Sunday, March 11, 1:00-2:30 p.m.
At the bottom of Claudia’s wooded hill (what I call "Claudia’s Woods" is behind this hill, farther south) is an old fence line corner. One old row of fence posts staggers uphill to the west. (Another, newer row of metal posts parallel to it marks the easement for a driveway that was never put in.) Running north-south is another old line of fence that runs north between hayfield and cherry orchard and south along and into the edge of the wooded hill: land east of the line belonged to the farm on this side of the road; land west was part of a farm on the other side of M-22. There is an echoing of this north-south line in another row of fence posts higher on the bare hill to the west.
This corner presents a complicated view, as a bare 90-degree sliver indicates. The old wild apple tree alone takes a hundred major turns and curves before branching into smaller complications. There are several large balsam firs near the corner. And off to the west, beyond the horizon of the hills, rise the wooded dunes that moderate winds off Lake Michigan. A wider view would take in the youngest cherry orchard, old barns, a line of willows marking the stream to the north, and more.
The ground is still frozen hard, but most of the two feet of snow that fell last Friday is gone, remaining only in patches on open ground. It is on the north-facing slope of the hill behind the fence corner and out into the ground shaded by that hill that deep pockets remain. The oldest wooden fence posts and barbed wire lie partially exposed, the snow around them full of sun-melted dips and pockets like the wind-tossed surface of a pond. At what was once the base of an upright post, a wild rose flourishes, bearing clusters of rose hips held through the winter. These wooden posts seem always to belong in the landscape. Undoubtedly they were cut from trees that once grew right here.
It is a warm day, the warmest so far this season, but the wind moans constantly in the trees. The highway is close by, between the old fenced hills and the wooded dunes, and adds its sounds. For a few minutes coyotes to the south sing and yip. Now and then a chickadee announces itself, but there are at this edge of woods none of the countless robins happily flying about the eastern woods, up the orchard hills and back in the sunlight. A pounding, too regular and mechanical to be a woodpecker, sounds: it is a neighbor in the distance, putting up a bluebird nesting box along the fence line.
Bare ground gains on snow cover, and last year’s dead plants are revealed. They are very brittle, and their tawny color is turning a rusty black. Behind, in the woods, a giant beech lies, felled years ago by rot. Its trunk bears the same rusty black where the bark has fallen away, and the wood is full of tiny holes, the size of holes made by small nails, where insects have found shelter. That one log is an entire world. This corner where old fence lines came together is an entire world.