​Cougar Fever

​​​​Eastern Cougar fever

You never know what chain reaction will bring a laugh.

I asked a friend where he got his firewood last week. He mentioned a guy close by to me but I didn’t know. I asked my brother and he knew him. My brother said he told him, 10-15 years ago, that he was crossing the river bridge by the entrance to my lane. He saw a guy looking over the bridge. Guy 2 said there was a dead dog in the water. Guy 1 looked and said, “That is not a dog that is a cougar with a tail like that.” He called DNR and heard nothing back but the cougar was gone, the next day, or so.

I still can’t get over how classic a cougar story this is. I have spent a lifetime in the woods over there obsessed about cougars and one turns up in the most unlikely, but visible, places l can think of. When I was 10, or so, a book on cougars called, “The Eastern Panther” by Wright, had me stoked. In my thirties, I created a wildlife club focused on big game. At outdoor shows, etc. I tried documenting cougar reports with report forms until the bullshitters made it tiresome. Everyone has a cougar story, but me, even my aunt that never goes in the woods has seen one. You would think by now a road kill would have happened, like they do in Florida all the time, or some other evidence would turn up but no. Sasquatch is the undisputed king of hide and seek but our cougars here are a close second.

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​I was walking through town today to my 3rd covid shot and saw a dog walker across the street. A woman had a small greyhound in a heavy bright hunter orange body coat. I mean bright.
It made me think of this.
​The dog would have been better served by protection from the sidewalk salt.

Mandarin Duck

In the owls-of-the-eastern-ice book, they used mist nets over the streams to try to catch owls. They caught a lot of other birds, mostly, but they got Mandarin ducks, too. How would it be to see such a resplendent bird on an icy stream in their natural habitat? The color and form would be such a contrast to a sea of white. This guy is a city bird here and has been an online star for the last few months. He seems alone and is likely someone’s escapee. It is unlikely to be a wild born bird this far from Primorye .

The fins on the back look sculpted. The imagination would be hard pressed to outdo what evolution did.

Joan Didion, RIP

Joan Didion died last week at 87. She was the best, from her bleak existential novels of the sixties and seventies to her late memories of a certain kind of California girlhood. I used her to teach, and I think sometimes that everything my writing students needed to know was in this short passage, about her “apprenticeship” at Vogue.

“It is easy to make light of this kind of “writing,” and I mention it specifically because I do not make light of it at all: it was at Vogue that I learned a kind of ease with words, a way of regarding words not as mirrors of my own inadequacy but as tools, toys, weapons to be deployed strategically on a page. In a caption of, say, eight lines, each line to run no more or less than twenty-seven characters, not only every word but every letter counted. At Vogue one learned fast, or one did not stay, how to play games with words, how to put a couple of unwieldy dependent clauses through a typewriter and roll them out transformed into one simple sentence composed of precisely thirty-nine characters. We were connoisseurs of synonyms. We were collectors of verbs. (I recall “to ravish” as a highly favored verb for a number of issues and I also recall it, for a number of issues more, as the source of a highly favored noun: “ravishments,” as in “tables cluttered with porcelain tulips, Fabergé eggs, other ravishments.”) We learned as reflex the grammatical tricks we had learned only as marginal corrections in school (“there were two oranges and an apple” read better than “there were an apple and two oranges,” passive verbs slowed down sentences, “it” needed a reference within the scan of the eye), learned to rely on the OED, learned to write and rewrite and rewrite again. “Run it through again, sweetie, it’s not quite there.” “Give me a shock verb two lines in.” “Prune it out, clean it up, make the point.” Less was more, smooth was a better, and absolute precision essential to the monthly grand illusion. Going to work for Vogue was, in the late 1950s, not unlike training with the Rockettes.”