Sunday, April 22, 2012

Cabin Mystery


Copper River break-up

The ice has not yet gone out on the Copper River.  I’ve come out to our cabin to spend time working on my writing, without distractions, but nature itself is a behemoth wondrous distraction, or at least it can be. Some may see it as repetitive and empty; “you’ve seen one mountain, you’ve seen them all” type thinking. But there is life and death to evidence just beneath the surface if you can sit still long enough to see.

Did you ever have a feeling you couldn’t quite place? I’ve got four days to write, yet my mind is as stubborn as the river ice; hardened and unable to flow. Something is bugging me but I don't know what. I couldn't put pen to paper like I'd planned to do...this, after being interviewed just a couple days ago by a local magazine about writing and creating an artful life. My declaration was clear:  I don't believe in writer's block (I refuse to give the term so much power). Never one to procrastinate, I set my schedule and was determined to get to work, but when I arrived at the cabin, after a 3 hour drive up and down and around tall mountains, along a snaking riverbed, and across a white-washed pass where snow-machiners were enjoying their end-of-season thrill rides, I felt nothing but a swelling of gratitude for the wondrous, picture postcard world I inhabit each and every day, and all this without a single RV in sight.

But I didn't want to work. I just wanted to sit in the sun and watch the river go by. I just wanted to daydream and make a fire, and kick my feet up and listen to the chink chinking of ice breaking up right  in front of my eyes. I just wanted to watch the clouds barrel in, watch the afternoon rain gently falling, and hang out with the dog in the fresh clean air. So when the sun parted the clouds and continued its burning of huge cracks in the river ice, I didn't do one damn thing but sit there, and feel grateful.

So me and the dog were sitting around the fire, watching the river flow, when I spotted a dark shadow moving over my head. Ravens are big birds, really big birds and this one was barking so loud and his buddies were following close behind him, so I decided to follow them and see what all the ruckus was about. I walked upriver a ways and there I spotted an eagle swoop down and chase all those black birds sky high and outa there while he protected a cache of foxes. Dead frozen foxes. One, two, maybe three foxes, all in the same small area, atop chunks of unmoving river ice. I don't know how they got there, or why they were congegrated in one small area, but I had a few hunches. All in various stages of decay, perhaps they were cached by the eagle, then floated down the river a ways before being stopped by cakes of ice. Or maybe the eagle brought them to this spot, one by one, dropping each one from the grip of its talons and was protecting its hard earned prey. You see, I wasn't present to see what had happened beforehand. 



I figure I wasn't meant to get any work done on this trip. I was meant to witness this mystery, this peculiar scene, this strange event.


Sometimes it's hard to look at fallen animals...




But the scene just reinforces the fact that we are a part of the circle of life. The world is beautiful and sad and scary and peaceful and violent...every contradiction and every paradox that baffles and makes me wonder about the answers to the big questions has informed me of this much: We are not separate from the whole of the natural world; we are not bigger, better, faster, stronger, smarter. Someday we will all fall prey, human and non-human alike, churning and turning, creating and destroying as the wheel of life keeps circling on and on. Like those squawking ravens barrel rolling above my head. 

Like me and the dog, sitting by the fire, watching the river roll by.

9 comments:

  1. Ah, birds of prey can eviscerate anything they like, have eminent domain... Ice breaking up on Mullet Lake in Topinabee, was so enjoyable. Dog Max would rush out and jump from chunk to chunk, ignoring my screams that he could die if he missed. Unlike the dog owners who die every spring in Boston when the Mystic River breaks up, I do not follow my dog out on the ice... he'll figure it out...always did. Write on, two river resident... ah.

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    1. Really? The dog owners chase their dogs out on the ice? That sure doesn't sound very wise.
      Up in Barrow, on the Beaufort sea ice, I've seen kids jump around from berg to berg, but they play close to shore. That's how they have fun in the Arctic.

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  2. oh, monica, i am glad you were in this place, watching. you were not meant to work that day at your cabin, you were meant to SEE. this is a wonderful piece.

    from your writing i feel we have so much in common—this thing we do: we sit and we feel grateful. : )

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    1. Thank you, m, for your kind words. Maybe I should spend more time just sitting. It's the hardest thing to do; sitting still, that is.

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  3. Some things are more important than writing. I envy you your cabin. Four days would never be enough for me in such an environment. First I'd have to get to know my surroundings thoroughly before even thinking of writing. And then such a locale would probably overtake all other writing subjects for a time.
    Now the mystery of those Eagle guarded foxes seems like wonderful writing raw material to me.
    Enjoy.

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    1. The very first thing I do when I get there is check out the river at a spot where we put rocks in to protect the bank. In 2009, the ice went out so fast that the river backed up causing overflow; we lost 30 feet of bank that year. Now we're teetering awfully close. One time I dreamt the cabin fell into the river, and I was inside, sleeping. Thanks for your feedback, 47white...

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  4. Monica,

    Came over here today from OBN, and I'm glad I did. This post was so strong in images and insight. It made me wish I could take my next walk along that same river. Also, as per the previous post, Pablo Neruda is my absolute favorite, and Atwood is up there for me, as well. Glad to know there are other people out walking, thinking about poetry and strange plot lines and life. :)

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  5. Hi Emily. I'm so grateful you found me so I could find you! I am writing a memoir and ruminating deeply about place; how geography and landscape influences, in large part, who we are and how we respond to the world. Thank you for your lovely feedback.
    May I ask...what is OBN?

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  6. Outdoor Blogger Network. :)

    And so exciting about your memoir and its subject matter. Best, best of luck.

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