Shaken, Not Stirred

Humorous Essays and Other Stuff

Gerald Andersen

Gerald Andersen
Location
Califon, New Jersey, United States
Birthday
January 06
Bio
"“When I have one martini, I feel bigger, wiser, taller. When I have a second, I feel superlative. When I have more, there's no holding me.” - William Faulkner "I grow old...I grow old. I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled." -T.S. Eliot

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MAY 21, 2012 2:22PM

Random Thoughts on a Rainy Day Walk

Rate: 28 Flag

The Columbia Trail, a former rail line now converted to a horizontal or vertical park (I forget which), runs within several hundred feet of my house and is a favorite place for me to take my daily walk.

It passes through woodlands, swamps, meadows and along the river so it offers as much variety of ecology and wildlife as one can expect in New Jersey. Along the ten miles or so of it that I traverse regularly, I have encountered bear, beaver, otter, fox, racoons and a host of different bird species from eagles to wrens. 

This morning it is raining and I have donned my yellow slicker. Actually, it is my wife's slicker but she never wears it because it is too big. It fits me perfectly, but I can't get used to the zipper being on the "wrong" side. I was in the garment business for some years, and never heard a sensible explanation for why the zipper is on the left for women's apparel and on the right for men's.

As I start out, I wonder if I run into a bear how it will react to my yellow slicker. Maybe yellow is a color that drives bears crazy, like red to the proverbial bull. "Roar! Oh my God, he's wearing yellow! That is SO last season! Roar!!," I can hear the bear bellow as he tears me from yellow clad limb to yellow clad limb.

It could also make me a target for snipers if there are any lurking in the woods. I decide to go online and find a camouflage slicker. However, I reject that idea because it may cause any survivalist I might encounter to consider me a kindred soul.

Of course, I could use my umbrella, but there is something wimpy about carrying an umbrella while walking on the trail.

There is nobody around: the trout fisherman are home awaiting stocking day tomorrow, and the weekend bikers and hikers are either at work or home, so the chances of a wildlife encounter are pretty good. I have a confession to make about run-ins with my fellow creatures: I talk to them. My wife says that this is a symptom of mental illness only if I think they talk back. I have a confession to make about that too: I think they do.

Right away, I am confronted by a cat bird who pops out of the brush to sit on a branch at trailside to shoot the breeze. The cat birds only returned from where ever they go in the winter,  a week or two ago. It is strange because one day there are no cat birds, and the next there is one in every bush unpacking and airing the summer place out. It's like they all take the same red-eye in from their winter quarters; and they are hungry for news, popping up everywhere to jabber and catch up with the neighbors.

This one, judging by the way it is fluffing itself up and shaking its feathers, is making comment on the weather. Or, perhaps it is saying something catty about my slicker. I compliment her on her good fortune at having such fine feathers and continue on my way. 

 It's really great having no one around. However, it occurs to me that I have forgotten my cell phone. Perhaps, "forgotten" is the wrong word, because not having it with me is more my normal state of affairs. My wife insists she is going to have "too bad he didn't have his cell phone" carved on my tombstone.

If I go down for some reason, like a sprained ankle or cardiac arrest, it might be some time before anyone comes to my assistance. Which is something else I don't understand: why if I really need someone to come along, they never do, but if I sneak off trail to make an emergency download, there will be a girl scout behind every bush.

I do encounter another walker: a middle aged male in a slouch hat and a blue poncho who doesn't return my greeting. He is one of a group I call "weird walkers," people who look neither right nor left, often have a goofy, far away expression, and never make eye contact.  Who these people are and why they are out here, I have no clue, but they seem to be harmless.

I am sure some people put me in this category, because I always wear my beat up Yankee hat and have my binoculars at all times. I often run into people in other places, Home Depot or the super market, who say "I know you. You are the guy with the binoculars I see on the trail all the time. What do you use them for? Looking in people's windows?" 

At least the weird walkers are quiet. I hate the bikers, joggers, and walkers who carry on conversations at the top of their lungs.  If you want to talk, sit on the porch; if you want to walk, look around and enjoy what's going on. And why yell? I guess to hear themselves over their IPods. The woods in the wake of these groups are like Rachel Carson's worst nightmare: dead silent, as all the birds and animals have gathered up their young and fled for their lives.

My binoculars have come in handy today. As the trail emerges from the wood into a mown meadow, I can see what looks like a dog romping in the field. I can see no sign of his owner, so take a closer look with my binoculars and discover it is a red fox.

