Technology and Chipmunks

One of my favorite animals is the eastern chipmunk.  While it’s safe to say they’re a common animal in the woods of north Alabama, it seems as if they’re either ubiquitous or nowhere to be seen.  I suppose it’s a matter of food.

Anyway, I’m out on the trail the other day and there’s a lot of chipmunk activity–this was a ubiquitous kind of experience.  The little guys were all over the place (my theory: it’s springtime and love is in the air).  Chipmunks are funny, because they have a  warning chirp that almost sounds like a bird.  They’re running around, so there are leaves rustling, and the ‘munks were chirping up a storm when suddenly one of them stops on a rock some 15 feet in front of me.  

He (?) faced toward me, sat up on his back legs, and just started barking at me!  It wasn’t a dog-like bark, but it certainly wasn’t just a chirp either.  This went on for a few seconds, then he jumped down, ran between two rocks, and was gone.  

And then it was quiet.

Okay, I’ve been in the woods a lot.  I’ve seen a lot of chipmunks.  I’ve never experienced something like that though–it was strange and a little bit funny, all at the same time. 

In keeping with the strange and a little bit funny theme, I had the sudden urge to share the experience on Twitter.  I’m not a big Twitter user, but that’s where I chose to share what had just happened.

In keeping with the strange and a little bit funny theme, my sharing turned into a haiku, compliments of Jean LaTourette (@mz_lat).  

Thanks, Jean, for a fun experience as fellow writers, technology, and an irritated chipmunk all came together on a Saturday morning!

Things that Catch My Eye

Today’s post is just a simple quatrain that came to me after I spotted a small tree frog out on the trail yesterday. I’m oftentimes surprised when I actually see things like this, because I know I walk by them all the time. Camouflage is an incredible survival adaptation for so many animals!

Sometimes I find myself surprised
by the things that catch my eye
Though they often make me wonder
‘bout the things I walk right by!

Sunning on a Sunday Afternoon
Most likely a Cope’s Gray tree frog

Hiking with Children

Hiking with children leaves me wondering
Am I seeing my past or experiencing a vision of their future? 

Watching them, I remember my early steps 
     when everything was new and simple
          — when the immediate was infinite —
and I could see all there was to see.

I have a glimpse of the paths they have yet to walk
if they choose to take them.

We’re planting seeds from an unmarked envelope.

April 2nd

We walked through the evening woods, my wife and I.
It’s this time of the year that she was born, which seemed fitting 
as we moved among the new and re-newed life.

The dogwoods blooming and the elms coming into leaf.
Virginia creeper emerging in delicate goldredgreen
and the recently silent trees alive with robin song.

We walked, sometimes speaking, but mostly in silence
hands in our pockets to defeat the just-cool evening air.

We walked with the setting of the Sun and the rising of springtime
absorbing the newness of it all.

Draft, Tim Gels

Poem: American Kestrel

The month of April is National Poetry Month!  This is the first time I’ve done anything to participate as a poet, and I’ve made a few decisions about how I want to do so.

First, I’m going to work off the theme A Walk in the Woods.  Walking in the woods is something I’ve done quite a bit lately, so this seems like a natural fit (no pun intended). 

Second, I’m going to share original poetry throughout the month if I’m able to do so.  I enjoy writing short forms (haiku, tanka, cinquains, etc) as well as slightly longer (12-20 lines) works, but if I’m not feeling it, I don’t want to force it.  I’ll share finished pieces, as well as drafts I’ll revisit later.  In addition to my stuff, I’ll be sharing other poetry I like.  Some days I might do both.  

Third, I’m going to probably miss a day, and that’s okay.  I thought about missing today, just to get it out of the way, but I wanted to share a short poem I found, so I set that plan aside.


Recently, I had the opportunity to spend time with an American Kestrel.  Held under permit by Rise Raptor Project, an organization with which I volunteer, this bird we call Blue is a feisty little guy who is unfortunately non-flighted.  That doesn’t affect his attitude and personality, though, and I enjoy working with him.

Blue, an American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)

This found poem is a cinquain that I took from The Sibley Guide to Birds, Second Edition (pg 326).

small and slender
flight is light and buoyant
often hovers in search of prey

Zoo Trip!

