Tag Archives: Kentucky

Life Lists: Birds & Fears I have Met

Those are just some of my new life-list birding additions. You may not recognize the last bird on the list. He’s a subspecies of the Common Peckerwood. He’s loud, crude, and mean just like the Common but with a more lilting song.

“I don’t care how young they is, them sorry-ass young’uns never do nothin’. If they won’t get off their asses ‘n help, do dishes er sumpin, I ain’t never bringin’ ‘em agee-in.”

I am still in this valley of a thousand birds and bullfrogs and butterflies and the barest of breezes.

And no internet.

Now and then I eke out a message to my daughter or brother. Now and then some spam text trickles in.

It rained off and on yesterday, light rain mostly. But the length of the river/lake took rain and it is slowly rising, looking to be about 3-4” higher than when I arrived. I missed the flood from last week that muddied everything. I’m in one of the lower spots but there is no heavy, flooding rain predicted before I leave.

All this mud and shade and still air is fertile earth for the birds and their prey.

The ubiquitous and vocal song sparrows, while rather plain, are true to their name, filling the valley with varied and beautiful songs. They, like so many other songbirds, thrushes, blackbirds, and woodpeckers, are here for the bugs.

Song Sparrow

I’m not generally bothered by bugs. I am fond of spiders, love snakes, (I’m told there were four copperheads in the bathhouse rafters last week), and have a healthy respect for other wild animals.

So when the host mentioned potato bugs in the bathhouse, I thought of this critter — one of a few insects so named.

She meant tree roaches—apparently of a species with which I am unfamiliar but that has as much gall to crawl and fly directly at its victims as do the big, ugly bast***s on the Gulf Coast. They aren’t much smaller, either. (Shudder)

I despise roaches. I have an irrational fear of them, actually. I can hold beetles, snakes, spiders, and dead things of all kinds. Don’t make me go near a roach.

I only despise the Common Peckerwood. Nothing irrational there. They’re just annoying.

Still, I want to be as far from both as possible. Trapped in a shower stall in the campground, ladies shower with a tree roach ignoring my commands to “stay on your side, you ugly bast***!” was tremor inducing.

The grumpy Kentucky Mountain Peckerwood—actually kind of entertaining after the initial, oh my gosh, hush!

These are the things that make the days memorable as I make this journey. Some of the parks run together and I can’t recall which name went with which beautiful lake or river. Human and critter interaction is what makes these places real and not simply postcard memory.

I will never return to this valley after Tuesday. It has been a difficult stay and I have four nights yet. My anxiety has reached a high I never experienced in life except in the last several months of my marriage. I am NOT a mountain girl.

I have never suffered claustrophobia. I live in a tiny, fiberglass bubble on wheels and it doesn’t faze me.

These mountains, though—they are leafy, bird-filled prison walls. I have begun to have deep, irrational, absurd fears of a kind that have no basis in reality. Is it possible that the rain will come down so hard that all the roads out will wash out and I will be stuck here for weeks while they make repairs? There is that minute possibility. Is it possible my truck will breakdown and I will be stuck here for days awaiting help to get it repaired? There is that slightly less than minute possibility. Is it possible that by the time I escape this internet wasteland, all my loved ones will be gone from this world and I will be utterly alone forever? Highly unlikely. Is it possible I will suffer a sudden fatal something or another and die here inside Blanche only to be discovered late Tuesday when the host notices the flies and Sammy’s howls to go potty. Highly unlikely.

But these are the kinds of dark thoughts engendered in the throes of anxiety attacks and their related irrational fears.

These irrational fears make “potato bugs” and peckerwoods harder to tolerate. They make mountains taller, darker, closer, and more far-reaching than they are in reality.

I will eventually drive out of mountains and into gentler hills again. Wide open skies of sunrises and sunsets will embrace me in a soft and distant way. My brother laughs and says, “just in time for tornadoes.”

And maybe some Mississippi peckerwoods.

Ah well. Here’s video of a White-breasted Nuthatch. Enjoy.

Ether Or: Dark to Light Ruminating

Once more in electronic darkness and I am thinking of capricious time. How quickly the last six months have passed and how little I have accomplished. How slowly these seven days to come will pass as I contend with a silent ether and my loud and persistent demons.

