A Perfect Afternoon

The footbridge at the southern end of Trexler Nature Preserve

The footbridge at the southern end of Trexler Nature Preserve

Today we went for a walk in the Trexler Nature Preserve, up one side of Jordan Creek and down the other. The first leg was seemingly vertical, with several overlooks along the way.  Elk and bison were rumored to roam the fields below the overlook, but we didn’t see any. At the highest point, the trail opened out to a spectacular view. The panorama, and the accompanying breeze, were so wonderful that I didn’t even think about getting my camera out. I just stood there and took it all in.

Eventually we turned our feet to the trail once again, and at the bottom of the descent met up with the creek at the covered bridge. Here, people had set their lawn chairs in the middle of the stream, and a woman sat in one, with her bare feet in the shallow water. My own feet started to burn with envy.

We dawdled a bit in this area, talking to a photographer who was waiting for a wedding

Jordan Creek

Jordan Creek

party to arrive.  He said he hoped, by the end of the shoot, to have the entire party standing in the middle of the creek for a photo.  My feet were jealous, and wanted to stand in the creek, too. But I had my good hiking shoes on, and I didn’t want to go in the water without some sort of footwear, because you never know what may lurk in the eight-inch depths.

I crossed the foot bridge and struck up a conversation with a woman who had just walked out of the stream.  She was a professional hiker. She takes people on hikes throughout the preserve, and always, at some point, they end up creek-hiking. Upon hearing this, my feet began to whimper.

We continued down the trail and my dogs kept up barking about how hot they were and how what they needed, desperately, NOW, was a walk in the creek. Not NEXT to it, darn it, but IN it.

We went down to the edge and walked out on a flat rock. There we sat for a while, taking

Some rocks in the stream with a hidden surprise.

Some rocks in the stream with a hidden surprise.

photos of the water and rocks and sky and whatever we could find. Just as I was contemplating taking my shoes off, Jay said his back was telling him to start walking again.

We arrived back at the car, and my dogs laid out an ultimatum: put us in the water, or you’ll be sorry.  So I took off my shoes and socks. I briefly had mixed feelings about this.  I never walk barefoot outside. I have nothing against it, I just don’t do it. But my feet started to get excited, and I couldn’t let them down. They walked me down the embankment and stepped gingerly into the water. It was warm. That was nice. I had been concerned that a sudden shock of cold water would trigger a foot cramp. But, crampless, my feet took me into the creek and wandered around until they found a nice flat rock in the shade. I plunked myself down and stretched my legs so my feet could explore the bottom. My hands got jealous of all the attention, and dove in to examine the stones.

Tiger Swallowtail at the Trexler Nature Preserve Environmental Education Center

Tiger Swallowtail at the Trexler Nature Preserve Environmental Education Center

The stones were mostly shale, and many were quite flat on both sides, perfect for skipping. So I began picking them up, one by one, and skipping them across the water to see how many hops I could get. My record was four.

By and by a young man and his small daughter made their way down the bank and waded in. They meandered up and down the creek, and I carefully adjusted my aim as they passed to avoid hitting them with my skipping rocks. She asked many questions about the water. He answered them all, very patiently. They were having quality time.

I began to think of getting out, but I didn’t relish walking up the clay dirt bank and getting muddy feet. I stood at the bottom and carefully planned my ascent. If I step on the roots, and hop over to here, I won’t get too muddy. Up I went, and ended on the concrete slab under the picnic table.  I thought if I walked on the grass before my feet got too dry, the grass would wipe most of the dirt off. This worked, and I went to the car with my mostly dry feet  and reached for my shoes.


Goldfinch at the thistle smorgasbord near the Trexler Nature Preserve Environmental Education Center

We drove out of the park and followed the road to the entrance to the Trexler Nature Preserve Environmental Education Center, which was closed, but friendly enough to let people in on foot after hours. As we took pictures of the flora and miniature fauna, I realized that my feet felt remarkably refreshed, better than they had felt in a long time.

There’s something rejuvenating about dipping your feet into a running stream on a hot day. This rejuvenation can’t be achieved in a tub, in a house. It only works if you are outside, on a perfect day, after a good walk. Next time I go to  Jordan Creek on a hot day I will bring  my water shoes, so I can take a long stroll IN the creek. That would be heavenly.

Gail Hunn ©2015

Reading the Signs

Bird tracks2_resize_levelsI raise the garage door and step outside. Looking down, I see the tracks of a cat, trotting past the door, across the front of the garage, up the densely packed bank of plowed snow, where they disappear from view. I had seen the cat earlier when I went out to the street to put the NetFlix disk in the mailbox. He was patterned like a Holstein in black and white, a sturdy barn cat with a thick winter coat. I had spooked him as I opened the front door, and he tore off across the lawn as if the hammers of Hell were after him.