Just a quick word of thanks to the folks at Two Writing Teachers. I appreciate the work you’ve put into hosting this year’s Slice of Life Story Challenge. Thank you!

It’s been a while since we’ve been to the zoo, and yesterday seemed like a good day to go.

This week is spring break for me, and my wife and her fellow tax preparers are enjoying the breathing room of the extended deadline.  We just happen to have two granddaughters, so it’s not like we had to go alone.  The weather was certainly cooperative: sunny and 78 degrees.  Clearly, the stars were aligned for a road trip north to Nashville.

Now that it’s over, though, I’m not sure what to write about.

I could probably write about the morning before the trip.  We didn’t tell the kids ahead of time, so they learned of the plan an hour before we left.  Thinking ourselves clever, we played Raffi’s “Goin’ to the Zoo” for them as our way of sharing the surprise.  Fun fact: subtlety is sometimes lost on six- and seven-year olds.  We had to just tell them.  Craziness ensued.

Passing on the pre-trip action, I could write about the time on the road.  90 minutes in a car with two young kids provided plenty of topics.  The dialog between stuffed animals was cute–and lengthy–so that’s certainly an option.  I could toss in our conversation about the words “extraordinary” and “exuberant,” or I could even describe the need for snacks, because, no, lunch wasn’t eaten before the trip as craziness was ensuing.  

I could write about how “ensuing” is an adjective, and the need to claim literary license in order to use it in the previous sentence.

The zoo itself, of course, provided lots of experiences to share:  

  • The disappointment of seeing the kid in front of us claim the lion on the carousel, despite us being third in line and certain we’d get it.  
  • The realization that, as a seven-year-old, carousels are more exciting as a memory than they are in real life. 
  • How hard it is to hold one’s young hand still as two lorikeets are squabbling over the cup of nectar clenched within one’s fist.
  • Cotton candy vs popcorn?  Nana’s idea of a healthy snack instead?  Circling back to cotton candy vs popcorn?
  • My amusement at seeing the meerkats, almost certainly as a result of watching The Lion King countless times over the last 25 years (you know, bits and pieces I’d catch as my kids were watching it; not that I ever sat down for it).
  • Gift shop!

What about the drive back?  The love Lisa showed for our daughter as she worked to keep the kids awake during the last 10 miles of the trip?

I could write about the two of us finally getting home, absolutely ready to collapse.

Hmmm.  If I’m going to get this post done, I’m going to have to decide.

Or not. 

Cutting the Grass

Ah, springtime.

No, this isn’t another one of my tornado posts.  Let me start over.

Ah, springtime.

The days are getting longer, the flowers are blooming, the rains are falling.  And falling.  Torrentially.  With lightning and wind.  And the constant threat of a tornado.

Darn it, this isn’t a tornado post.

It’s a grass post.

I really do love this time of the year, all things considered.  One of the biggest challenges, though, is the way the rain takes the side of the grass and not me.  It causes it to grow, but the wet conditions make it hard to cut.  We can’t cut it, and it grows.  The more it grows, the harder it is to cut.  

Seriously, it’s the middle of June before we’re able to just go out and cut the whole yard.  To make things worse, my wife and I aren’t yard fanatics.  We don’t use chemicals, so our yard is a combination of grasses and, ahem, naturalized plants. (No such thing as a weed.) We like it, but the combination of plants sometimes make it look as if our yard is even more out of control than it is.


Oh well, June is right around the corner. 

What’s Up There?

Have you ever known something about, well, anything, and then come to the realization that what you know is only a fraction of what there is to know about the subject?

I did the best I could, but that was a convoluted sentence.  If you need to read it again, I understand.  I needed to, and I’m the one who wrote it.

Yesterday I wrote about a wonderful hike on a local trail after a heavy rain that had just ended.  I’ve been on a lot of wonderful hikes, but yesterday’s was a bit different in that it gave me a realization like the one I described to start this post.

One of the things the Chapman Mountain property is known for is its big trees.  It’s been logged in the past, like most of the land in this area, but it’s been close to 100 years since it last happened.  Hence the big trees.

As I was walking, I found myself at the base of a good-sized ash tree.  The bark was covered with moss, and it towered above me toward the blue-grey sky.  I felt compelled to stand there and just look up.

