) with the sheer number (and silliness of some) of rules there are. 

First rule: all rules are the first rule
Second rule: all rules are the most important rule
First rule (?? We already have a first rule?): don’t touch it, you’ll break it
First rule of bear trapping: don’t invite a bear to the back of a trap
First rule of bear trapping (again, there is already a first rule??): if you set a trap, you better be prepared to deal with what you catch

The list goes on, with number varying from 3 to 63.  I’ll keep you abreast of the most interesting ones, but mostly you’ll just hear the ones mentioned above. 

Weird.  But funny.  I’ll get him yet: stump him on which first rule he’s actually asking me about by giving him the actual first rules he’s been telling me about incessantly. 

Day two of the full crew being here and I feel a little out of place.  I know it’s only day two, and the last time the three stooges—I mean students—were together, there was a different tech.  I hear a lot of Ryan stories, and I occasionally get compared to him.  This is normal, so I’m not hurt or put out by it, but I’m ready for the habits to set in and to become the tech, not the new tech.

First rule of roadkill surveys: be careful. 

The drivers on highway 96 are nuts all of the time, but they hate it when you drive under the speed limit and pull over at every dead thing.  

I suppose I should explain what a roadkill survey is.  First, you put an orange caution light on your truck, a neon vest on your person, and drive around 42mph up and down highway 96 (from I-16 to the intersection with highway 247) looking for roadkill.  You see something, you pull over, you get out without getting hit, you go up to the roadkill and ask it a bunch of questions while you fill out this survey.

Hah. Sort of.  You identify it, guesstimate time of death, and move it off the road.  This is part of the DOT project: they are trying to expand 96 to be a 4 lane divided highway, but they want to know if and/or how that will affect wildlife (particularly bears).  The roadkill surveys are really just an index of who, what and where.  Anyways, that is one of my duties for the summer.  Let me tell you how excited I am…But hey, it’s a job, and for that I am thankful.

Here’s one of my own rules:

First rule of hair snare work: get permission, lock combinations, keys, and test that they work before trying to set up the hair snares.

Josh and I walked a mile (total) to set up one hair snare today because the lock was not openable.  This is not Josh’s fault, he did the correct rigamarole, just the only key to that gate is currently in North Georgia.  Oops.  We also walked pretty far to some other sites, but that is not for lack of permission, it’s lack of driveable roads.  Whew. 

On a lighter, much happier note: today was the last day of turkey season, which means that tomorrow morning the WMA gates close and we have the refuges to ourselves!  I think everyone will breathe a little easier knowing that our front yard won’t be frequented by randos (“yahoos,” as Hooker calls them).  I’m very excited.  I’ll get to leave my hammock up without fear of it getting stolen, we can leave the trucks and doors unlocked, and we will turn off the porch lights, which will let us sleep better and keep the bugs off our porch.  So. Excited. 

5-16—worth a blog of its own…see next post!

I felt the shift last night.  It was practically imperceptible, but I felt it. 

Maybe it’s because it was Friday night, which is theoretically the start of the weekend (we don’t actually have weekends during trapping season…I’m writing this at 0830, and I’ve been awake since 0700).  Maybe it’s because I was painting.  Maybe it’s because Hooker woke us up yesterday morning singing “Tomorrow,” from Annie.  Maybe it’s because we all just decided to relax around each other.  Maybe it’s because we were listening to Ella Fitzgerald, whose silky voice soothes the soul.  The list of maybe’s continues.  Regardless of the reason, I’m okay with it.

I am the tech now.  Not the new tech.  And I like it.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Mornings, Leisure, and a New Home

There is something inexplicably delicious about the morning hours at Ocmulgee. 

I am not a morning person: the first bear you’ll see around these parts is me before my coffee.  But these quiet mornings I’ve spent on the front porch steps have set a joy in my heart that is hard to shake.  The sun’s long rays reach through the giant pecan in our front yard, beckoning the dew to join it and become mist.  The dew does, creating a fantastical crystalline effect in the air. 

Past the front yard, the elevation drops, and the land is a jungle of brush and dew.  Everything is greener in the mornings.  I am sure there is some scientific explanation for the sun’s angle creating a refraction of light from the dew on the grass giving the illusion that its color is more vibrant than normal…but it is too early to think of such things.  I prefer to think that these hazy green and gold mornings are designed to stir within those waking an insatiable energy to begin the day!  Shake off the dew that has settled on your mind!  Feast your eyes on the glowing beauty today holds!

