The Stressful Side of Pastoral (Stillwater Diary)

Shagbark Hickory, Stone Ridge, NY, 5/31/15

Shagbark Hickory, Stone Ridge, NY, 5/31/15

In May, before the rain came, the sound of drops was constant, not water but leaf debris falling from the voracious mouths of caterpillars, insect Agent Orange, defoliating the trees, as they made their malignant lace. Near the house the preference was the beautiful shagbark hickories. In the woods, the caterpillars were omnivorous.

The rainfall in June seems to have washed some of them away, the chewing has slowed, or maybe the caterpillars are preparing to emerge in fearful form as moths, to terrorize me with their erratic flitting, powdery wings and swollen bodies. (Don’t laugh, I’m not afraid of snakes or mice.)

In May, I heard frequent gunshots, hunters in the woods–turkey season–hard to pinpoint the location of the firing, unlikely they were in our woods, maybe in Sally’s, or across the Esopus. Leo, Ryder and I were walking down to the Groverkill when Ryder madly accelerated and catching up to him I saw turkeys scattering, feet moving like the Roadrunner’s. The flock escaped to the right, except for two, who turned left and launching themselves into the air, flew over him, so funny in their gracelessness, looking like frozen butterballs with wings.

I have no choice but to be ok with the stressfulness of defoliation, hunters and the orange needles still gripping the branches of  the white pines. But last weekend, looking down the slope near two of the hurting hickories, I saw a black bear standing on stones in the parched Groverkill. It turned its head to check me out.  It was gorgeous but intimidating–I know my place in the food chain–and faking calm, I walked away.  Maybe it’s not so tragic to spend some summer days in New York.

Shagbark Hickories, Stone Ridge, NY, 5/10/15 (left) and 5/31/15 (right)

Shagbark Hickories, Stone Ridge, NY, 5/10/15 (left) and 5/31/15 (right)

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