Friday, March 7, 2008

Half a (S)centenary

High: 43° F
Low: 27° F
Conditions: Winter Storm Advisory. Ice and freezing rain changing to snow overnight.
This entry marks our 50th post. That still makes us newbies by most blog standards, but the caninaturalist and I are pretty excited nonetheless. Since we launched Out With Ari four months ago, we’ve learned a lot. We now know the difference between an avatar and a widget (and that we’re not likely to find either in the woods of Maine). We bought a digital camera, and even mostly know how to use it. We’ve also proven Pavlov right: every time Ari, who hates having her picture taken, hears the chime of the camera being turned on, she promptly stops whatever adorable thing she is doing and hightails it into the next room.

Even the camera-shy caninaturalist, though, seems to really love our new blog project. It means we spend more time exploring the outdoors and reflecting on what we find out there: from birch bark to owl pellets, we’ve seen and experienced it all. And, for the most part, we’ve had good luck bringing our findings to the digital world.

It seems a little ironic, then, that we’d be spending our first milestone post reflecting on the limits of this medium. But, you see, we have a problem neither my paltry skills as a writer nor Ari’s technical savvy can solve. All around our neighborhood, skunks (Mephitis mephitis) are waking up and getting ready for mating season. Other than their telltale footprints we can’t see them, but we can very definitely smell them.
(photo from Animal DiversityWeb)
We have a robust skunk population here in the woods of central Maine, and the lot of them have spent the past four months snoozing in stolen burrows. Not only does that mean they’ve missed our first 49 blog posts, but they’ve also missed out on food, socialization, and perhaps most importantly, skunk dating. Now that the days are longer and a little warmer, the skunks know it’s time to wake up and spend their nights looking for a little nookie. Along the way, they’re fending off potential predators and maybe even unwanted skunky advances with the unmistakable smell of their protective spray.

Therein lies the rub. How do we adequately tell you, our patient readers, about this experience? Do I write about the way Ari pushes her snout high up into the air, trying to locate this richly exotic scent? Do I fumble over adjectives and try to paint a visual picture of a skunk-scented early morning landscape? Should I point out, as Rachel Herz does in her really wonderful book, The Scent of Desire, that the skunk smell as we know it stems from a firing of neurons in our olfactory bulb combined with our previous associations? Shall I tell you about the time that Ari’s predecessor, Kinch the Grouchy Beagle, tried to hug a skunk and the resulting copper cloud that hung over our house for a week? Maybe.

But if I do, will you be able to experience the vividness of this bouquet? Will you be able to smell what we smell without benefit of photo or language or any of the other things that makes blogging so great? I don’t know. I worry none of this will really do justice to the experience. But then again, if you’re one of the overwhelming majority of people who don’t find this omnipresent aroma at all appealing, maybe that’s a good thing. We’ll try for something a little less pungent for post #51.


Turbo the Sibe said...

(my verification word is "kaftan!")

I accept your offer for a speech at your college! Woo!

My Human keeps trying to get a picture of the back of my head (for some reason), but I always turn around so she gets my better side!

We haven't seen or smelled a skunk at our house in years! They don't come to visit us!

G Man said...

Ari....oh boy do I know about skunks!

We had a whole family of em where I used to live and I got sprayed twice so be careful!


Khyra The Siberian Husky said...

Hey, it is in our Sibe khontrakht!

I do it to MY mom too - I hear the lens opening and VOILA!!

Khongrats on the MILEStone !!!


PeeEss: Just do like the animals: do what khomes natural - ha roo roo ROOO!

Majchy said...

Hehe, funny thing about skunks... We don't have it in Slovenia, so I don't know how is it like.

Have fun! And enjoy in exploring nature! :)))

Greetings, Maja & Živa

PKPWV said...

Hi Ari and Ari's mom,

We have skunks where we live too!!! I've seen one run across the road when mom and I have been out running super early in the morning. I don't chase them!! Bunnies are fun to chase-but they are SO fast-I've never caught one, nor will I ever catch them-mom wont let me!!!