These mornings are by no means silent: a symphony of voices meets my barely awake ears.  These birds, from woodpeckers to warblers, cardinals to quail, tanagers to chats—and more that I have yet to acquire the skill to identify—raise their voices loud and unashamed, proclaiming that it is indeed morning! The sun has risen again!  A new day of adventure awaits!

Some days here have been busy: until yesterday we were averaging 6 or 7 hair snares a day.  Yesterday we might have done three?  Today: zero.  Yesterday and today we spent most of the time on the computer, driving to and from Fort Valley, and getting nowhere fast. 
Yesterday was a day of emails—all parties involved received and sent way too many emails for the amount of bandwidth available.  Today we took one of the trucks in to get worked on, the breaks sounded like nails on a chalkboard and the summer has barely begun. 

Then there were the talkers. 

Around here there is a lot to say and a lot of time in which to say it.  What I mean is…you know how people ‘round these parts talk…well…slow?  When in doubt…pause…every pause adds drama…right?  No one seems to have anywhere to be in any rush…no one picks up on clues that you’re not really looking to…you know…spend all afternoon listening to them tell one story…which reminds them of another…oh…and that one time...well I never heard the likes of that…except…I think there was that one story…wait…yeah…my friend…who you don’t know, but I’ve known for…my…near fourty years or so…well he’s got this story…you should hear him tell it…it goes something…like this…[20 minutes later]…but man I wish you’d’a heard him tell it…hold on maybe I could call him…well he’s not answering…anyways…I’ve known him forever…We used to get in all kind of trouble back when we were young…this one time…

There was a lot of that today. 
And I learned how to plug a tire.  And we still can’t figure out how in the WORLD to get to these two hair snare sites.  There’s always tomorrow. 

Unless…unless it ends up like today…did I tell you about those stories I heard today…well…look’a here…I tell you what…

I wrote yesterday that today was to be a day full of productivity.  We were to put out hair snares, write routes, do things.

Today I didn’t see Josh till 12:30 pm; we didn’t leave my cabin till 3 pm.  We’re sitting in Josh’s cabin right now looking at the interwebs, trying to make it go faster.  Mike Hooker drove down today, unloaded a bunch of stuff, talked about some of the hair snares we can’t find, then left.

Sometimes it’s just a bunch of hurry up and wait—welcome to government work.

On the other hand, apparently graduation festivities are beginning in Athens.  To those I know who are graduating: congratulations!  You have fought hard and persevered to this point in your life, do not let the moments slip by you.  Cherish these next few days, soak in all that you can, and always look toward the horizon for your next big adventure.

Today is another day of setting our own schedule.  Sometimes things call us away from the typical day, and even the study site.  Josh is in Athens today, taking care of business: I remain here, doing paperwork in preparation for the rest of the summer.  Yet another leisurely day here in Middle Georgia—not that I’m complaining.


Despite the leisurely week, we've still accomplished a great deal of work, and we're still ahead of where the project was this time last year.  I completed the paperwork I planned on doing, and am now spending time plotting for future paperwork-filled days.  

I've found a coffee shop in Warner Robins!  For those of you who never go a day without your java, and those of you who have a penchant for local flavor, you'll understand my joy!  It's a locally owned, fair-trade joint that does a lot of outreach with and for the community.  It is about 30 minutes from my cabin, but this is a cool enough place--complete with wi-fi--that I might be willing to make the trek on a regular basis.  I'm not quite one of those crazy only-buy-local-or-you're-scum people, but when I find a local business that does good food, beverages, service, and is involved in the community, I'll stick by it as much as I am able.

It is nice to have a local place where I opposed to only knowing local places where I've been.  It is beginning to feel like "home."  This is my home, for now.  It is where I live, where I work, where I eat, shop, sleep, and play.  If this is my home, I should be here, not continually running to a place that was home.  
I'm not saying that Athens or Albany should prepare to never see me again.  I'll be back, you will always have pieces of my heart.  But Twiggs, Bleckley, and Houston County have me now, and I must be loyal to my workplace and her town(s).  

