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Naked And Proud

Story ID:7870
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Broken Tree Ranch Montana USA
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Naked And Proud

Naked And Proud

Naked And Proud
by Kathe Campbell

"What's so different out there today?" I blurted out loud. Glancing the pond and admiring thirty-three years of woodland artistry, something had changed the landscape. Just yesterday the firs and pines were saplings, now they blocked my view of the rocky crest that stands as a sentinel guarding all it surveys. Something was amiss.

Thoughts ran amok recalling wilderness drama amongst the trees. The earth delighting my bare feet and breezes playing with my hair, whistling like tiny storms blowing away cares. Leaping amphibians at the creek, a pair of canines feigning their music together, and a great deer grunting birth deep in Mother Nature's greenery. Colors, sweet and wild scents, eerie screeches echoing off towering ramparts, and song birds striking up signature chords revealing God's presence.

A lone deer jumping up from tall grass near the west pasture as Cork and I head out to irrigate. My Keeshond snuffles it's warm rest, the spiked mulie springing over the fence, stopping to stare at us before disappearing into shadowed woods. Could this be a descendant of the fawn caught up on farm fencing I rescued from certain death so long ago?

Tree squirrels scolding fellow intruders, and flocks of mallards quacking overhead checking out the pond. Tiny sparrows to great raptors swooping in to snatch up the first cuttings from my dog's winter coat. It's still an annual affair - fat mamas flying off trailing Corky underwear into the giant firs and bluebird boxes. What a hoot!

Kicking further Broken Tree history around, and still grappling with my annoying scenic flaw, I grabbed a cappuccino and walked out on the deck. A young flock of finches were feuding and feeding at their feeder, and just beyond, a tad over spittin' distance from my fence, I suddenly saw it. The old snag was gone--plumb gone. The pine beetle-infested lodge pole had been a viable part of my vista, now she had unceremoniously toppled in the night.

Sporting great ghostlike gobs of winter underwear emerging from his ruff and over his back, an adolescent moose had once ogled me from beneath that very pine. Resembling a flocked Christmas tree, her lower branches had served as shedding limbs for the young bull's molt. And as he ambled off to feed, I noted a slight limp and pronounced scar on his pastern. No mistaking this Bullwinkle that our game warden and I had rescued off barbed wire.

Like her neighbors, the pine bowed to blustering storms, waving and tossing her branches. She breathed and lived, yielding shade in summer's heat, yet straight and stalwart against winter's wrath. At the dawning of spring she was filled with song, hosting a thousand birds in her boughs. I had sadly watched her blighted branches turning orange until she was debarked and naked amidst a sea of perfect green. It wasn't her beauty that laid claim on my heart, it was a quality of something else that emanated from tired old trees, maybe reminding me of myself.

Her graying skeleton was never a blot on the landscape, for she had a calling. Year after year a Northern Goshawk mother chose the snag for her cleverly crafted twig nest. God only knows why hawks favor dead trees to hatch broods of peeping downies, for snag's branches were brittle and often tossed asunder in big blows. Frittering away my days glassing the relic, I awaited first flights, but the hawk kids only stood on nest's rim, flapping their wings furiously, crying to be fed.

Then I saw them, like the color of gun smoke they washed gray with white chests and belly feathers. Their eyes glowed like embers and their feet were tipped with tiny daggers, a prey's worst nightmare. One or two seemed to free-fall, then disappear behind the firs. Catching drafts, they circled and plummeted, stretching their wings to glide while this old heart thumped like a trip hammer waiting for them to return home safely - to be fed again.

Honored to have so venerable a neighbor, I have loved living near the big pines, even when they shed needles into the pond or drop cones onto the deck all night. I rested beneath them on lush carpets and will sorely miss the old girl and the hawks that spawned last breaths into her. What's left will nourish the forest, for someday another lodge pole will give rise there. Saddened with my thoughts of her today, it's a part of woodland dwelling, for she still hugs my heart.