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Sawbill Newsletter Archives: February 2000
Current Sawbill Newsletter | « January 2000 | March 2000 »
2/28/00 - Puddles, birdsong, swelling buds, slushy lakes, closed ski trails - all the signs of mid-April are here. The warm, dry winter has culminated with the earliest Spring in history. While there is plenty of time for more winter, the weather service is predicting the current weather pattern to hold for quite awhile. If it doesn't change, we could be canoeing by early April. - Bill

2/23/00 - We received the following email and picture today:

Attached is a bitmap I put together as I was thinking of summer nights at Sawbill. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed putting it together. Hopefully the download wasn't too awfully long!

Take care, stay warm and we'll see you again when the ice is gone.

Bob & Cheryl Borowick

2/19/00 - Gorgeous moon in the sky! I hope it shined as brightly on your homes. I skied out with the dogs and listened to a very bright night. The lake's winter tarmac held thousands of specks of moonlight. An owl's call took the breathing out of us, as we strained to hear it again, faintly we heard voices camped on Alton. The dogs were dark red stains on the snow. They tended their snow packed paws, making small sounds that ballooned, then snapped in the sub-zero air, crunching back to the surface amplified. There was good ski skating on the packed trail heading up the lake. We rounded the point leading to Alton, passing through a forest of perfect tree shadows, painting us like galloping zebras. We skied and ran hard, returning with a frosting of breath on our collars and fur - souvenirs of the white night. OB

2/17/00 - The snow has been so gentle and delicate. Over the past four days, snow has been in the sky a majority of the time, yet the accumulation has been a scant two or three inches. It moves like tiny bubbles, amounting to about the same in terms of moisture. A handful of the stuff is a pile of feathers. In fact, the crystals of this snow look very much like down, but down from an exotic bird. The crystals interlock like down and have the same opaque appearance, but the snow is even finer and is bluish like the purest frozen seeps of winter cliffs. To complete the image, the down is not evident at the surface where the warmth of the sun polishes the snow into the whitest linen. The top layer has to be peeled back, to see how it fluffs for miles and miles. What is it like for the vole or mouse to move through that layer? There are special meeting rooms in Oz convention centers like that, and cotton candy tunnels ala Willy Wonka.

I just checked, and that layer of down is already breaking up. Soon it will be a micro layer of delicate shards in the stratigraphy of the season's snows. There are special layers in the snow each season. The last unusual layer was the day Bill photographed the frosting on the trees (see the picture from 1/27/00 below.) Those crystals were woven by the trees all night. In the morning, they gave them to the wind who flew them like tiny kites. The wind moved on to other pursuits and left them all over the snow, glistening fragments of mica. Those are rare sheets of snow, I think about them all the time, like Charlie fixated on the golden wrapper layered in with the other millions at the Wonka factory. OB

2/16/00 - Bit of a shock the other day. Gust our older retriever, caught and badly maimed a pine marten. It was a vicious sight and extraordinary because the hundreds of chase hours logged by Sunnie and Gust have, to the best of my knowledge, resulted in one squirrel kill (nearly botched). Imagine my surprise when I looked out and saw Gust's jaws firmly clamped around the belly of a pine marten. The violent shaking was a terror, and I noted rarely seeing Gust in such a no-nonsense posture - hackles up, legs spread wide to support the blurring shakes, and an overall firmness of muscle and intention I had not considered in this slightly over weight, lounging retriever. Despite this intensity, this was a big chore, and I began to wonder if Gust had the requisite know-how to satisfy the urgings of his instincts. Gust employed a strategy of brief, vigorous shakes, after which he would hold still for a quick assessment. Each time he found the pine marten "coming to", diving in for a violent kiss. After one session, the marten appeared to make contact with Gust's nose, prompting a dropped marten, which immediately lunged for a nip at Gust's paw. Gust leaped away and both animals sat a few feet away staring into space. The marten's back was broken and it began to feebly drag itself. Sunnie, inexplicably, skulked in the woods apparently conflicted. Gust continued to stare. In the interest of hastening the marten's last moments and avoiding anymore bites which might result in a trip to the vet, I intervened, finishing the marten with the .22 rifle. It was sad, as I enjoy watching the martens, especially this year as we have kept them out of the buildings!

The moment when Gust stared into space is etched in my mind. It seems a defining moment, one I cannot imagine a wolf enacting. It seemed a sensation of genuine confusion, where instinct was at odds with experience. My hunch is that wolves have learned by experience to avoid martens whose bites and viciousness are as painful and willful as the action of a sewing machine engaged in an errant finger. I also suspect, if a wolf were in the act of killing a marten it never would have turned its back on it, but instead, switched to a more decisive grip to the neck.

The whole scene was a little disturbing, not because of the violence, but for the sense of an act poorly done. In our cultivation of dogs, something like the spring of a venus fly trap was lost. Dogs are dependent on us, like children, but sadly they never blossom into beings of independence and skill. Though their need for us is comforting, it is also a burden, especially on days like yesterday, realizing that there is a yearning buried deep under mounds of Purina, which is cut off from the daily cycles of snapped necks, clasped talons, rabbits becoming lynx, and tearing red muzzles. OB

2/9/00 - We received the following email and photo the other day:

Hi to all,

This is a picture taken on July 4, 1999 minutes before the rage that occurred that day. We had taken shore on the north end of Sawbill Lake at the 2nd or 3rd campsite on the east side of the lake. The time of day is about 12- 12:30 PM. Notice how dark it is. Within minutes of this shot, it was even darker and the air was filled with water, both from the rain and from the lake.

Picture was taken by Karen Cook of Mound, MN with a Kodak Weekender waterproof camera looking south.

Keith Cook

2/2/00 - Many of our canoes pass through the work shop during the winter for routine maintenance. I look at all the scratches that build up over the seasons and see that the canoes come to have a certain luster, a broken in look. Though the new canoes look more crisp, the older canoes have a seasoned look, softened at the edges, seemingly more fit for this landscape. I know many of the canoes by sight, and mainly I conceptualize them as our canoes, seeing them in my minds eye either on the racks or stored for the winter. Today, as I stood with four canoes in the workshop, I thought of how many stars or raindrops they have sat below patiently waiting on distant shores. I wonder about the waves a certain canoe has traversed, or the drift another performed at the stillness of a moose sighting. I see one is newer, probably not yet made it over to Kekekabic or east to Gaskin. Likely it will be steered there soon, en route occasionally bumping a bit of the country or resting against a log under a swarm of black flies and a worn out portageur. The path will take away the shine, just as the wind transforms the youthful symmetry of the white pine. Then the canoe will be broken in, and after another year or two, we will sell it to one of you who have come under the spell of this place too, and having weathered a few storms and rocky portages are getting to know it well enough to explore it on your own. OB
Current Sawbill Newsletter | « January 2000 | March 2000 »


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