11.14.09 Creature Feature: Young Buck
photos by george billardIt's been two months since we closed the door on the Bowery loft and made the move up to our little 1935 cedar-shingle cottage in Sullivan County. I moved to New York City on June 6th, 1985, right after graduating from Harvard. I remember seeing Rubén Blades at the Village Gate that first night in town. It was quite a wild ride for nearly 25 years (with a 4-year hiatus in Los Angeles), but the time just felt right for something else. G and I had been spending increasingly more time upstate, and loving it. To date—and winter has not kicked in yet—I have no regrets. Living in nature is magical, inspiring, relaxing. I was working for Johnson & Johnson last year on the launch of a new product and came across some research that said just being in nature reduces stress. Your eye alights upon a wildflower or a monarch butterfly or a bald eagle—not on a homeless person or dog poop or a steaming manhole. Don't get me wrong, I love the city. It's just that this suits me fine right now. A couple of days ago, when our nature-loving friend Philip was visiting from the city, we went to check out the nearby Basha Kill. This beautiful wildlife preserve lies in the valley between the Shawagunks and the Catskills, once inhabited by Native Americans and then, in the 1700s, by European settlers.
("Kill" is the Dutch word for stream.) The Basha Kill was famous for its plentiful fish, and as a way to transport pine logs down the Delware on their way to Philadelphia. The area is still home to more than 200 species of birds, including herons, loons, owls and nesting eagles. You can also see muskrat and beaver, deer, raccoon, possum, fox and black bear; not to mention amazing butterflies, bats, snakes and all manner of frogs and turtles. This is heaven for me. It was a cold, blustery day there and what started out as an exploratory walk, wound up being a 5-hour trek around the entire wetland. The stark, leafless sycamores and birch created a stunning landscape. It turned out to be too late in the season to really see much in terms of wildlife, though we did glimpse a great blue heron gliding low over the water, its long legs dangling down. Surprisingly we saw several long black snakes, curled up in pairs in piles of dried leaves. And there were quite a lot of broken eggshells from turtles' nests. We couldn't tell if foxes had gotten to them or it was a natural hatching. But perhaps the most unusual sighting was the young buck, above. He went charging across our path and then, fearlessly, almost flirtatiously, CAME BACK. He bucked and pranced, snorting and pawing the ground, and then ran away again, looking back at us. It was almost as though he wanted to play. G caught some amazing shots of him; so lucky to have a great photographer along to capture these moments.