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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Shadowed by a feline?

This summer day dawned gray - mirroring my mood. Yesterday, I saw S around every corner and called our other dogs by his name. The grief process follows its own pace, with periods of almost smooth-sailing punctuated by nosedives. My mood had taken a nosedive today.

When I feel so sad, I try to do things that usually cheer me up. We went to our favorite viewpoint but found the mountains themselves looking sad with dim skies enshrouding the peaks.
Shortly later, K and I shared a densely forested hillside with a young deer who behaved very oddly. Below, he peeked at us, showing his small velvet-encased antlers.
Oddly, he didn't pronk rapidly away from us but seemed more concerned about something behind him. He moved in our direction, skirting us by descending into a shallow gully. K showed admirable restraint for how closely he passed us. I guess that something behind the deer was scarier than us.

Shortly later, I saw a tan animal moving through the pine forest about 50 yards downhill of us, using a buttery smooth gait, not a bouncy gait like a deer or elk. K responded ferociously, sprinting in his direction while snarling and barking. She returned to me as soon as I called but that event ended the peacefulness of our ride. She spent the rest of the ride obsessed with something that was downhill of the trail but not in sight. She repeatedly (and I do mean *repeatedly*) sprinted snarling in that direction. Each time, I called her and then asked her to heel because I was getting scared. Normally, she's very reliable in following my cues but whatever was downhill had her full attention and led her to bluff charge into the forest.

I have no solid evidence about what had K so worried. I have two shaky pieces of evidence - the tan animal that I saw gliding through the forest earlier and a single twig snap from downhill about 5-10 minutes later. I feared that a mountain lion was paralleling us hidden by the forest.

We came out into a wide open meadow, a place where I felt safe. So, we hung out, standing tall, in the green grass, scanning the meadow edges for a while. All was peaceful with birds singing and pretty mountain views.Unfortunately, we had to cover some of the same terrain on our way home. When we first re-entered the forest, K nearly knocked me off my bike as she streaked snarling toward a gully. After that furious display by K, we had a smooth ride home, although I scanned the forest much more than usual. It would be fair to say that the ride wasn't relaxing.

After dropping off K, I rode in the opposite direction from the 'scary zone' and finally relaxed into riding. I rode a ridge, enjoying the explosion of wildflowers. Despite my sad mood and the gloomy skies, I smiled at this scenery.Our water-soaked weather has encouraged mushrooms to pop up all over the forest floor. I'm astonished that a growing fungus has the strength to move dirt and rocks.I've never seen this type of mushroom over the many years that I've ridden and hiked in our forests. It stood about 6" tall and the cap was about 3" wide. I think that it's Caprinus comatus, an edible mushroom. But, I'd never trust my identification enough to actually eat it, especially since the book says that it can be confused with a poisonous cousin.I notice mushrooms, primarily because, as a young dog, K became obsessed with eating mushrooms. I became equally obsessed with spotting mushrooms before K did, to prevent her from eating them. Fortunately, as a mature Labrador, she now eats only one kind, and it's benign. Thank goodness that she's not in her mushroom-sampling phase now - more odd mushrooms litter the forest floor than ever before.

This living organism also pushed upward through the moist forest duff. I'm guessing that it's a fungus but I have no idea what kind. The taller one was about 4" tall and 1/2" in diameter. I'll watch it over the coming weeks for clues.When I arrived home, I surprised a baby Golden-mantled ground squirrel, who must have just recently ventured out of his den. He's about half the size of his mother but is eating on his own. I know that at least one of my readers would describe him as having "beady eyes" (NCMountainWoman) but I think that he's cute.By the end of my ride, the wonders of nature had distracted me from my internal journey, currently at a nadir, that's been underway since S died. Sometimes, a respite, in the form of a bike ride, is a good thing. Otherwise, the darkness can swallow you whole.


  1. I love my visits here! I feel like I've gone to a much cooler and serene place! The photos as always are just stunning! Those mushrooms are awesome! Glad you didn't have to tangle with a wild feline!

  2. Still beady little eyes, but much cuter when he's out in the woods rather than trying to get on my bird feeders!

    I know those nosedives and how hard they hit. Hopefully they will be spaced further and further apart as the healing continues.

    What gorgeous photographs. The wildflowers in the meadow with the mountains in the background make such a lovely sight. I agree with makes for a cooler and serene place.

  3. So much dog sadness lately. My sister-in-laws dog died suddenly Thursday. They think she had a tumor on her heart that caused the heart to rupture. The dog was 8 and had seemed perfectly healthy before that so the family is in shock. Hopefully she'll find something to sooth her like your bike rides sooth you (and my horse rides sooth me).

  4. My first Siberian had a stretch where she stopped eating for several days. After a number of blood tests and much lab work (quite a few dollars), the vet determined that she had a substance in her blood stream consistent with a type of mushroom that causes hallucinations. Yep, my dog was shrooming. Sigh. So I had to keep the yard clear of mushrooms (or send her to rehab, I guess).

  5. Hi KB,
    Sometimes, I "see" both of my wonderful, departed dog companions when I'm venturing into territory that they loved. I'll get such a strong "sense" of them that it seems as though I can briefly connect with them. I find it comforting to think that maybe their spirits still roam with me. But my sadness after their deaths knew no bounds.
    I took a picture of tracks that I think maybe were Mt Lion when I hiked this past week. I looked them up in my books and my husband confirmed that "maybe" they were cat. I may post them this week - see what you think.

  6. We used to call those "snow flowers" when I lived in Lake Tahoe. I have started reading your blog, I absolutely love it. I am starting with the older entries and going to the more recent ones.


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