But that was several hours ago, and now it is time to visit the mailbox again. I move out into the driveway and read the news. Here was where the bunny hopped across the driveway, heading east. But he reached the three foot bank of hard-packed snow and stopped. He stood up to see over the bank. Could he make it in one jump? No. He moved over a foot and stood up again. How about here? No. On he went, hop over a foot, check again, hop, check, hop, check, and finally he decided to go for it. He jumped, but didn’t quite reach the top, and his feet pushed through the snow and trapped him temporarily. He struggled a bit, scarring up the surface of the snowbank, then jumped or fell back down and decided to head west instead.

Over here are the tracks of the deer: one set of large prints, and a set of smaller prints. The larger ones are heading west, and are filled with a thin coating of fresh snow. She passed through last night, before the snow started to fall. The smaller tracks are fresher, empty of snow, heading in the same direction. I look up and see where the smaller deer walked up to the bank, picked her way down, trotted across the driveway, and jumped up the other side.

As I head down to the mailbox, I watch the ground, which is tattooed with a crisscrossing pattern of little birdie feet. I assume they belong to juncos, because I see them down here frequently in this part of the driveway. I look to my left, and there is one section of the snow bank that is etched with a high concentration of these little footprints, and I stop and try to figure out what the attraction was in this particular area. But I have no idea. I shrug and continue to the road.

The snow at the end of the driveway is relatively clear. Apparently most of the critters are savvy enough to stay back from the road. I am glad of this. I open the mailbox, grab the bills and flyers and head back to the house. A pair of prints on the rightward edge of the driveway catches my eye. A fox? Or a dog? Whichever it is, there are only two impressions: the rest are lost in the tire tracks and shoe prints. It seems as if this creature were temporarily suspended here, allowed to touch the ground only long enough to make these two lonely marks, then whisked away, by helicopter perhaps, on a mission to who knows where, to do who knows what.

As I reach the point where the driveway widens into a turn-around, I notice a different set of bird tracks. These are much larger than the junco prints. Excitement flares, briefly. A turkey! But, on closer inspection I realize they aren’t nearly that big. These probably belong to a crow. They make an interesting winding pattern around the tire and shoe treads, but don’t seem to really go anywhere. I wonder what he was looking for.

Just before I reach the door I see where a squirrel has stopped just at the edge of the garage. Four perfect prints, with long sharp toes: the two front feet close together, the back ones farther apart. What was he waiting for? Was he staying still so that he wouldn’t attract the attention of a hawk flying overhead? Was he trying to decide which feeder to raid? Was he wondering where he left that nut he buried last Fall?

Oh, well, it’s cold, and I head back into the garage, hoping the open door hasn’t attracted another wren into the building. I’ll check back later to make sure.

Winter Cleaning

A mostly clean desk.

A mostly clean desk.

Some people look at a beautiful meadow or vast forest and see a wasted space that must be filled: by shopping centers, parking lots, housing developments, or warehouses. I do not share this view. I treasure the empty spaces in the world, because they aren’t really empty. They are filled with life and beauty and silence and the voices of the creatures with whom we share this world.

On the other hand, when it comes to a tabletop or desk, my mind abhors a vacuum. Yesterday I cleaned off my desk for the first time in years. Ever since, whenever I need to put something down, my hand inexorably moves toward that pristine surface. It  jars the eye. It stands out. It doesn’t belong. In a house where nearly every horizontal surface is covered with objects that never quite made it back to their proper places, this shiny wooden desk murmurs softly: “Fill me up, you know you want to.”

So far, I have resisted the impulse to sully this invitingly empty space. In fact, it has inspired me to put more things away, and dust more objects, and vacuum a little further into the corners to reach the dust bunnies that have grown with neglect into dust elephants.

Usually, as Spring begins to poke its welcome nose into the affairs of Winter, the scent of thawing earth inspires me to throw wide the windows and doors and commit a neatness upon the cooped up stuffiness of my wintrified house. This year I seem to be a bit early. Maybe Spring could take the hint.

Gail Hunn ©2014


Gail Hunn ©2013-©2014, All rights reserved.
with mother’s quick brush
the snow gets a makeover
looks pretty again

Posted 26 February 2014

the icicles grow
in the rain and gloom my house
becomes a monster

Posted 20 February 2014

no more hummingbirds
last one seen a week ago
sadness fills my soul

Posted 30 September 2013

in moonlight she spins
pulling the threads together
rebuilding her web

Posted 30 September 2013

clandestine cricket –
talented ventriloquist
of the insect world

Posted 26 September 2013

it’s disconcerting –
praying mantis eyes follow me,
make me feel like prey

Posted 23 September 2013

it’s way too early
to be this cold in the house;
laptop warms my hands

Posted 23 September 2013

Fall is almost here –
walnuts lie smashed on the road
while squirrels court death

