First two just huffed at me. Then six more huffed at me. Then today a couple just plain yelled at me. I was doing nothing but getting near their territory. In the past, I have been snorted at loudly by what I assumed was a buck. The huffing was comparatively gentle, more irritated than angry. The yelling was a new sound. It wasn’t very loud or intimidating but unusual (to me). I am assuming they were young deer. I caught sight of their white tales and they appeared to be fairly small.
Yesterday I arrived around 3:30pm at St. Francis of the Woods Center for Spiritual Renewal in northern Oklahoma. First I unloaded the car and settled into the very comfortable cottage with two bedrooms, a large open L shaped area with a living room space, a tile area with a library desk in it, a dining area with an oak table and chairs, a fully equipped kitchen area a wraparound porch and, of course, a full bath (not exactly roughing it).
As always, as soon as that was done, I took off on the trail through the wooded area. The trail winds back and forth with benches here and there, wooden bridges over the gullies created by runoff, some small open areas, and leading to the edge of a huge mown field (a hundred acres or more). I walk that area slowly, listening for birds (seldom many in the woods at that time of the day). I stopped and watched an ant hill for a while, looked at various colors of moss, listened for signals there are deer around. That is when I heard the first two huffing at me.
As I headed to the field near the road, I was treated to a cluster of Bluebirds chattering at one another. I kept far enough away from the pond to keep from disturbing the three turtles piled on one another on top of some sort of small floating platform. The field near the road is on top of a low hill, high enough to see for miles when looking west. For over twenty years I have spent every sunset I have been at St. Francis in that field watching the sun go down. With rare exceptions, I have been treated to impressive sunsets every time I have been here. This trip has been no different. The weather has been very warm and breezy.
As I walked back to the cottage after the sun set, six deer serenaded me with a few more huffs. Soon friend John from Oklahoma City (more accurately Edmond) joined me for a couple of hours of catching up. We came to be close friends while I served a Parish in the Oklahoma City area for nine years. We used to meet regularly at Ingrid’s Kitchen very early in the morning providing support for one another as his wife, Sherrie, went through a terminal Cancer and Mary Ann’s Parkinson’s was taking its toll on her.
I am not sure of all the reasons it happens, but every time I come here, I sleep for many hours. After a late breakfast, I stepped on the porch with a cup of coffee. Those who know me well will understand how horrified I was when I realized I had not brought my beans and grinder along for making coffee. Gratefully, I had purchased one PT’s coffee in a thermal cup for the drive and had also gotten a small thermos of coffee at the same time just in case I wanted more. When I realized what had happened, I saved the thermos and put it in the fridge so that I could reheat it this morning. It was actually pretty good – thanks to PT’s.
When I stepped out on the porch I noticed what I thought might be a Walking Stick (the insect) on the railing. A closer look revealed it to be a Praying Mantis. When I walked over to it, it turned its head and looked right at me with those huge eyes. I walked away, and it turned its head back in the direction it was heading. I approached again and it turned that little face toward me again. I initiated a conversation. I should be clear that any participation in that conversation by the Mantis was non-verbal. In that conversation I observed that if it was a he, it was clear that he had not engaged in coitus (I watch The Big Bang Theory too). Had he done so, the female would have bitten his head off. (I will make no further comment since there would be trouble lurking in any observations I might make about that.)
I spent the afternoon and evening (six or seven hours) walking the property (500 acres of woods and fields) looking and listening for wildlife. My ritual here involves a certain path that I follow, across one of the large fields, past the beehives, along a huge corridor of grass (recently cut with a brush hog) dividing the forest and leading to a very small creek. On the other side of the creek is the remote field of about 10acres of unmown grass. In the far corner of that field is my reading room. The three-legged camp stool that I strap on my backpack is surprisingly comfortable. I usually try to have a book about quantum physics with or without a theological perspective. Most often I struggle to follow the technical language, but I still enjoy trying. This time I had a book along written by a Mennonite Pastor who walked the Road to Santiago. The book is an account of the Pilgrimage and his reflections on it. I am becoming more determined to do the Camino de Santiago.
The wildlife was fairly sparse this trip. There were a couple of Red-tail Hawks sailing through the sky; at one point one was chased by a couple Crows due to some apparent misbehavior on the hawk’s part. There were a few Turkey Vultures, some Flickers, the sounds of lots of Red-bellied Woodpeckers, a Downy Woodpecker, a Hairy Woodpecker (actually does look hairy), Blue Jays, Cardinals, Chickadees, a glimpse of a Tufted Titmouse but no Pileated Woodpecker. That one is my favorite. I have seen one here on previous visits. I was hoping to get a picture of an Armadillo. In recent years I have usually seen one. The best I could do was the empty armor of one long since deceased. I took the picture anyway.
Tomorrow morning, if there is time and the weather allows, I may go out one more time. I have to load all my stuff and clean the cottage thoroughly before joining the Staff for the weekly lunch together on Wednesdays. In the past the meal has been vegetarian, including a main dish that was so hearty that it could satisfy most carnivores. There are usually home canned condiments and side dishes made with whatever the garden has to offer. The conversation is always varied and intellectually stimulating. The Director is an Orthodox Priest who has been here at St. Francis for a number of years and only recently ordained. He is the first person who suggested the Road to Santiago Pilgrimage to me. He suggested it a couple of years ago when I told him I was planning on hiking in New Zealand.
By the way, there is no Internet access here, so I am writing this on the word processor to be finished and posted when I return home. It is interesting how much more time there seems to be in the day when there is no access to email and the endless amounts of information available at the click of the mouse when online.
Tomorrow has become today. I did make it out in the morning and enjoyed more bird sounds. There were no wildlife surprises. It was fascinating to watch the sunrise and then notice that as the sunlight moved down the trees across from me, it was as if a volume control was being turned. The birds began to sing.
Other than John’s visit Monday evening, I did not see another human between 3:30pm on Monday and about 8:30am this morning (Wednesday) when some Staff waved at me as they passed in their vehicles.
The noon meal with the Staff included some five cheese vegetable lasagna, marinated tomatoes, green beans with sliced almonds, cucumbers and onions, warm bread, homemade pickles (plus a number of other home-canned options), salad, fruit, cherry cobbler and lots of conversation.
The trip home went well (included a stop at Braum’s for a couple of scoops of ice cream). I am home again and can now post this to the Blog.