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Things end -- things begin

January 14, 2005

CHERRIL DOTY

The call was a squealing, high-pitched one, very nearby. The hawk's

cry was a summons to come out for what might be the last tour of our

friends' central California ranch. Nestled amid oak trees and rolling

hills, it is over 197 acres of freedom to explore for me. On this

first day of 2005, after days of rain, the downpour seemed to have

stopped at least for a while. So, with fog and clouds caressing the

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hills, I put on my mud-encrusted boots and accepted the invitation.

All the roads and paths were now rivers and I forded each one with

caution, not wanting to be deterred by a dousing. Thick gray and

white clouds traveled above me and the green of new growth was

everywhere as I happily walked out in nature without direction.

Thoreau's words came to mind: "Nature abhors a vacuum, and if I can

only walk with sufficient carelessness I am sure to be filled."

My morning's hike dredged up some treasures: A blue jay in flight;

the orange of a flicker's wings; the nodding heads of a covey of 20

quail; bones of a long dead cow strewn in an open glade; soft green

lichen and dangling Spanish moss; the red top-notch of a woodpecker

glistened in the sun high in a naked treetop; the stripped bare head

and antlers of an old fork-horned deer found in a dark and forbidding

tangled thicket; and, moments after retrieving this last with great

caution, I scared up a fat coyote, reminding me this is a wild place,

too.

Near noon, my body told me I really needed to eat so I headed back

to the house. After eating, sated and mellow, I announced my

intention to shower and wash my hair. But the minute I stepped

outside the door, nature just seemed to grab me by the collar again.

So, supplied with water, I headed out to explore still more edges --

to fill myself up.

After an hour or so, I was sitting on a stump near the back lake

-- lake Judy--just taking it all in. The small deer walked closer

with tentative steps, testing my presence, waiting for my slightest

move to somehow give me away. I watched -- just watched -- hoping for

closer contact and yet understanding and even encouraging the deer's

wariness. A buck came up over the rise to my right, stopped, then

bolted at recognizing my human presence. That was all it took for the

yearling to take off too and I watched her graceful gait as she loped

over the hill and out of sight.

Going through gate after gate, one discovery after another

unfolded. As I walked I was also reminded of past trips over the

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