Posted 23 September 2013

too much grog had I,
now find meself a-tangled
in the futtock shrouds

Posted 23 September 2013

miss the sun streaming
through the roof making me squint;
it also warmed me

Posted 23 September 2013

fog and overcast
official end of summer
still hot and steamy

Posted 2 September 2013

like a town crier
the finch sits on the rain gauge
singing his heart out

Posted 2 September 2013

the ground is warming
Cicadas stir from slumber
Oh, my aching ears

Posted 10 April 2013

an assembly line
Of stinkbugs, one at a time
They come; Spring is here

Posted 10 April 2013

Walking Dead in the Heartland

Words and Music by Gail Hunn © 2012. All rights reserved.  Performed by Gail Hunn.wdith

Television is subversive. It makes people think. Haha, just kidding. But it did actually make me think, one day back in the Spring of 2012. I was thinking about some titles of recent TV shows, and I realized that you could string them together and make a story. In fact, if you put a little effort into it, you could string them together and come up with a call to action for the American people to get out there and get involved in their country: by voting, or volunteering, or running for office, or whatever. So that’s exactly what I did.

We are suffering from a case of arrested development, “governed” by people who will do anything for money (except the right thing), who will use their leverage and scare tactics to break the bank and strike it rich. From the green acres of the boondocks to the streets of San Francisco, from the young and the restless to the bold and the beautiful, we must clean house – get rid of the silver spoons and restore some law and order in our government. It’s time to stop being the weakest link, time to return to Eden, before we’re all six feet under and pushing up daisies. Life goes on, we’re survivors, we’ll get by, as long as we remember that there is strength in community. And remember, don’t curb your enthusiasm. Good luck, Charlie.

To tell the truth, I could keep going on in this vein, but I think I’ve made my point.

Anyway, this song contains the titles of (at least) 42 TV shows. It is left as an exercise for the alert (or bored) student to discover them all.

NB: “We need some heroes to come out of the blue” is a plea for people to get more involved in their government at the grassroots level. It is NOT a call for armed revolution. I am totally, 100% against the people taking up arms against each other. That would be an admission that we are incapable of solving our problems with reason, humanity, and compassion for all. If we go down that road, well, let’s not go down that road.

Wall Street Brag

Words and Music by Gail Hunn © 2009. All rights reserved.  Performed by Gail Hunn. wall st and brag

This song took several years to write. I wrote the first verse in late 2009, in response to the big bank bailouts.  The second verse was inspired by the Citizens United ruling in early 2010, and the third verse didn’t come to me until the Occupy Wall Street movement took off in the Fall of 2011.

If I Were a Sculptor

Two experiences this past week conspired to inspire me. The first experience occurred on Thursday morning, and if you make it to the end of this article, you will have surmised what happened then.  Friday afternoon I spent at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is a fine place to while away a hot summer afternoon. The museum is a magnificent edifice, steeped in history, and dripping with art of cultural significance, both historical and modern.

In the four hours at my disposal, I did not make a dent in the available galleries and exhibitions. In those I did visit, most of the art was hanging on the walls.  But occasionally, one of these galleries was graced with a free-standing sculpture, usually of a young woman. There was a 14-year-old ballerina, a lost Pleiad, and a once-controversial sculpture of a modest young woman, in evident discomfiture at posing nude for the  first time. This last sculpture, combined with my experience of the previous day, got me thinking.

If I were a sculptor, I would make a statue of a woman of indeterminate age. I would use bronze, because I like bronze, and because all serious sculptors must use either bronze or marble.  The woman would be dressed in jeans, naked above the waist, save for a ridiculously inadequate thin cloth draped over her right shoulder,  barely covering a small portion of her right breast, hanging down in the back.  She would be posed thus:

Standing, hips facing forward, both feet on the ground, weight shifted to her left foot, the heel of that foot raised an inch or so off the floor. She would be leaning ever so slightly forward, back arched, chest and belly out.  The overall effect would be that if she didn’t have something to brace herself on, she would fall forward.

Her left arm would be stretched out in front of her, from the shoulder, hand at shoulder height, elbow bent and dropped just a little, as if resting uncomfortably on a hard surface. Her left shoulder would be unnaturally elevated, as if something were under her armpit, pushing up; her exposed left breast would be similarly lifted and oddly flattened. She would be holding her right shoulder back, right hand on her right breast, pulling it backward, as if trying to make it disappear from sight.  The flimsy useless garment would be trapped between breast and hand.

Her face would be turned to look over her left shoulder, at an awkward angle, dipped down slightly, showing  the tendons in her neck in sharp relief. Her face would bear a resigned yet patient look. Her mouth would be held in a small grimace, upper lip lifting in a caricature of a smile, as if to politely acknowledge chirpy banter from an unseen source.

I would call this composition:  “Mammogram in progress.”

Gail Hunn ©2013