Friday, November 14, 2014

Natural rhythms

It's mid-November as I write this, and I find myself thinking about the fact that rifle season for white-tailed deer is coming to an end in Minnesota. The rifle season is scheduled to coincide with the whitetail rut, which is really what I spend my time thinking about. Today I had to drive up to Rogers and passing little patches of woods along the way, I pondered the fact that in those woods, a massive stir is taking place. The bodies of does are coming into estrus, and bucks are wound up tighter than springs to find and breed them.

It's a natural cycle that goes on every fall like clockwork. You can wander the woods and field edges during the last week of October and see the evidence that the bucks are getting ready for the rut. They create scrapes, using antlers and hooves, along their most traveled trails. Urine and other scents mark these scrapes and they become a sort of bulletin board for the whitetail community. During the rut a buck will travel along those scrape lines and check out the scents of other bucks and of does who may be leaving scent messages.

Frequently a buck will find a doe that is not quite ready to breed and he'll begin chasing her through the woods. I've often seen these chases -- a buck scrambling along with his tongue literally hanging out of his mouth chasing a doe who looks more than a little frightened of him. Often such a chase careens right past a hunter. This is one reason why hunting seasons are scheduled as they are -- because wary bucks become a lot less wary during the breeding season.

Here's why I was thinking about this: It bothers me that there are these natural cycles going on around me all the time, and more often than not I'm unaware of them. The rut is totally dominating the whitetail deer population right now -- but even as I drive past the woods and fields where this is going on, I'm more concerned with whether I'll be on time to my next appointment, or whether the traffic on I-94 will be backed up. I live almost entirely disconnected from the natural world.

I often ask myself this question to gauge my connectedness: Without looking at a calendar, do you know if the moon is waxing or waning? At this moment, I don't. I haven't been outdoors to see the moon at night, or I haven't paid attention what phase it's in. Yet the moon and its phases is one of the most basic of all natural rhythms, and one of the most accessible. My schedule lately has been dominated by an artificial rhythm of meetings and banquets and appointments and social gatherings. All good things, but things that keep me from connecting with the natural world.

So I grieve for that disconnect. And this is a rhythm, too - because when I find myself grieving in this particular way, I know it's time for me to schedule some outdoor time, to go into the woods someplace and walk the deer trails, to reconnect, to see the crescent moon hanging in the sky just after sunset and watch the stars come out at night in different places than they were in August.

It's not a bad thing to live in the city -- but it separates me from a critical piece of my life. I need to get back to some natural rhythms.

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