Usually when I put two distinct topics into a single blog, I am able to manipulate the content to make it seem like the two topics are somehow related. That won’t happen today. The two topics for this blog, muskrats and deadlines, have nothing to do with each other, but I am unwilling to leave either one out. 

One, Clare was home for the weekend. When she is home, she, Manyu, and I try to do something outdoors. This weekend was cold, so we limited ourselves to a walk through the La Crosse River Marsh.    Between walks and bicycle rides, I pass near the marsh at least a hundred times a year. Still, I sometimes see something I’ve never seen before. Saturday a Canada goose was swimming a meandering pattern through the duckweed that floats atop much of the marsh this time of year. Five feet behind the goose, following in the exact same pattern, was a muskrat. It tracked the goose as carefully as a young gosling tracks its parent. The muskrat was not chasing the goose, and the big bird was indifferent to the rat’s presence. All I can think of is that the goose’s body was making a narrow trail of open water through the duckweed, and the muskrat preferred swimming where the duckweed was not. This went on for over a minute. When the goose stopped swimming, the muskrat also stopped. Once the muskrat realized the goose wasn’t going to move for a while, it broke rank and swam away. 

Two, the book manuscript I’ve been working on for the past six years is due to Purdue University Press today. I have some final formatting to do, and then it is gone. This version of the book (working title West of Sand County) will be my last chance to make any major changes. At the moment I do not feel a sense of accomplishment. Maybe I will feel something this afternoon when I hit the “send” button on my computer. Maybe finality will hit me tomorrow when I sit down to write and realize I have nothing to work on. Maybe, because I know galley proofs will come back to me a time or two in the next several months, I won’t feel I am done until Purdue’s executive editor tells me the book is to the printer. 

Until last week I was writing and editing on my front porch. Last Tuesday, I moved inside because of the cold, but now sit at a window that looks onto the yard. I gaze out my window and think to myself, “Now that I have no writing to do, I should probably rake the leaves.”

Steven Simpson