And so at last the days grow longer. The additional hours of darkness this autumn passed have been physically telling for me, which would be unusual for this four-season guy until you consider what's been going on: The cyber Pearl Harbor of an election and the collective Nothing To See Here, Move On yawn of our so-called leaders in response. And Sylvester Stallone won't even get to be Minister of Arts for Cheeto Jesus. N'y at-il pas de justice?
It was an unusual autumn in another respect: the virtual absence of the usual reports of deer hunters' rifles echoing through our valley.§
This is because there aren't any hardly any deer.
While I respect the right of people to shoot game for food -- and there are too many people hereabouts who live deep in the woods, barely scrape by and must supplement their meager diets with wild game -- the vast majority of hunters with their expensive sighted rifles, lavish Cabela's kit and immense over-accessorised pickup trucks are in it for the thrill of the kill, and that I don't respect.
Deer hunting is a linchpin of the tourist industry and so popular that schools and government offices still close on the opening day of the fall rifle season (there also are bow and flintlock seasons), but this year all hunters could do was stand around in their spanking clean international orange garb and brag about whose pickup truck had more chrome before retiring early to the nearest bar for rounds of beers and shots. There simply are no more bucks to be slaughtered to speak of, while the doe season was severely limited so that population could be replenished and in a few seasons the bang-bang carnage can begin anew.
"Our" doe hasn't reappeared yet, but we have to assume that she is okay.
This beautiful lady, who is unusually blond for a white tail (Odocoileus virginianus) has been coming out of the deep undergrowth on the mountainside behind our retreat for the past few years in the late spring to show off her foals (two this year) to us and graze at the foot of the yard on our wildflowers before slipping away to hide during hunting season. She returns after the New Year when bow season is over and we put out cracked corn and a salt lick for her when there is substantial snow cover.
In times of great stress -- like now, for example, we turn to music to sooth the soul.
And so we have tix or are lining up tix for these artists/groups in the next few weeks: Rusted Root, Ben Folds, Ladysmith Black Mambazzo, Wayne Shorter with Weather Report & Beyond Reimagined, Joey Alexander, Stanley Clark and Ron Carter, and the Alvin Alley American Dance Theater. Oh, and that unpatriotic Hamilton on Broadway.
My dear friend Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés lives in the Colorado Rockies. She has written:
"This is a great night and day: Winter solstice; the time when the light comes back more and more for longer and longer glancing across Planet Earth to us, the Fire Star, that is, the sun, comes back to us.
"In our family the old people would put on their galoshes over their butchkors and bring in fresh and oh so cold water from the well pump outdoors and we would feast on something yellow, orange and/or red, the colors of the sun! most often the banana peppers, the lantern peppers and the cayenne hot hot hot peppers we’d canned in late summer and put up in shining glass Mason jars on the rough sawn boards in the dark cellar. Consume warmth to bring warmth was their backwoods homeopathy.
The coming year will be a special one for Dr. E: She is editing the 25th anniversary edition of her seminal Women Who Run With The Wolves."You too, drink clean and eat fresh today, warmth to bring warmth . . . as here, winter is still deeply upon us. Yet . . . the sun, our sun, comes . . . "
Woman or man, if you want to get back in touch with the real world -- please give this fine book a read. There may be no worthier and more important goal in 2017 than reconnecting with what really matters.