far too much writing, far too many photos

A milder day — foggy, misty, at times rainy. Looking north up the valley, only the ridges of the hills are visible as uneven lines of treetops. Between 50-something temperatures and falling moisture, the remaining patches and banks of accumulated snow are fading, white giving way to green.

This afternoon: went down the hill to visit Maurice and Kay. (Spelled Maurice, pronounced Morris.) Mo’s family has lived here in East Calais for generations, he’s the dictionary definition of a local boy. Eighty years old, went to school in a one-room schoolhouse over on the other side of the hill (the schoolhouse still there, now a residence). Mo and Kay live in a small home tucked up against a rise in the land, set right out by the gravel road that runs up and over the hill. A place with a bit of Appalachia about it: old furniture on the L-shaped porch, an old, rickety, doorless double garage, both containing mounds of stuff — even more now since the chimney fire they had just before the holidays — including a varnished board on which are mounted several sets of antlers.

Mo’s a hunter, has been one all his life. He set traps as a kid, would check them during the hike to and from the schoolhouse. He has a Chevy pick-up truck that he adores, during hunting season he drives with a rifle on the seat next to him, covered by his jacket. He loves fishing, loves being out on the water for hours at a time. He loves being out in the woods. Just before I left, we went outside to take a look at his ATV. This 80-year-old character bought the bugger because he can’t stand not being able to get to places off in fields and wooded land that his increasingly infirm legs no longer can take him to. “I told Kay,” he said, “when I go, it’s not going to be in a wheelchair in front of a TV. I want to be out in the woods.”

I get it. The woods here are beautiful and they go on and on and on — for many miles, depending on where you are.

This morning: me standing at my front window, looking down the slope of the hill. Noticed something moving through the brush, visible now in a way it won’t be in a month or so, once everything has greened up. From the way it walked, from the movement of its body and tail, I thought it was a cat. It threaded its way slowly, steadily through the bare brush in the direction of the road. On an impulse, I got out a pair of binoculars and trained them on it as it approached the road. Turned out to be a fox, a fair-sized one, with a big, bushy, white-tipped tail. It traveled quickly up the slope to the road, paused there to look around, smelling the air. Then it slipped across the gravel lane and under the cover of the trees, making its way up the steep grade of the hill and out of sight.

I’m not in Madrid any more.

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