It runs, leaps in the air, and pounces in a zig-zag fashion around the field. At first I am concerned that it is displaying signs of rabies, but soon figure out that it is in pursuit of some small animal like chipmunk or vole. I watch it do this until its quarry escapes. As it walks out onto the trail, it turns and looks right at me.

"Hey buddy," I say. "Better luck next time." 

 

 

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Comments

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I'm a walker and a wannabe birder-- loved this!
For heaven's sake please don't even whisper this to a soul, but the animals talk to me, too. Shhhhhhhh.
I did a blog last summer on another network about a drive through the wild like you did only I could barely get out of the car I was so scared hahaha
"It could also make me a target for snipers if there are any lurking in the woods. "

I could see it all
HUGGGGGGGGGGG
Great post that mirrors my sentiments. My singular encounter with a bear was 20 years ago and it's an epic tale straight out of Jack London. I'll be posting about it in a few months.
What did the fox say back to you?
Gerald, don't sweat the yellow thing around bears. Bears attack any color they come across!
The last time I used that line on a fox, she slapped me right off the bar stool.
R
Stay safe from the weirdos out there.
I love those solitary walks in the woods and I do it whenver the chance affords itself. You are very lucky to have a trail like that so close to your home.
Let's hear it for a walk in the woods! (Sshhhhh ...) There's really nothing like it to clear your head and sharpen your view of the planet. /R
I feel like I'm there. Thanks for taking me along.
My random thought of the day: Zippers have sides?

Nice post. I enjoyed the walk.
OH , we are kindred souls, from the "there is something wimpy about carrying an umbrella while walking on the trail." to "I have a confession to make about run-ins with my fellow creatures: I talk to them" to "but if I sneak off trail to make an emergency download, there will be a girl scout behind every bush." Last time it was a lotus-sitting meditator in the middle of the woods, right against the tree I was about to drop drawer behind!
You never know who or what you'll find in the woods...glad you've survived so far : )
I liked the wildlife descriptions too, nice to hear everyone's getting their exercise...
Great post sir! Enjoyed it immensely. R Duke
"people who look neither right nor left, often have a goofy, far away expression, and never make eye contact. "

THAT'S ME!!

But I did so say hello!! YOU didn't say hello back!!!! :( ~:D
"something else I don't understand:
why if I really need someone to come along,
they never do,
but if I sneak off trail to make an emergency download,
there will be a girl scout behind every bush."


I have spent many hours pondering such odd stuff, and
of course, due to my scholarship in eastern philosophy
or psychology or religion or
whatever the hell it is,

put it down to karma, or as we whities call it, fate.


all the help i can offer on this.
I thought only buttons were sewn along gender lines. Zippers too? What's this world coming to!

R♥
I loved this! I talk to animals, too, and definitely think they talk back - and I also do a voice for my cat. ..Hmmm...maybe that latter part is a little weird.... The cell phone thing makes me think of my boyfriend, and what your wife says to you about it is exactly what I say to him. And lastly, I am super-jealous that you saw that fox. I mean, I'm very glad for you, but jealous, too, because I will never, never be quiet enough to witness such a thing. I'm happy you had such a lovely walk, and here's to many more - but please take your cell phone with you! :-)
I would love to walk, to explore the woods like I used to. But, I can always read about your day. Great Post my man!
"goofy,faraway look"...hmmm.....dont remember ya passing me...
R.
I can relate.
Wonderful post. Thank You.

Also, it occurs to me here that perhaps those talking at the top of their lungs are trying hard not to appear like your "weird walkers."

Rated

P.S. I once saw a fox leap a 6 and a half foot fence. No fooling.
I agree about the umbrella.
As a long-time solo walker, I really appreciated this. Never brought a cell into the preserve cause it couldn't get reception. And being without it was part of the experience.
Thanks for taking us on this lovely walk--I enjoyed it!
I love this story.Purrfect. Have a path nearby my house. Belongs to the Academy and I frequently see critters ahead. No bears, mostly dogs off leashes, fox or coyote. Biggest problem are ticks. Nasty.

Anyway...this is a favorite. More of these, please.
I would love to have a place like that to walk. You'd think I would, living in a small town 20 miles away from semi-civilization, but it is all farmland out here and hot rods on the gravel roads. I'll just read your posts, instead, and sit in my backyard.