I was asked today what type of "woods-y life" I wanted.  The answer I gave was "Ain't that a question."  The way I see it, when you're a few short hours from the places you've called home, you have several options:  
1) Spend every spare moment (and cent) driving back, filling your hours off with action and emotion. 
2) Never look back: throw yourself fully into your new city, forgetting people and places from before.  
3) Something in the middle.  Return to the places that have grown you, nourished you; never forget the ones you loved while you were there; but make a new, thorough commitment to the new place that claims you.

As per usual, I think I'm all about compromise, or option 3.  To turn my back on the places and people who have been vital to my growth would be ungrateful.  And a little foolish.  Distance (no matter how small or large) is not a sign of an end, but merely an indicator of change.  It does not necessitate a closure, but a choice.  Will you abandon everything and everyone you've known?  Will you "move on," perpetually with your head turned 'round to the past?  Will you take them with you in your heart, to cherish always, while also opening your heart to a new set of "everything and everyone?"

I hope you choose the third, if that choice is ever presented to you.  Heck, I hope I choose it now too.
But what do I know about what I want?  I'm only two weeks into this change.  I don't expect to have it figured out ''s over.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Hopeful Romantic

My heart breaks for the home I leave in Athens, yearns for the adventure towards which I drive, and aches to have someone with which to share it.

 It knows I have a future of hope and prosperity, it knows I have the perfect partner, but it longs for the day to come when it has a partner in adventure, growth, and love.

Does that make me a hopeless romantic? Probably.  It definitely makes me sound like a stereotypical girl.
 I am one—a girl I mean.  A young woman whose dearest friends are married.  A young woman who has more wedding invitations than coupons on her fridge.  A young woman who has adventure in her heart, love in her eyes, and a sliver of fear at being alone.

What does the phrase “hopeless romantic” even mean, anyway?  I find most romantics I meet are quite hopeful.  Think about it: in any situation, any life circumstance, your standard “hopeless romantic” can always find a silver lining, a glimmer of hope, something to cling to that pushes them forward.  In fact, they are consistently some of the most hope-full people I have met.  Whatever their situation, whether they are dating, married, brokenhearted, single, they always have their eyes set on the stars with full expectations of a shining future.  Doesn’t sound hopeless to me.

From the other side, the side of those who call them “hopeless,” they are seen as without hope for change.  “Hopeless romantics” will always be romantics; it is hopeless to try to change their minds.  Please note, however, that it is often hopeless to change anyone’s mind.  That is theirs to think with as they please—sometimes to the chagrin of others.  As a (sometimes) realist I can see how romantics are frustrating: their hearts are ever on their sleeve, subject to whatever thorn, bug, rain, sun, wind, ice, or heat harms it.  The thing about these “hopeless romantics” is that the heart never becomes calloused: it remains fleshy, tender, and often bleeding. 

Realists, cynics, skeptics, and so forth see that torn heart and resolve to keep theirs firmly in their chest, where it is surrounded by a cage of bone and muscle: toughened by the hard times, maintained—but likely not softened—by the good times.

Romantics, without a doubt, experience more pain: their intense desire for love is often met with intense disappointment.  They long for the perfect love stories—hard to find in an imperfect world.  Realists, cynics, skeptics keep their eyes set on the imperfect world, knowing they are a citizen of it, knowing that the statistical chance of a perfect love story in an imperfect world is very, very small. 

Who has it better?  Who is right?  I ask myself these questions all too often (I am often on the fence between being a realist and a romantic).  The realist in me sees heartbroken friends, whose hearts are smeared on their sleeves.  The romantic in me sees hardened friends, whose hearts are caged quite securely, rarely seen by anyone, even those they seemingly trust.  All too often, the realist in me finds my romantic heart reaching through the intercostal spaces, pressing itself toward the world full of hurt and hopeful romance. 

How do I keep it in?  How do I deny it the small chance to find that love?  How do I keep it inside, keep it safe, keep it whole, keep it unscathed?  Better question: who am I—realist self—to deny it a chance to strive toward perfection?  Am I not a believer in a perfect God?  Do I not know that I am called toward a perfect life?  Doesn’t that include a quest toward perfect love?  Could my hopeful romantic self be right?

Surely not.  A romantic’s life is full of disappointment: why run headlong into something you know will cause pain?  It seems illogical, especially when this pain can be avoided.  It is a much better idea to leave my heart inside my ribcage, where it has a unique system surrounding it, designed to keep it safe. 

