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Archive for the ‘Black Bear’ Category

North

My above-pictured collage, simply titled “North”, tells a story—an account of eight years when my husband and I lived, year around, north of Highway 8 in the Wisconsin Northwoods.  Included in the collage are photos of our lake and the Big Elk River around the bend, snippets of my cropped art, bits of aluminum foil, Japanese lace paper, some cheesecloth, lots of acrylic paint, and a favorite quote from a beloved American author:  Henry David Thoreau:  “I had three chairs in my house . . . one for solitude, two for friendship, and three for society.”  Walden

People who know me may laugh when I share this favorite quotation.  They know that:  1) I have far more than three chairs in our home, as well as far more than three of most anything else.  I’m a collector of everything! and 2) My idea of “society” is a lot more than three people.  We have a gargantuan family.  All are welcome to come and sit on our multiple chairs—although many are still in the stage of running around rather than just sitting.  (My “up north” friend Sandy commented after viewing a photo of our family, “That’s not a family; that’s a tribe!”)

Meanwhile, aside from Thoreau’s eastern philosophical views, I love most everything that he wrote.  His chair quote, to me, symbolizes an inner peace and unswerving stability.  A true Yankee at heart, Thoreau was never swayed by customs, crowds, human opinion, or even his own precarious health issues.  I have his complete diary spanning 24 years and two huge volumes.  Right up to his last entry, when Thoreau was dying of tuberculosis, his focus remained on the wonders of creation and the intricate details therein.

The wonders of creation predominate around our home in Northern Wisconsin, along with solitude and an undescribable stillness.  Black bears abound. Despite the fact that they tore up a few bird feeders and pulled a screen off our front deck, I loved the bears (but my husband did not!).  Perhaps the most unique thrill of all was seeing timber wolves on the ice in front of our pier.  The wolves brought unforgettable excitement to a minus 25° morning.  (That’s 25 degrees below zero, folks!)  But nature’s wonders notwithstanding, my most precious memories of up north have to do with the friends we made—friends forever.  As always, I was thankful to have more than 3 chairs in my home!  🙂

Now we are back in the Southern part of our state, where much needed medical care is within 13 minutes from our door.  And family!  In recent years, 16 great-grandchildren have appeared on the scene and we live close to 9 of them.  We are watching the little people grow up.  We attend their school concerts and some of the birthday celebrations.  I attend church with children, grandchildren, and 7 of our great-grandchildren.  When out-of-state family members visit, we are all together in one county—so tribal gatherings are easily managed.  Joe and I enjoy our condo home, my little gardens, the good neighbors on our lane, the park and woodlands beyond our door, and quick access to great restaurants and bistros.  A new grandbaby is due in June—within rocking and cuddling distance. 

Yet now and then on hot summer nights—when I lounge outdoors on the patio while viewing the hazy moon and scanty stars over our nearby metro area—I recall those northern night skies, plastered with millions of stars.  I often think of my friends up there, and I’m thankful that we stay in touch. 

We never really lose the beloved people or places in our lives.  There’ll always be a part of my heart labeled, “North of Highway 8”.

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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I couldn’t resist.  After tucking into our Saturday morning pancakes, my little red SONY® and I plowed through drifts and wandered in our park.  I was besotted with the abject beauty, which SONY faithfully recorded for me.

From this snowy scramble, I clipped three small shoots of red osier dogwood which are now set into flower frogs in a Victorian transferware pitcher.  Soon the shoots will sprout tiny buds and leaves, and we’ll be on our way to the very next thing:  SPRING.

Much as we anticipate Spring, we can never deny or ignore the charms of the season at hand—although yesterday was a good day to celebrate the season at home rather than on the roads.  I may tire of winter, but I never grow weary of living in Wisconsin.

Early this morning I updated my WordPress Profile—so that whenever my Gravatar is clicked, my five blog sites will appear for readers’ easy access.  While on the Profile page I wondered if I should change the Northern Reflections’ explanatory blurb, which presently reads:  “gleanings from Wisconsin’s wild rivers, lakes, marshes, and woods”. 

When I began blogging in Autumn, 2008, we were firmly entrenched in our far Northern lifestyle of living on 14 plus acres surrounded by a plethora of wildness including black bears, wolves, fishers, more Virginia whitetails than people, and all kinds of winged life.  Eagles soared over constantly year around—and our marsh, lake, and river abounded in waterfowl and songbirds in spring and summer. 

