It is that time of year again. The woods around us have finally greened up. Our beautiful Grand Marais harbor is once again home to lovely boats and the sailing ship Hjordis. There are lines at Dairy Queen and Subway. It’s a challenge to find a place to park or to cross Highway 61. It’s time to head to the one traffic light in Grand Marais to easily cross Highway 61.
And, it’s time to think about all the critters that share our neighborhood. I enjoy watching our Northland wildlife all year long. There are always animals in the vicinity. In the winter, moose can be seen sampling salt on the Gunflint Trail. Deer pose in our yards, making Christmas-card-like images to enjoy. The lovely little chickadees and a few hardy woodpeckers are the few birds that stay. Snowshoe hares leave their funnylooking prints in the snow and fishers and martins slink around our decks. Very rarely we see a glimpse of a timber wolf trotting on a hard-packed road or trail.
But our winter animals don’t seem to be as omnipresent as our summer wildlife. There is something living everywhere you look at this time of year. On a hike it seems as if every bird in the world is back in town. It’s like listening to the WTIP program Field Notes with Molly Hoffman live.
Joining the birds are the frogs in the ditches and the crickets and grasshoppers in the grass, croaking and chittering away. Chipmunks and squirrels add to the chatter. Hummingbirds dive bomb unsuspecting passersby. There are little garden snakes slithering quietly about.
Most of the wildlife is wonderful, but recently, I had two experiences that made me realize that the Northland is not a Walt Disney cartoon. It was nothing drastic, but it showed that I am more of a city girl than I would have thought.
It is all because of that darn adorable puppy, Trouble. As our Taste of Home columnist Sandy Holthaus wrote about the new addition to her family last week, the reason puppies are so cute is so you don’t strangle them when they wear you out with their antics.
I was wandering around the yard with the puppy and our old partially deaf golden retriever Fearless late one evening, not paying attention to my surroundings. I was gazing at the stars and enjoying the way the moon filtered through the spruce trees when all of a sudden there was a crashing sound in the woods—coming my way. Although Fearless cannot hear a car drive up, he noticed something was amiss in the forest and charged off in that direction, barking loudly. The puppy of course, followed, yip-yipyipping.
Fearless either didn’t hear me or chose not to respond, so I had to go running after him. Fortunately whatever was in the woods stayed there. It was perhaps only a rabbit or a deer, but in my mind I saw a wolf or a bear. I caught up to Fearless and grabbed his collar and tugged him back toward the house. Having been reprimanded, Fearless trotted off toward the house. He is an obedient old pup.
The puppy, however, lived up to her name and I had trouble shooing Trouble back to the deck. She thought it was a game and pranced and danced around me as I tried to stay calm and not think about what could possibly be lurking in the bushes.
Finally, I got all of us safely back to the house and stood enjoying the twinkling fireflies. After what seemed to be enough time for the puppy to do her business, I signaled for them to head into the house. As I walked up the steps, the yard light caught a strange glint right in front of me.
Horror of horrors, it was a gigantic spider web. It ran from the cable that holds our summertime birdfeeders to the back of a deck chair. In the center was one of the biggest, ugliest spiders I have ever seen. And I almost walked directly into the web! Visions of old Tarzan movies flashed through my mind as I hustled the dogs inside.
That was enough wildlife for me—I prefer my wildlife encounters to take place in broad daylight!
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Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.