But.  Everyone knows what happens when a living thing is kept out of the sun, away from the light and the fresh air.  It fades, withers, and crumples.  Even the realist in me does not desire that for my own heart.  Even the realist in me admits that there is a chance, albeit a small one, that the hopeful romantic in me is right. 

And guess what?  I’m also a risk taker.  I’m already taking a risk on a field job when I could have found a perfectly stable job in perfectly stable Athens.  I’m taking a risk writing things like this, admitting I long for that elusive “love,” admitting I don’t have it all together, don’t know on which side of the debate I am.

While I’m at it, I might as well take a risk and open my ribcage and let my heart have what it wants: sunshine and an adventure towards that tiny chance of perfect love.

I can always say “I told you so.” 

To which I’ll respond, “Life’s not over yet, I’m a hope-full romantic, remember?”

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Days 3, 4, & 5

These titles and dates are about to get confusing...Day 4 happened on May 2. Bleh.  Anyways, maybe as the summer goes on I'll get a better system.  And I'll get better at shortening my posts.  Thanks to those who make it through, no worries to those who don't want to read my ramblings all the way!

*spoiler alert: send me letters! Mail info at the bottom of 5-2-13!*

I forgot to mention I rolled my ankle pretty badly yesterday.  I took Mama’s phone advice and wrapped it in a vinegar soaked washcloth overnight.  This morning it’s smelly, pruny, and feels about like it did yesterday, but it’s not swollen, so I suppose the vinegar did the trick.  We’ll see how it feels after tromping on it for a while.

Moreover, Daddy, the son of a postman (Grandpa, enriching my life from beyond the grave, I love you), remembered you can set up a “general delivery” mail thing: basically, you tell people to send mail to a city with your name on it and it gets sent to that town’s post office.  Cochran is a heck-of-a-lot closer than the DNR office in Fort Valley!  Next time I get adventurous, I’ll pay a visit to the post office and see how they feel about general delivery mail there.  I’ll be sure to keep you updated as I find out more. J

Today I get to drive!  Well…I get to drive the UGA truck over the river and through the woods to Oaky Woods WMA check station, where Josh is living. We’ll go around to private properties and reassemble hair snares, much like we did yesterday.  I’m hoping for less ankle rolling, ticks, and “scenic routes."  Don’t get me wrong, chillin’ in the truck was fun yesterday, but I like working, even if it means my hands and back will hurt tomorrow. 
Well, we’re 1 out of 3 for my hopes for the day. 
We did, in fact, not roll any ankles, but we took many the scenic route, and I added a tally to my tick counter. 

We put up a couple hair snares, but mostly did scouting for future sites and previous sites…which included attempting to float through a cypress lowland looking for a hair snare that was “right off the road.”  By the way, it wasn't right off the road; in fact, we didn't find it at all.  We found all the mud though.  All of it.  I’m glad I’m a small person, gravity worked in my favor for that one.  The seclusion and distance from his family is wearing Josh down, and his eyes lit up when I told him about general delivery mail.  I pray it works for his sake and mine, and I pray he can find the strength to blow through these next few months.

We finished around 5 and headed home: Josh to *hopefully* organize a to-do list for the morning (we’re going to try to set up 12 hair snares…very ambitious) and me to cook, work out (a.k.a. Sayaw today), and relax.  I’m settling in, as one would expect, but I know not to get too attached to this down time: soon there will be two other hot, sweaty, smelly, ticky, tired, hungry people trying to get the same alone time.  I’m relishing the time to myself, but also looking forward to having someone I can teach Cribbage.  


I’ve reached equilibrium: for as many days as I’ve been down here, I have pulled that many ticks.  It’s going to be a long summer.  In other, less gross news, we got 7 snares up today.  It’s not 12, but it is a lot considering what we did to get to them.  Most of them today were on private land, and that particular section is being logged, so we dodged log trucks and various tigercat equipment to travel down awfully rutted clay roads and through 6-10 inch standing puddles.

We counted up what has been done so far, and we’re pretty sure we only have 48 snares to put up and 9 to check.  While this seems like a lot, we are considerably ahead of where they were this time last year.  We have 126 total from summer 2012, and most of those hadn’t been set up by this point in May.  Moreover, once we get the rest of these set up, we’ll probably set up a few new ones and still be ahead of schedule.  High five!