The drive into this valley (oh, had I known, I would never have come here) was frustrating and hard on Blanche, Betty, me, and Sam. Signal loss resulting in wrong turns. Cars behind me too impatient to allow me to get a map and sort out my route. Dead ends with difficult turn-arounds and deep mud. (Yay for 4-wheel drive!) I will escape into town mid-week to get my bearings, but I dread it. The road is treacherous even with a small truck.

And now I know why the spaces were readily available on such short notice. There is only one other trailer here plus the host. My assigned site was flooded, so the host said I could have one of several others.

I’m also out of porter. Probably, given my mood, that’s a good thing.

On my drive here, through Appalachian towns and highway construction, I was optimistic. The hills seemed manageable, then I turned toward this place about twenty miles out and my heart sank. Yes, another deep river valley, threatening rock falls on either side of the road, and shadows, shadows, shadows.

The gate attendant, a young mother, and her waif-like daughters are light — bright in their shining honey manes. The littles are energy and cheer as they pedal their bikes in circles and esses.

I think again of time.

Of a tiny, thin, tow-headed, green-eyed girl, all legs and arms and sunshine, grown now to honey-haired beauty; those eyes like a wild cat’s, large, intense, and mesmerizing. She is a mother herself now, and it is difficult at times for me not to cling to the little girl I remember. I still have dreams of her — small, vulnerable, and sometimes challenging, but always full of love. She is still bright, as if she carries her own light source in her chest. I’ve known few people like her in this world: my mother, my sister-in-law, a friend I lost in the divorce.

Sunshine.

And I think of how she and these little ones on their bikes, thus far, have the luxury of time while other children have not.

How time and cruelty take parents, lovers, friends, and children from us.

I am certain, most days, that I have time. That I will find my way before the geographical journey is done and “stay put” somewhere that makes me feel I am at home. That I will find my way on the emotional journey and stay put in a life that makes me feel whole again.

Other days, I wonder if I will simply wander until I can’t anymore.

Damn these mountains and the pits of despair they inflict on me.

Damn my memory.

Damn time.

Intermission

Last night, as I lay in bed, having driven a single-car road into these shadows, I had an intense, brief pain in my head. I’ve had them for years and am told they are akin to migraine or cluster headache but likely brought on by stress.

For a moment I considered it could be something more ominous and the sudden image of a quick and unexpected death here actually frightened me.

I discounted sheer self-preservation. I thought of people I love and miss so much when I am disconnected. I thought of how much those connections mean to me, even those that are merely electronic. What struck me, selfishly enough, was not how they will feel if I pass now (I can always minimize that in my depression), but how I will miss out on time with them. How I will miss out on a chance to get where I truly want to be.

It’s easy for me to think I am too old to ever be anywhere or anything, to feel productive and safe in a country of such division, to ever have a loving relationship again, etc.

I’ve been conditioned for forty years and two husbands to believe I am unlovable. One told me no one would ever love me like he did. (Well, thank the Universe for that!) The other, through implication not words, told me no one would ever really love me at all. I was just an object to “all men except him.” The Wrong Man, though caring and gentle and a good listener, rarely spoke of the non-corporeal things about me that he liked, and certainly never claimed love for me.

Going down that line of reasoning is what gets me into the wrong headspace. It makes it too easy to believe there are no men out there that would find me a good match. I’ve developed an almost pathological hatred for the institution of marriage (for me) and the smallest whiff of possessiveness or jealousy. That doesn’t fit well with my demographic (Xoomer/Boomer). I am quickly losing my appeal to the Xillenials and that’s probably for the best. 😄

So when night fell and I was alone and had gotten through my nightly cry, and had the realization that my life was, in fact, finite without my intervention, I “came to” for a moment.

In an odd way, it was a relief to be scared of my own mortality again. As anxious as those moments were, they were useful. I still feel like little more than an object. I still have little hope for anything resembling partnership. I’m still dismayed by American exceptionalism. However, I do want to see my loved ones again. I do want to try to make something of these last, potential years.

I don’t know what the next seven days will bring. Weather permitting, I’ll escape into a satellite-lit land for a small period of time to make further reservations and check on the signal at the upcoming reservations. To reach out and let my loved ones know I’m safe.

I may have to alter my path. I have let import things slide as I puttered through Appalachia, certain life was of little value.

It’s time to come out of the shadows.

Beauty in the shadow & light: Bigleaf Magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla)