Monday, November 30, 2009

Sun, wind, and a rogue cow

Sunday the 22nd, another beautiful day. I went "backwards" again, winding alongside the wooded creek to begin with, saving the prairie for the end. That way, rather than start off eager, inspired, cold wild happy, only to lose interest and have to plod through the last few miles, I get to warm up my legs, my mind a little before walking out onto (into?) the bright windy landscape.

Of course, that does mean that I start off bored, slightly disgruntled. But I'm usually so desperate to walk somewhere anywhere that I don't mind too too much that I have to drive all the way out to the trail, park my car with all the others, share the place with joggers and children wandering off trail.

Maybe it was just that I was excited to finally get out of the woods, or maybe it was that I'd just run into a friendly couple that was obviously enjoying their hike the day the place, but when I hiked up the hill and emerged at the top of the ridge, views of grass grass grass sky sun, mmmm.

Then I started seeing sights, thinking thoughts, clouds and grasshoppers and a bright red gate!

The cows were there again. This week, they didn't just stare at me, rather continued to happily munch away at the forbs by the fence. I took a few photos (color!) and was about to continue on when I heard a nonchalant "moooo" off to my left, from among the bushes/grasses alongside the trail. Umm? There it was! A rogue cow! (I don't know why "rogue" sprang to mind, but it was free, defying the fence, feasting on the ungrazed vegetation! Hooray for the rogue cow!) More photos, as it joined the same frame as its poor fenced companions; I couldn't help but attribute some sort of symbolism to the scene.

Interesting, though, when I got back to the bridge by the beginning/end of the trail, I was extremely annoyed to see a family standing down by the creek bed, throwing rocks into the water. They weren't rogues; they were rule-breakers, sign-ignorers. I want to sploosh in the water too, people, but "Stream monitoring project. Please stay on trail." Isn't it the same instinct, though, to tend toward wildness, delight? Layers of culture inhibit deeper, rawer appreciation?

Ugh, Konza. Trails. Signs. Rules. Experiments. People.

(That said, it was beautiful out there again this past Saturday -- grass rustling with warmth, horsetails sweeping the sky.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Oh dear, Part 3

Autumn finally decided to arrive last Sunday -- cold, windy, sprinkles of rain on the roof, rumors of snow on the radio, -- so of course I had zip up my fleece, add an extra pair of socks, pull on my mitten-capped-gloves and head to out to Konza. It was still early when I got there (and cold and wet), so I was surprised to see another car in the parking lot, felt an instant camaraderie with whatever other fool had come to traipse the trail.

For whatever reason, I decided to loop counter-clockwise, took the right-hand fork in the path with a delicious sense of spontaneity (little things). What did I see? Well, turkey, deer, trees, path path path, same old same old, no? No, completely different views, that .

I was so excited to see this tree -- really see it -- that I completely forgot to turn onto the first loop, didn't realize it until a mile later, when my fingers were stiff and purpley-blue and I was beginning to wonder why the route seemed longer from this direction.

Meanwhile, I crossed paths with the other hiker -- not a hiker at all, but some guy out jogging in some sophisticated all-black spandex gear. I think he saw me first, flapping my mitten-tops in an attempt to get blood circulating through my fingers. Oh. (That's why I prefer to have places to myself -- I don't have to worry about looking like an idiot -- can flap my arms and clap my hands and sing and dance and crawl around looking for crickets without having to explain to other people what exactly I'm doing. The birds, the wind, the prairie either understand or don't care.)

Much later on, after I'd found the turn for the second loop (you'd think I'd be able to manage not to get lost by now. Three trails, for goodness sake. I make a terrible geographer.)(Then again, I wouldn't feel lost at all if I didn't have to follow the paths and could just let the landscape dictate my direction) , climbed the big hill up to the grassy ridge / fenceline, and felt a little burst of rain, I encountered another person out braving the cold blustery weather -- a red-cheeked, flannel-wearing and hiking-stick-bearing man who was clearly delighted to be out in the wind and rain. We both smiled and murmured something to the effect of "beautiful day, eh?" before continuing onward.

And it was beautiful

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Oh dear, Part 2

Halloween here was brilliantly sunny, warm, decidedly un-Halloweeny (isn't the day supposed to be misty and dark, full of shadows and mystery?), so Konza really should have been quite enjoyable. But as I plodded around the second loop, I found myself so disinterested and disengaged that I just sat down, plunk right in the middle of the dry, rocky trail. Perhaps subconsciously it was a sort of show-down with the prairie: "Fine, Konza, if you don't want to show me something new and interesting, I'll just sit here until you do." (Ever-demanding)(And is it a bad sign if I've started calling Konza "you" and speaking to it as if it were a sentient being?)

I was there for probably half an hour, mind empty in a non-meditative way. (Don't even have any "tra la tra la"s or "twee-oo"s to type in here, really nothing, just


I suppose if you sit anywhere long enough, something is bound to happen. It came in the form a grasshopper. Granted, insects had been chirping about all morning, but I didn't really care to notice them until one little green thing leaped right in front of me then just sat there too, balanced on a blade of dry, rustly grass, as if challenging me back.

I could turn this into a much longer story / reflection on perception / amusement / the nature of grasshoppers and people and prairies, but really, to summarize, I ended up spending the rest of the morning crawling around on my hands and knees in an attempt to photograph insects. I can't say that any of the images are spectacular, but it's somehow telling that on a day with such big blue skies, I only used the "macro" setting on my camera.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Oh dear, Konza, what to make of you? (Part 1)

Three Konza rambles since I last wrote, alternating between exhilaration and hatred for the place. At least I'm now stricken with ambivalence, as opposed to not caring whatsoever. I'm starting to wonder whether it's the weather (though, granted, it's fun just to say "whether the weather," whither? whence?) -- ominously stormy on Oct 24, and oh how curiously beautiful, energized the place felt. Then the next week -- Halloween nonetheless! -- bright, sunny, nothing. This past week cold and drizzly again, mmm peace.

Getting ahead of myself, though, losing the immediacy. Back to the 24th. Rain in the forecast, big grey clouds in a low sky. Felt a few sprinkles, kept going anyway (something I've come to learn, as in actually finally believe and act upon, is "so what if it's raining.")(I guess a few months in a temperate rainforest will teach you that life get's pretty dull if all you do is sit inside and stay warm.)

Maybe it was the light? Or just my mind, more focused, but I saw the mailbox again, there standing dark at the top of a hill. How could I not have noticed this the dozen other times I'd walked the path?

(I opened it up this time, just to confirm that yes, in fact, it houses interpretive brochures. Somehow that's far more disappointing than real mail, or even nothing. My imagination could have done more with an empty mailbox than one full of tidy lists of numbers and names.)

Anyway, onward. I'd thought the day had been sponsored by turkeys -- they were everywhere, glarbeling at me from out in the grass, -- but soon ran into a new curiousity: cattle? New rotation in the grazing patterns established by scientists studying the impact of ungulate herbivory (i.e. hungry cows).

It was a little surreal. They'd been mooing merrily away until I approached, then they must have caught whiff of my leather boots or chocolate-filled pack because they stopped. Stopped mooing, stopped eating, just stood there. Cows in a field. Silent. Staring.

On, around, the longest loop for the first time since this summer, pausing for this tree. Although the colors were what struck me -- the sun barely happened to peek out just as I was walking by, illuminating a few tattered leaves, gold gold gold against the dark sky -- I stuck with the black-and-white scheme. Again, let the imagination fill in the hues, and, along with them, the rustles of grass, the chill of the air, the beauty, the delight. (Konza!)