While doing so, I was nearly overwhelmed at the beauty of the scene.  The rain had stopped, but the tree was still dripping.  Big, fat water droplets from nearly 100 feet above my head were falling toward me, and their starting height allowed me to actually follow their movement.  

As could be expected, one of the drops fell–splat!–onto one of the lenses of my glasses.  I laughed out loud to my own amusement, and continued to look up, amazed at the sight.

When I eventually brought my head down and took out a handkerchief to wipe my glasses, I saw that there was “stuff” on the lens.  Stuff that had apparently fallen with the water droplet.

So, back to my opening question.  I know that trees and other plants drop their leaves, those leaves decompose, and the deposited nutrients help the tree grow. Now, though, I’m wondering: what else is dropping besides leaves?  What was in that drop of water besides water?  How did it get to the top of the tree?  Aside from leaves, just how much stuff falls from trees in any given period of time?  Is all of that stuff from the tree, or are there other things up there?  

I don’t know.  I’m not even sure how to find out, but I’m certainly curious; that, I believe, is a good thing.

If it’s been a while since you took a walk in the woods, this is a great time for doing so–get outside!

Ash tree
I wish I could have captured the falling water droplets.

Chapman Mountain

In what is the latest chapter in the annual saga entitled, Alabama Spring, it rained last night.  Hard.  No tornadoes, I’m happy to say, but we still saw well over three inches of rainfall during the last 24 hours.  

I like to joke about the water evaporating from the Gulf of Mexico and falling back down before it even gets a state away.  That’s one of my jokes. I don’t get invited to a lot of parties.

Anyway, it rained.  Which was a bummer, because I was supposed to go on a guided hike this morning. For better or worse (ok, worse), I’m one of those people who tends to lead more guided hikes than participate in them, so I was really looking forward to getting out there and learning from someone else.  

I checked my email and text messages: No cancellation notices.  Since I’m one of the Land Trust’s hike leaders, I have a phone number for the hike coordinator, and I’m not afraid to use it.  A text message later and I knew that the hike was a go!  Or, more accurately, that it hadn’t been cancelled.


That actually happened when I got to the parking lot.  Again, that rain was a bummer.  The hike leader said he’d done some looking and the trails were just too wet.  

I understand the need to stay off of wet trails, but as the group broke up I decided I wanted to just poke around a little and check things out.  This was a Land Trust property that I’d never actually hiked.  I’ve been there many times to give presentations in the pavilion, but I’d never hiked the trails.  

Another one of my jokes: People rarely donate flat (read: easily developed) land.  The preserve I was standing on, the Chapman Mountain Preserve, is not flat.  The hills aren’t too bad, but the land is not flat.*

The first bit of the trail wasn’t too bad.  It was wet, but not “slippery” or “leave ugly boot print” wet.  So I went on a bit more.

The next bit of trail wasn’t too bad, either.  So I went on a bit more.

The next bit of trail was actually a creek, but it was a rock-bedded creek only an inch deep.  No mud, no sediment, no foul.  So my wet boots and I went on a bit more. 

I was on that hillside for two hours, and it was absolutely glorious!  I had the place to myself (with the exception of a trail runner who–and I don’t understand this–wasn’t muddy from falling.  I mean, the trails weren’t sloppy, but running?  I was impressed.

The tail end of the rain had actually ended within 20 minutes of my arrival on site.  Water was still dripping from the trees, the ephemeral streams were running strongly, and the sounds of moving water could be heard the whole time I was there.  Springtime in Alabama is beautiful (thank you, Gulf of Mexico), and I walked among budding trees, a variety of wildflowers, and the sounds of birds everywhere.  Bird sound highlight: two amorous great horned owls just out of sight.  

It was simply wonderful, and I left with relatively clean boots and a list of poem topics for the upcoming month.  I’m looking forward to getting back out there soon, but maybe without the humidity from a recent rain.

*I need to say that this land is actually more suitable for development than many of our properties.  The family that made its acquisition possible were committed to seeing the land preserved.  Totally awesome.

One more note: The trails the hike leader planned on really were too wet. I didn’t hike on those, and the trail I did take was only a two hour walk because I like to mosey, take pictures, and stand and listen. Not guided hike material.