Chappaquiddick has had more snowy days recently than we’ve seen in several winters put together. The snow hasn’t amounted to much, though. Last weekend a perfectly dry fluffy snow was just enough to cover all flat surfaces, creating a sort of Etch A Sketch record of all of winter’s living, moving critters.
First thing on Sunday morning, I followed a single rabbit’s track toward our goat shed as I went to feed them. At one spot, the tracks were blurred, and it looked as if the rabbit had met its maker via hawk attack. But there were no wing marks in the snow, and the tracks continued on, so probably the rabbit had been foraging the green grass under the snow.
I was the first one driving out on my road that morning, marking the perfect whiteness of the dirt road with my tire tracks. Along the way, the wide track of an otter, gliding on its stomach, crossed the road between the fresh water swamp and the salt marsh at Cape Pogue. Near the mailboxes at the main road, there were tracks of a whole herd of deer turning down my road. On the main road itself, I saw that two other people had driven toward the ferry ahead of me, and no one had come up from the ferry yet. By the time I arrived at the Point, at close to 8 a.m., three cars had gone ahead of me. I liked seeing the tracks, both beast and human, signs that there are others spending the winter here with me. I could have traced the three Chappaquiddickers back to their home dens if I’d wanted to, just to know who they were. I didn’t do that, but I did begin to wonder about what it would be like if we left such visible traces of our every movement all the time. I imagine we’d be a lot more aware of the effects of our actions on this shared planet.
The last film in the Edgartown Library’s Russian winter series is The Last Station, shown on Sunday, Feb. 10 at 1:30 p.m. I was off-Island recently and stopped at the Falmouth Library, which is a really big off-Island library, relatively speaking. It had an amazingly huge selection of books and DVDs.
Marvene and Bob O’Rourke are back from Cameroon where they went for the second wedding of their daughter Brenna and her husband, Francois Docgne Wongue. Their home is in Burundi where they both work on refugee relief. They had come to Cameroon in West Africa, Francois’s birth country, to celebrate their marriage, in honor of the groom’s family. Their first wedding had been in D.C. in April 2010; this one took place in a large Catholic cathedral of the French-speaking capitol city, Yaounde. Francois’s extensive family, dressed colorfully in clothes made exclusively for the event, sang along with the choir in a ceremony that mixed religious, contemporary, and ethnic music. Bob says, “The singing culminated with a resounding rendition of Battle Hymn of the Republic, likely honoring the U.S. born bride.”
About the reception, Bob says, “No, I did not dance with my daughter. However, I did dance, as ceremony protocol demanded, with the representative sent by His Majesty King Pouokam Max II of the Kingdom of Baham. My partner, in fact, was the king’s mother, Gueyap, a stout woman in a colorful tailored gown who, thankfully, took the lead on the dance floor while rhythmic African music played.” He and Marvene were given amazing gifts, presented by dancing family members, including a beaded “queen’s” bowl, a massive cloak embroidered in tribal symbols, and a wild animal horn suitable for ceremonial drinking. (We’re hoping Bob and Marvene will bring these and other presents to the next potluck!)
After the wedding, they traveled through the California-sized Republic of Cameroon. They toured the wild animal park, Wasa, and were escorted through the palace of Bamileke King Pouokim by the king himself, who showed off his new bed which had a life-sized carving of a lion as a headboard.
Closer to home, the greenhouse at Slip Away Farm received its outer skin early on Wednesday morning this past week. You can see the greenhouse on the hillside behind the farmhouse. The farmers — minus Lily, who is taking a well-deserved vacation with her mother, Jan Pogue, in Mexico — plus the other Chappy Lily and her father Sidney pulled the double plastic skin across the frame which the farmers have been working on for several weeks through all kinds of freezing temperatures. The double plastic layers are kept separated by a blower, which makes the plastic rigid, and thereby less vulnerable to wind, as well as giving it insulating value from the space between layers.
A couple of weeks ago, over the hill from Slip Away at our little farm (Over the Hill might be a good name for our “farm,” come to think of it.), we took our rescue chickens into a safe haven, a sort of witness protection program, after they had been repeatedly terrorized by hawks. We found one chicken at the edge of the woods being eaten by a small hawk, and another two disappeared the next day. We figured those were taken by the larger red-tail hawk. The remaining two chickens had post-traumatic stress syndrome, and wouldn’t even come out of their tiny house to eat. At that point, we decided they needed a serious protection plan, and we took them to my brother’s chicken house next door, which has a yard completely fenced on the sides and top. After nearly a week we found one of the disappeared chickens cowering under our back porch. It had probably been sitting there the whole week, keeping its head down, so to speak.
The three chickens are finally willing to go outside into the fenced yard next door, so we’ll be bringing them home, and hoping the hawk has given up on chicken dinners for now. We’ve maintained a small flock of rescue chickens for close to four years, adding new hens that are in need of a home as others die, or get taken by hawks. It seems as if the flock as a whole has become progressively more traumatized from witnessing hawk attacks. This seems odd because individual chickens usually survive less than two years, and the entire flock has changed population several times, with very little overlap of new and old chickens. I wonder if earlier chickens pass on the flock’s history to newcomers, similar to the way tribal lineage is passed on through story and song, so that the impact of hawk attacks has increased over time. I wonder if anyone is studying this.