Now we live in Southern Wisconsin, in a semi-rural area with easy access to Milwaukee.  Yet we are still surrounded by wildlife. Only the bears, wolves, fishers, and eagles are missing here—although eagles have been sighted in our county and somehow a very hapless black bear wandered into the Milwaukee suburban area a few years back.  There has been cougar evidence just a few miles north of us in Hartford—and coyotes roam the bountiful Milwaukee Parkway System, terrorizing small dogs and their owners.

Yes, we have wild rivers, lakes, marshes, and woods all over our state—even in our Southern county.  In fact, we live in the middle of the Lake Country with water all around us.  Our home faces a park near Lake Nagawicka, with a wildlife sanctuary along the entire side leading to the lake.  Waterfowl and other large birds fly overhead constantly in spring, summer, and autumn:  great blue heron, ducks unlimited, and of course the Canada geese.  I’ve seen cattle egrets in farm pastures around here—and we have an abundance of hawks and owls. 

Any day now, we’ll hear that “Hallooo-hallooo-hallooo” of the sandhill cranes—like reedy bamboo pipes, rolling their notes with a French “R” while preparing to land in a swamp for some raucous partying before heading to the cornfields. (We actually did see cranes in a nearby cornfield yesterday, so they must be “Hallooo-ing” up there already.) 

When they land, the sandhills may possibly only be “out-raucoused” (if there is such a word) by the tundra swans who sound like Canada geese with asthmatic bronchitis.  But oh, that winsome flight song of the cranes, soothing as our bamboo windchimes rustling in the breeze.

Yes, I’m still gleaning Wisconsin’s wild places.  No matter where I live, I’m wildness, bred and born.  My mother knew the name of most every wildflower and bird, and my dad was a hunter who loved the out-of-doors.  Although a city, Wauwatosa, was my home for most of my growing years, I had an eight year interim in a small upstate community—and there I grew to love the quintessential Wisconsin small town. Precious childhood memories include hunting and fishing with my dad.  Although I hope I never have to shoot anything, I totally respect our local culture of hunters—responsible hunters, that is.  As a kid, I traipsed along behind my father when he went pheasant hunting along the fieldstone hedgerows of hilly Kettle Moraine North near Sheboygan Falls.  I still recall the woodsy, hilly beauty which grabbed ahold of me and never let go.

Summers were spent on water, which I was “in” as much as “out of”.  In our state, learning to swim is a huge GIVEN. It’s a matter of survival, as we are surrounded by rivers and lakes.  Wisconsin kids learn to swim along with learning to read, and often before.  Ever desiring to have a companion, and lacking a son, my dad taught me to fish at an early age as well. 

Yes, I believe I can continue to blog my “gleanings from Wisconsin’s wild rivers, lakes, marshes, and woods” even though I no longer live in the wild north.  Wisconsin’s wildness is an integral part of my soul.  And there is plenty of wildness within easy walking distance of our home!

“Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it.  We need the tonic of wildness—to wade sometimes in the marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe . . . At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed, and unfathomed by us because (it is) unfathomable.”  Henry David Thoreau, WALDEN

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

Note:  Below you will see my original copy of Thoreau, which I purchased in 1967.  A few years back I bought a new, hardcover edition of the book you see pictured here.  Same everything, but lacking in the ambience of my special dog eared book—with pages falling out, pages ripped, pages annotated by me, and pages flapping.  Time and again I try to read from the new hardcover, and then return to the old worn out copy I love best.

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Assuming there is some wisdom in the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”, today I’m offering extra pictures.  Some of you have seen the above shots of our Sunday afternoon visitor a few years back, at our home up North.  I’m posting them again because:  1) they are fun, and 2) a new online friend, a retired gentlemen and photographer who lives in Finland, had expressed an interest in another photo of a black bear which I posted awhile ago.

For a wonderful tour of Finland, try http://sartenada.wordpress.com/  .  You’ll be glad you did!  I’m amazed at how Finland and Northern Wisconsin are so similar.  (We have the immense Lake Superior for our Big Water.)  The entire earth fascinates me, but I love the far Northern reaches of the world most of all!  They are “home” to me.

Here ↑ is a glimpse of one of our winter gardens.  Indoor plants help to keep us Northerners contented during the long, cold months—and they satisfy our craving for earth and greenery.  The structure which houses some of my African violets is a Wardian Case (a replica of course) named after a 19th century English physician.  Information on Dr. Ward is available online:

“Dr. Ward was a physician with a passion for botany.  His personally collected herbarium amounted to 25,000 specimens.  The ferns in his London garden in Wellclose Square, however, were being poisoned by London’s air pollution which consisted heavily of coal smoke and sulphuric acid.

