Wood Smoke


Fox Stand-in

Early morning and it’s still frosty. A cool morning, here on the west coast. As I crunch across the meadow, looking for birds, the slight breeze shifts direction. Now it carries a hint of wood smoke. I like that. Instantly, the scent, sweetly pungent, and the warming sun transport me. I’m back in my boyhood–long ago and far away, as they say. Like Proust. Wasn’t it madeleines that jogged his memory?


I’m in memory mode. It’s late morning. I’ve hiked up the Sydenham from my home in town. The snow lingers. No surprise. It’s only the beginning of April and real spring is a month away. But some south-facing hillsides are clear. Rare little islands, already freed from Winter. Comfortably warm where the sun hits them. I’m on one of them now, stretched out on the beautiful, bare dirt. I was in this place last year, and the one before. Below me, the ice is breaking up. Here and there, water pushes up noisily, recreating its channels.


I’ve got beans bubbling in a World War 2 surplus mess tin balanced on a rock, half in and half out of my little fire. This means one side of my meal will be hot as blazes and the other cold as ice. No problem, I’m used to it, and I’m hungry. By the way, all my camping gear is World War 2 surplus.


I catch movement on the far bank. It’s a fox picking his way along the icy river rim. The sun catches him. For a moment, he blazes rufous red, like fire. Alert, he lifts his head. He shoots me a look. Maybe it means that if I don’t watch my beans, I’ll burn them. I glance at my cooking pot. When I look back, the fox is gone, melted into the cold forest. The beans aren’t half bad though. A bit chewy maybe.

Meanwhile on the West Coast…


Pacific Wren


Northern Pintail


Bald Eagle


Hooded Merganser


Golden-crowned Sparrow


Anna’s Hummingbird


Steller’s Jay




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