As far as the actual snare setup, it’s pretty straightforward: barbed wire around three trees at two different heights, with an eventual bag of bait (corn and scent) hanging eye-level in the middle.  It’s the arrival and departure from the sites that is time consuming, tedious, difficult, and occasionally exciting. 

We use Josh’s iPhone and a small GPS unit to watch our current location, the snare location, direction, and distance.  We try to match the roads seen on the GPS to the roads seen on the iPhone with reality…but usually one of those is missing.  So, we drive down the most inviting dirt roads we find, hoping they curve in the correct directions and don’t have flooded spots.  Usually our hopes are dashed in the clay-dirt.  3-point-turn is Josh’s middle name by now.  But, eventually, we find the spot.  We wield a machete and hedge clippers, using those to mark our path in and out of the woods so that we can (hopefully) find it later.  Note to self: always keep your machete sharp.  It’s hard to practice kali (and feel competent) in the woods if the machete doesn’t actually slice things. 
I’m excited to report that the Cochran Post Office does accept general delivery mail!
 I’m hoping to get letter correspondence going this summer: letter writing is a lost art that I’m wishing to resurrect.  The letters I have from past summers are among my most fondly remembered treasures.  You learn things about those who write to you that you might not learn otherwise.

It’s difficult to explain, but something about seeing the penmanship, the sentence construction, the mistakes, the flow, the paragraph breaks, the length (or lack of) allows you to see into the person writing.  Blogging and typed-words are similar, but there is something much warmer, much more personal about a handwritten letter.  Notebook paper, stationary, postcards, post-its, they are all valuable and treasured.

Plus, you can bundle the letters together for your children or grandchildren to find, and I speak from experience, seeing written correspondences from (and between) your grandparents is one of the neatest things ever.  Looking back through old emails or facebook chat histories doesn’t quite have the same effect.

I think what it comes down to is this: re-reading letters allows you to see chronicles of a developing relationship.  What kinds of questions were asked? How were they answered? What else was discussed? Hopes, dreams, day-to-day-life, future, faith, fears?  It is a story already recorded, already a part of written history.

All of that to say: please write me.   I will write you back, and I will put thought into my responses.  I will keep every letter I receive this summer, bundle them all together, and I bet you they will mean more than these words I write now. 

Here’s how:
  • Write a letter
  • Stamp it
  •  Send it and text me, if you canto let me know something is on the way!
Annaliese Ashley
General Delivery
Cochran GA 31014-9999


I’ve discovered something interesting; when I’m alone, the words flow freely from pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), but when I’m with people, I seem to use up all the words in conversation. 

Now, if you extrapolate that to those writers I hold dear: Aldo Leopold, John Muir, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Zane Grey, Louis L’amour, C.S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Emily Dickinson, Beatrix Potter…you get the picture…it makes me wonder if they too were alone.  Some, Muir and Thoreau for instance, were.  They chose a life, or a year, of solitude to be close to the natural world.  But some, Leopold, Lewis, Tolkien, were pretty cosmopolitan.  How did they do it?  They carried on daily conversations with friends, colleagues, students, families, and still managed to find words left to put to paper.  Did they not say what they wanted to say to people, saving it for paper?  Did they just listen?  Did they really have that much they wanted to share with the world? 

I long to be as eloquent as these men (and women)—but how?  Some of it is a gift, that I do believe.  Some of it is a passion that is cultivated: cultivated by parents, spouses, friends, self.  Some of it is a skill acquired: years and years of editing and failing and erasing and scratching out and redoing and rejection and perseverance.  Some of it is luck: Muir probably wouldn’t have been able to publish a book with his writings, but he instead published one essay at a time in newspapers and magazines.  Those essays were later compiled into books, but not before he’d written to the same periodical for years. 

Only God knows what the future holds for my pen and me.  It is probably better that way.  If I knew about my future I’d get so excited about it that I would forget to live in the present—funny how that works.  For now I’ll just keep letting the words flow.  Maybe these summer months are my time of solitude like Thoreau’s year apart from civilization (mostly).  Maybe not.  Maybe this summer will by my Twiggs, Bleckley, and Houston County Almanac.  Maybe not.  Maybe the bears, snakes, coyotes, rabbits, and mice I meet will be the next Peter Rabbit, Mrs. Tiggywinkle, and childhood heroes.  Maybe not. 

But maybe.  Maybe is enough for me.