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A New Way of Looking


Fri, Apr 20th, 2001
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Monday, April 16, 2001

The first bones belonged to a cow and her unborn baby. I found them near a small wetland by the South Fork of the Root River. I trudged back up the hill to my house carrying a huge pelvis that looked like a primitive mask. I planned to return later for skulls, vertebrae and clavicles.

My impulse to collect bones came from Georgia O'Keefe, an artist known for her paintings of southwestern scenes and objects, including variations of a cow's skull and pelvis. She said,

I have picked flowers where I found them--have picked up sea shells and rocks and pieces of wood where there were sea shells and rocks and pieces of wood that I liked. When I found the beautiful white bones on the desert I picked them up and took them home too. I have used these things to say what is to me the wideness and wonder of the world as I live in it.

Once I began to look for bones, I found them everywhere. It became an obsession. Even my interest in birds took second place. I followed animal trails off the Big Woods road into the limestone bluffs where I found clavicles that looked like musical instruments, vertebrae that looked like hammers, hollow bones of hawks, and skulls of raccoons, deer, opossum and fox. I cried when I found a paw and a leg in a steel leghold trap. I frequented hollowed-out places in the bluffs that coyotes use for dens. I knew coyotes were there by the large piles of scat on nearby ledges of rock.

About the same time that I began to visit coyote dens, I read Tom Brown's "Field Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking", Berkley Publishing Company, 1983. From him, I learned it was possible to walk silently on dry leaves. I learned to crouch low to the ground like an Indian or a coyote. I learned how to see differently. Brown wrote,

Mark off a single square foot of ground. First, look at it from a standing position. Notice what you see, and describe the area. Then kneel down and describe it from that vantage point. Notice the things that you missed when you were standing.

When I followed his advice, my eyes picked up faint footprints where before were only shadows. I found tiny ribs, legs and vertebrae where before were only twigs or small stones. I found indigestible skulls of mice and voles left behind by their predators. Up there in the bluffs my borders blurred. I became something different. I was more agile than usual, more patient, less self-conscious and more alert. I liked .....
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Hoffman Stables

"Alias Brontosaurus"

Fri, Apr 20th, 2001
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Monday, April 9, 2001

Although known as Brontosaurus to most people the long-necked giant dinosaur serving as the mascot of the Sinclair Oil Company, or as Fred Flintstone’s "steam shovel" for all you cartoon fans, is in reality properly calle ..... 
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Seed Starting

Fri, Apr 20th, 2001
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Virginia CooperMonday, April 23, 2001

About the time of year when most people are still worrying about winter storms and road conditions, some of us are performing secret alchemical rituals in the darkness of our basements and back closets. Ba ..... 
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Talking to Strangers

Fri, Apr 20th, 2001
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Monday, April 23, 2001

Those of us who live along quiet and sparsely populated township roads pride ourselves on knowing what is going on around us. After all, how tough should it be to keep track of the few neighbors with whom we are privileg ..... 
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Trash Talk

Fri, Apr 20th, 2001
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Monday, April 16, 2001

I went for a walk with my two kids a few Sundays ago.

The sky was wonderfully blue, the sun warm and we knew that the last vestiges of winter would soon be gone.

We crossed the road to our neighbor’s woo ..... 
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Fri, Apr 20th, 2001
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