Friday, February 15, 2008

Cedar Ridge

Woke early and filled the bird feeder before going next door to say good morning. Yesterday was to have been Dechen's last day of seasonal work but they asked her to stay on for another six weeks. Tenkar has the whole day off. We decided to call our eldest daughter Zoe to come for a walk and try out the fancy new digital-camera. It is barely above 30 degrees but they immediately discovered some crocuses on the edge of the woods before we trudged up Lizard Lane to the ridgetop where an old schoolbus is parked on the edge of the woods. Climbing up through the lower branches of an oak near the front bumper, we settle ourselves on the sunny end of the roof, overlooking surrounding fields, sharing a ginger beer and a catlinite bowl.

Zoe noted clear roads and a half-foot of snow in northern Kentucky and expressed surprise at the existence of good vegetarian restaurants in Louisville. She says her new boyfriend is very amusing and told him not to bother with the Valentine crap. He is cooking her dinner tonight. My eye is drawn into the shadows under the trees over the wirey remains of a hog pen and two piles of unused grey cedar logs. When Tenkar grew cold we decided to keep moving.

Before we got too far, we hear Jack crying because he couldn't figure his way out of an old shed. Nala kept barking at him from outside of the same wall he was facing and whiz that he is, Jack didn't realize he would have to turn around to find his way back out. Zoe went to the shed door and rescued him. The dogs seemed so happy to see one another that Nala charged and head-butted Jack in the chest, sending him flying onto his back. Never seen that before! We all laughed.

When we first settled in the hollow, twenty years ago this April, this high ground to our west was owned by a local family who had only recently acquired it. They wanted to raise pigs and take advantage of the local mast to help fatten them. With this in mind, they left all the hickories but cut down a mature stand of eastern red cedar to make fenceposts, turning a small evergreen forest into hillside pasture. Fortunately, about fifteen years ago, a hippie friend was able to buy half the parcel and she remains the absentee owner. The rest was picked up by my good neighbor Silas. A massive white oak holds the high ground overlooking an abundance of baby cedars, a short fuzz of purple-gray sprinkled amidst the tawny knee-high grasses of these sloping fields. On the coldest nights, a thick red cedar provides a protected, favored place for chickadees and other tiny feathered folk who don't migrate. Unless the volunteers are clearly tagged, they will be destroyed by the yearly bush hog, needlessly perpetuating the open pasture. I will write a letter to see what I can do about helping the glade return.

We walk through a wrought-iron archway and across the grassy openness of Oneheart Rise and down through a small stand of mature cypress. The path continues up another hill on a track snaking between tangles of green briar and the barbed-wire marking the western border. This south-face was also logged for cedars and poplars but unlike Oneheart Rise, no bush-hogging has been done here in over a decade, so it is quickly recovering. From the high shoulder the view opens to the south beyond our little hollow, the intervening space stretches across a blurry sea of wintry buds and grey tree tips, connecting the eye to a far horizon, a wooded ridge on the far side of the Saw, about a mile distant.

Here the path re-enters the trees, passes a small triangular pond and traverses Cedar Ridge, which still holds a fair number of older cedars, but not without a struggle. Back in the day when Silas had recently been granted title to this land, a local fellow drove up on this ridge with a logging truck and went to work, insisting he'd already contracted to harvest the trees. Silas said this was not part of the deal and asked him to please stop cutting until the problem was sorted out with the former owner. When the sawyer refused, Silas called our friend Ivan, who came over with a loaded shotgun in the trunk of his old Chrysler to see if he could help change the fellow's mind. The sawyer drove off without Ivan ever opening his trunk. Through rigged connections in the local courts, the sawyer ended up successfully sueing Silas for a few thousand dollars and soon after died of a heart-attack.

Later this evening, Dechen, Tenkar and I discussed the need to produce two more benches for the eastern and souther altars on the hill as well as initiating a plan to finish the retreat cabin. Tomorrow I will take a walk out there and write more about it.

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