“Dr. Ward also kept cocoons of moths and the like in sealed glass bottles, and in one, he found that a fern spore and a species of grass had germinated and were growing in a bit of soil.  Interested but not yet seeing the opportunities, he left the seal intact for about four years, noting that the grass actually bloomed once.  After that time however, the seal had rusted, and the plants soon died from the bad air.  Understanding the possibilities, he had a carpenter build him a closely fitted glazed wooden case and found that ferns grown in it thrived.  Dr. Ward published his experiment and followed it up with a book in 1842, On the Growth of Plants in Closely Glazed Cases.”  Wikipedia

I have at present six African violet plants.  I rotate them, three at a time, in and out of the Wardian case as the closed container helps to keep them hydrated without over-watering.  Fortunately we don’t have any coal or sulphur pollution here—just a gas furnace which tends to dry out our indoor air.

In Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park Horticultural Domes, African violets grow close to the ground in the shade of huge plants in the tropical dome which is kept moist at a constant temperature in the low 70s, Farenheit.  This is where I got the idea of a little extra hydration for my beauties.  They don’t like to be over-watered (and must be watered from the bottom) but they love moist air.

Our East facing living room and patio door make a perfect environment for the above plants which don’t need (or can’t tolerate) huge blasts of winter sunlight.  But our Christmas cactus, blooming instead for Lent, and a few other succulents (some jades, orchid cacti, candleabra, and an aloe plant) happily thrive in the Eastern exposure—with the morning sun.

Our other winter garden sits in our bedroom, facing South ↑.  This is a glorious spot for succulents—including large and small leaf jades, and a crown of thorns.  The succulents remind me of another beloved place on earth—New Mexico, especially Taos and Santa Fe.  The curly creature in the above foreground is a Hoya, commonly called Turkish Rope.  I have a couple of these, and delight in them.  Maybe that’s why I love my Potato Chip scarves.  They look like the Hoya.  🙂

The toothbrush in the Hoya plant belonged to a precious Pembroke Welsh corgi, Meeghan.  On the sad day that she died, I put her toothbrush in a plant pot and it has been in one pot or another ever since.  Meeghan hated to have her teeth brushed. That’s why the brush is in such good condition.  I could almost use it, but I probably won’t!  Meeghan also refused to floss.

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

 

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One of the many perks here at our pleasant Nashotah home is the fact that in our very same building there is a man who has a northern home just a short distance from where we lived up north, near Phillips. Wisconsin.  Earl gets up north frequently, something we’d hoped to do but so far haven’t managed. 

But never mind!  A recent chat with Earl, apprised me on happenings in our beloved northwoods.  I relished this conversation with our neighbor—good conversation about cougars, black bears, and wolves, oh yes!  It was a deja vue for me, having lived in the north full time for 8 years where tales about the wild things abound.  At nearly every gathering someone has a story to tell, and the talk is never dull! 

I’m keeping track of people who have seen a cougar (mountain lion) in Northern Wisconsin, and now—happily—I can add neighbor Earl to my list.  He has seen a cougar, just west of Phillips.  A few years ago our northern neighbor, Kathy, saw a cougar on County Highway “H”—our road into town.  Other eye-witnesses have surfaced in recent years.  It’s a hoot that for years the Wisconsin DNR denied the existence of this large cat in our state.  A standard answer to the sighting claims was:  “It must have been someone’s escaped pet.”  Or:  “It must have been a bobcat or lynx.”

The bobcat or lynx reply is especially silly.  Both the bobcat and lynx have tufty ears, and a cougar does not.  Both are smaller than the cougar.  The bobcat has a skimpy tail just a few inches long, while a cougar’s tail is spectacular—measuring from 23 to 33 inches!  Bobcats and lynxes are common around Wisconsin, especially in the north.  It would be hard for anyone who lives there to mistake them for a cougar!

Finally the Wisconsin DNR has admitted to the existence of cougars.  DNR researchers have tested blood samples, tracks, etc., and now they are saying:  “Yes, we have cougars.”  Although I certainly don’t want cougars around my great-grandchildren or dog, I do love knowing they are up there in the deep woods! 

