Welcome back to Magnetic North, where folks in the know are celebrating the prediction of a MUCH less severe winter than last. Yes, dear listeners, the winter of ‘14-’15 is going to be just cold and snowy enough to satisfy. This breaking news comes via the most respected authority on the subject, the WBC, aka, the Wooly Bear Caterpillar.
My first sighting of the expert fuzz-ball came on Sept. 15. Two wooly bears were inching across the gravel in my driveway, unmistakable in their black and yellow striped coats. I fairly fell over with joy when I realized that the width of the head and posterior black bars were just about equal to the width of the middle yellow bar.
The pseudo-science of the wooly bear predictor goes as follows: the wider the black band, the more severe the winter; and the wider the yellow, the milder the season. Extremes of either color bode ill for us. So the appearance of the equally striped woolies put me over the moon.
“Holy flapjacks,” I squawked and ran inside to get a camera so as to post the image online and thus spread the joy.
Now those who scoff at such beliefs need to know that this time last year I found a pure BLACK wooly bear on the step to my chicken coop. It had only three yellow hairs, or cilia, on its head. And about a month later began the windiest, coldest and snowiest winter in most people’s memory.
But this winter we get a pass. And isn’t that great news?
Not all of my sightings lately have put a smile on my face. Two evoked dread and disgust and one made me drool. But all three were bogus.
The dread-evoking sighting came as I carted water to the chickens. Opening the door to their run, I saw the “unmistakable” shape of a half-eaten bird at the far end of the enclosure, tail jammed up against the chicken wire as, presumably, the predator had tried to drag the poor victim out through a breach. Sighing, I drew closer, only to see that the victim was a clear plastic bag that had somehow made its way into the run and gotten pooched up into the shape of a chicken rump.
The disgusting sight was indoors. One night as I swept up the daily tide of dead cluster flies by my sliding glass doors, I spied an oddly shaped glob, about the size of a poker chip, halfway up the window casing, partially hidden by my lace curtains. The thing was a mottled grayish yellow and appeared to have legs. Worse, it was breathing.
This is the place in horror movies where the audience screams, “Don’t pull the curtain back, you moron! Run!” And of course the doofus does just the opposite and gets transformed into a grayish yellow blob herself.
Well, guess what I did? Yep, pulled the curtain back. Minutes later, I was out on the deck. Not transformed, but singing “Born Free” and releasing the traumatized tree frog who had been frog-napped when I brought in some plants on one of our first chilly nights.
The drooling thing was much less dramatic. I simply thought I’d finally spotted a nice big puffball mushroom growing in my lawn. Paul used to torment me with tales of how he brought home baskets of puffballs to his mother in Excelsior, Minn. back in the day. Fried in butter, they made a meal and were highly prized by all.
Yet not once, in 25 years living on the shore, have I seen one. Even though I know others have been luckier. Well, sadly the big puffball turned out to be nothing more than a piece of birch bark. Cheated again!
Frankly, I’ve nothing to crab about. The past few evenings, my meals have been 100 percent locally grown and as fresh as the morning dew: Roasted beets, crispy cucumbers, juicy tomatoes and, best of all, sweet and tender lake trout…all compliments of friends and my local CSA.
Tonight, new potatoes, roasted peppers and garlicky basil pesto atop just picked pole beans, all grown within a hoot and a holler of my front door.
Munching on all of the above, considering the carrots and fennel and, of course, zucchini, crammed into my fridge, I can’t help counting my blessings: All chickens alive and well, no creepy monsters in the house (that I know of) and, best of all, a decent winter ahead. Not too much snow and cold, but enough so as to have fun and, almost more importantly, put a nice protective cover atop our septic fields.
Long ago, somewhere in my midlife crisis decade, I began to suspect that having “enough.” was the secret to a contented life. People I knew who felt that they had “enough” appeared happy. And folks always chasing after “just a little more” appeared, well, like their shirt-tails were perpetually on fire.
As luck would have it, I am in the former category. How is something of a mystery to me, but all I know is that it’s a good place to wind up.
Sure, I still hanker for a puffball somewhere in my future. And chances are I’ll cave to my “just one or two more angora rabbits,” addiction. And when a loved one or beloved friend passes on, of course I’ll feel trapped in the fog of grief for a time. But then, gradually, that will lift and all I’ll remember is the goodness that person put into the world in life. And, for me, that is “enough.”
So, happy autumn everyone. May apple cider and ginger snaps and great good gulps of that cool fall air be yours in enough quantities to make you content.
(Photo by Dave Huth on Flickr)