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Archive for the ‘Cougars in Wisconsin’ Category

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. . . and now we are eight.  Eight women who have gathered every second Wednesday at each other’s homes since the late 1950s and early 60s.  Originally bonded by graduation  from Wauwatosa High School (a near west side suburb of Milwaukee) in 1953, we’ve gathered other friends along the way.  Since the 50s and 60s were early mothering years, we began with evening meetings including lots of chat and a sumptuous dessert with our prettiest tableware.  Candles and/or centerpieces were givens and always will be—so long as we can still manage to strike a match (and blow it out!) or delve in our storage closets for interesting adjuncts to the occasion!

As our children grew to school age, we switched to mid day, with lots of chat and a luncheon on the above mentioned tables—varying of course with the seasons, availability of fresh flowers from gardens, and prevailing daylight or early dark.  Now we are getting into the mature years, and we sometimes opt to serve dessert only, or even meet at a restaurant.  But homes are still the best.  Last week the eight of us, plus one delightful guest making us “nine”, met in Joe’s and my condo on a drop-dead gorgeous March day with doors open and sunlight pouring in.

How can we do this, year after year?  Unlike every other gathering to which I’ve belonged, we are not glued together by a specific interest such as Bible Study, knitting, spinning, serious bridge, writing, and antiquing which have composed the grist of my other groupie activities over the years.

In our thirteen-now-eight group, we’re not all on the same page—worldview-wise or according to politics.  Not one bit!  Indeed, it’s tacitly understood that there are conversational places where we simply never go—for if we did, our shared pleasant origins might deteriorate into a food fight, especially if some of us were to begin quoting our favorite, highly-polarized Cable News sources.

Some share an interest in a craft, and others don’t craft at all.  Some of us decorate with antiques, and others with practically nothing in the room except for a couch, table, a few chairs, and a lamp or two.  We all share a love for family, but we rarely talk about our families.  (I probably am the most apt to talk family, because I have so many fun and funny little people to talk about.)

We rarely discuss a problem.  Or medical stuff—the most boring topic of all.  Our bodies are beginning to fall apart, but we try to eschew talking about bodies.  On perkier days, we talk of the natural world outside our doors:  the birds we’ve seen at our feeders; the recent cougar siting in Brookfield, WI—a suburb west of Wauwatosa; the deer and coyotes ubiquitous in our county.  That is real talk.  Some like to travel: always fun to hear about.  Some, like me, stay home and enjoy each day.  I can make jaunty conversation out of that—at least no one has fallen asleep listening to me so far.

Perhaps the closest to a common bond other than families would be pets and gardens.  No matter what side of the political aisle we are on, we agree that cats are hilarious and infinitely interesting.  Plus, most of us agree that dogs are people.  Although I have been cat-less for decades, and (sob-sob) currently dog-less (that cannot last much longer), I never tire of hearing talk about anyone’s cats and dogs.  Better than politics any day.

But even pets can’t explain the phenomena of women gathering every single month over a period of almost six decades!  So what’s up?  I go back to one common denominator:  a gracious mother in an open home.  I believe we were all blessed with such mothers and homes.  We learned the art of disagreeing without throwing food; and we avoid areas of pointless discourse where no one’s mind will budge short of much prayer and a God-given epiphany.  We agree to disagree, and get on with the “math” in terms of our considerable common denominators.

We learned to chew WITH OUR MOUTHS CLOSED, not to lick our knives, and other mannerly amenities of dining.  We learned TO NEVER TALK WITH FOOD IN OUR MOUTHS.  The alternatives are unthinkable.  These mouth bits alone make for six decades of companionable talking and eating.  🙂 

And believe it or not, the mouth manners have been instrumental in naming our group:  We are TALK AND EAT!

Margaret L. Been — March 18, 2018

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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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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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