When we lived up north, we had a motion-sensitive camera strapped to a tree outside our bedroom window.  We put a sled filled with deer corn near the camera at night and got photos of visitors while we slept—like the above ↑ shot of one our most commonly-sighted wild mammals, north and south!

One night our camera produced the below ↓ photo.  What is it?  We assume it is a fox, but it’s fun to wonder.  If it’s a fox, it’s not a very hairy one!  The tail looks foxy.  But I like to think it looks a bit cougarish, as well!

The next picture ↓ captured by our night camera highlights one of my favorite critters.  In our family, I think I’m the only foolish one who likes black bears.  Yes, they are distructive and they can be dangerous.  It’s essential to leave your cookies and sandwiches inside when you go walking up there.  And try to avoid Mom and her babies!  But aside from confrontations over food and babies, I’m with Teddy Roosevelt.  I think the bears are cute!  I probably will always think bears are cute!  Otherwise why would I have a home full of benign, make-believe bears (which neither eat nor have babies)?!

Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of our big canine neighbors up north.  We did see wolves several times, twice on our frozen lake.  My heart nearly stops when I see a wolf.  I certainly don’t want to be mystical about wolves, but they are so beautiful!  My husband can do without them, but I enjoy knowing they are out there—far away from my little children and dog of course!

According to Earl, both the bears and wolves are getting more and more pesky.  Anyway, they make good conversation.  We’re never totally removed from wild nature, even down here in Southern Wisconsin.  Our northern home is only 5 hours away.  Meanwhile our neighbor, Earl, has brought the north right back to our doorstep!   🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2011 

Note:  I couldn’t resist including the following “rendering” which I did of “Brother Wolf”.  The wild ones are ever close, via my imagination!

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Looking at pictures has been a popular form of recreation ever since the invention of photography, and before that throughout the centuries of capturing people and scenery via sketching and painting. 

When I was growing up, one still found stereopticons on coffee tables.  For those who do not haunt antique shops, a stereopticon was a wood and wire thingy in which a double image (often of a travel scene) was inserted into a holder.  The viewer held the stereopticon to the light and slid the wire holder until the images came together.  (If I haven’t clarified that concept, just GOOGLE “stereopticon” and you’ll see it for yourself.)

During the 1930s and early 40s we had albums of tiny photos taken with a primitive Brownie camera, and also 8 mm family movies.  Later my dad bought high tech cameras with multi dials, settings, filters, and lenses—the likes of which I could never figure out in a million years!  Then Dad graduated to making 16 mm movies, and finally to slides and a slide projector.  Slides were the “picture shows” of the 1960s.  Many an evening one had to sit and watch someone’s slides of what seemed like every single cathedral in Europe!

Joe and I skipped the video cassette stage, and kept on taking photos with a Minolta® automatic 35mm which served us well right up to a few years ago with the onset of digital cameras.  Now we can sit and view the cathedrals of Europe on friends’ ubiquitous laptop computers.  Likewise, I can potentially bore my friends to distraction with my computer full of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Nonetheless, a picture show is a fun and sharing way to spend a social hour!  At the rist of boring you to distraction (I hope not!) here are some of our family classics:

Our son, Karl, at age 13 in 1975.  When Karl was younger, he looked a lot like John Denver.  Now Karl no longer has a John Denver haircut, but guess where he lives:  you’ve got it, Denver.  (Actually, Centennial which is on the south side of Denver.)  Karl still enjoys that natural “rocky mountain high” depicted in the above New Mexico scene.  I think those are the Sangre de Cristo mountains in the background.

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The two on the right are Karl’s sons, Nathaniel and Joelly, teaching their 1st cousin-once-removed, James, how to be silly.  It seems to come naturally, even for those of us who do not live in or near the Rocky Mountains!

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Going back many years, here is my favorite wild west character.  I don’t know if he’s a cowboy, gunslinger, or U.S. Marshall, but I love him and have been married to him for nearly 58 years!

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About the same time as the cowboy photo was taken, an adventuresome kid was racing (I think it was a 2 horse power engine) around Lake Winnebago—Wisconsin’s biggest inland lake.  Life jackets were something used in the Navy; we never had them when I was growing up.  And look at that!  We wore dresses in boats, at least I did! 

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Fast forwarding to 2004, our Baby Dylan did not have his legal “temps” (and still doesn’t).  But a lot of youngsters have learned to drive on the remote sand roads of the Chequamegan National Forest in the Wisconsin Northwoods. 

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Now it’s 2007 in the picture show.  I was supine on our living room couch—recovering from a roast pork, mashed potatoes, gravy, and pie dinner at the Phillips’ Cafe when this Sunday visitor dropped in.  I’ll be forever thankful that I had my camera handy!  🙂

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You’ve seen this one before and you may see it again!  Great-grandchildren! 

We have 5 more wonderful great-grandchildren not featured here.  I’ll publish the other five as soon as I get some photos of them from their moms. 

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Ooops!  Here are 2 more “classics” which recently came in from a friend.  These photos date back to 1982, when we were getting hay for my sheep.  Can you believe we did that (22 bales!) to a vehicle?  And drove the 6 or 7 miles home? 

Margaret L. Been

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A beloved treasure is our Big Elk River, just around the bend from the bay at our northern Wisconsin home.  Soon the ice will go out, and we’ll be heading north to savor the sights and sounds upriver. 

In canoeing weather we like to go up-river at least once a week, to see the changes in flora and fauna.  We watch families of ducks and geese grow from new-in-the-water to teen-ager.  We see new fawns in season, and on a few occasions we’ve surprised otters sunning on branches over the water.  I delight in the progression of wild flowers, from angelica to Joe pye-weed to tickseed sunflower and purple aster with many beauties in between—including sky blue forget-me-nots which bloom for weeks on sunny banks and mossy logs.

Ahhhh, River!  When we first moved up north I often took my paddle boat, a thermos of iced tea, and a book—and hung out on a sand bar up-river for a few hours all by myself.  Then my love, Joe, got spooked about all the bears running around, and put the kaboosh on that.

This illustration of our river is not a painting, but rather a photo—computer enhanced.  I have also achieved a similar effect with watercolor applied to Japanese masa paper, with its beautiful fractured sizing.   

A Poet’s Place

A poet’s place

where every aspen branch

drips metaphors like Dali’s clocks,

alliteration echoes angelica

artemisia anemone . . .

with stillness-saturated solitude

against the onomatopoeic thrum

of frogs.

A poet’s place

of imagery in river-clad

forget-me-nots, where figures of speech

slide otterwise from scruffy banks

of sandy streams on drowsy days,

and symbols pierce the lunar-nugget nights

in cadence with a Milky Way

of dreams.

Margaret Longenecker Been—All Rights Reserved

Published in A TIME UNDER HEAVEN—seasonal reflections and poems, by Margaret Longenecker Been

NOTE:  Below, is a watercolor which I did on masa paper.  FUN!!!!!!!!!!

A PARTING NOTE:  Please check out my friend Patti Wolf’s new blog:  http://wolfsrosebud.wordpress.com/

You’ll like it!  🙂

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“Sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care, 

The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath, 

Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,

Chief nourisher in life’s feast.” 

William Shakespeare, MACBETH

What heals more beautifully than sleep?  And what is better than winter, for sleeping?  Lately I have been sleeping like there is no tomorrow.  It’s 7 above zero today with a minus 17 windchill.  This is mild compared to where we came from:  Northern Wisconsin with its weeks of 2o to 35 below zero!  Yet it’s cold.  Wind is wind, and it seems especially cutting in our new neighborhood, just 25 miles from Lake Michigan.

Sleep!  Sleep!  Sometimes I wake up for a few minutes at night, and then return to a deep sleep.  It feels like I’m being pulled into a bottomless ocean by an irresistable undertow.  I sometimes think I am “sleeping off” my whole life–the extremely productive years of raising 6 children and working as a book-keeper/secretary for our company, the many moves with packing and unpacking, the two delightful decades of raising chickens and sheep along with countless other critters, and our halcyon years up north. 

I’m sleeping off the nights with sick children and all the family crisis times right up to our most recent trauma of having a daughter in ICU following her cardiac arrest.  This daughter is doing beautifully now, praise God, and she’s scheduled to return to her home today.  The crisis has passed, at least for now, and I can SLEEP!

Only the Holy Bible can address life issues and the human experience better than our beloved old bard whom I’ve quoted above.  How rich is the English language, and how grateful I am to have been raised and schooled in it!  Although many Americans have deconstructed, minimalized, and derailed the language in shocking ways, I cling to British English–the language of the King James Bible and Shakespeare. 

Who can describe what I’m doing at least 14 hours out of 24 more succinctly than that master of British English, William Shakespeare?  Truly, sleep “knits up the raveled sleeve of care.”

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

Note:  Here is a photo of one of our up north neighbors.  Now these folks really know how to sleep! 

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