Me & my puppies said...

Oh, the "sweet" smell of spring.

Gus and Louie said...

Yuckers we don't like skunks. Mom is always afraid one of us will decide it is a cat and chase it and she will have to give us a tomato bath in the wee hours of the morning...

Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus and Louie

scierzan said...

Happy 50th post, and many more!

Some scent memories only need to be triggered by a description like you gave. Especially when one is familiar with such a pungent scent thanks to an overly friendly husky and a not so friendly skunk...


John Theberge said...

I'm glad you're enjoying my spring making campaign, I have to do what I can, it'll be a while before we see some color outside. I had the pleasure of smelling the seasons first skunk a couple of weeks ago, it must have been an early bird.
I remember while growing up, the neighbors dog had to tangle with a skunk at least once a summer, thank god for tomato juice. Although everytime he got wet afterward, we were reminded of his past exploits.

Your fellow "thinking spring" Mainer

sugarcreekstuff said...

I never was one to detect the smell of skunk while driving by roadkill, I had to sniff really hard to barely get the scent. Then in my human biology class I learned there is a anti-musk smelling gene. Strange hugh?

Wanderin' Weeta said...

"We’ve also proven Pavlov right: every time Ari, who hates having her picture taken, hears the chime of the camera being turned on, she promptly stops whatever adorable thing she is doing and hightails it into the next room."

You can probably turn sounds off on your camera; on my last one, I had it switched so the only sound it made was when it snapped a photo. The present one has a setting for turning off all sounds.

That might give you a day or two until she learns the tiny whine of the lens extending itself.


Island Rambles Blog said...

Hey there Ari and Kathryn, I see you have a lot of dogs reading your blog too!!! and Wanderin'Weeta is here as well. I think you win the award for descriptive writing in this blog...I remember the smell of skunk all too clearly as you describe it well. cheers. ( I linked to you, hope you don't mind).

Holly said...

Nothing beats a good pungent smell!!

We love your blog, since we have been introduced to it. Your pictures are wonderful, even if you are new to photography!! You could never tell!

BTW, our weather was colder than yours today. Our high was 19!!!
If it's going to be this cold, I want snow to go with it.


The Army of Four said...

Happy 50th!
We have lots of skunks here, too. We had a little skunkling make our garden his home for a while one spring - I called him Leopole the Bold. I thought since he was black and white like me, I could raise him as my puppy! For some reason, Mom had a man catch him and go release him out in the country. Hrumph!
Tail wags,

umekotyan said...

Good evening Kathryn and Ari.
It is very significant to use the camera.
It is common there with the observation of nature.
It is because the expression from various glances like the expression under the expression from on etc. can be observed.
And, the comparison between the place and the situation is easy for the record.
And, it is difficult to memorize the smell for the record of the skunk.
However, the skunk looks lovely. :)

from loved ume tyan
And, it comes to want to see the snow of winter, and also for me to eat a warm egg.

Fay said...

Here is a recipe for skunk spray if Ari should ever come into close contact with one of those black and white creatures:

1 large economy size bottle of peroxide
1 box of baking soda
1/2 cup of Dawn dish washing detergent.

Mix in a bucket. With a sponge, work the mixture into the coat. Allow the mixture to remain on the coat for a minimum of 20 minutes. Rinse with luke warm water. Be very careful to not get the mixture in the eyes. With the thickness of Ari's coat you might have to double the recipe. :)

JB's Big World said...

My mom told me that i should definitely stay away from skunks. She told me if I did not I would have to get my furs wet in a tomato sauce bath to get rid of the smell!

Christy said...

Blech. Skunk smell everywhere doesn't sound good.

Kapp pack said...

Congrats on your blogging milestone!

Skunk, YUCK!

WOo woo, KA

Princess, Tank and Isaac: The Newfs of Hazard said...

And if there was an e-smell technology, we wouldn't turn it on for this post, either.

Blue said...

First 'Congrats on your 50th post, all blog anniversaries are important, & I for one are glad you started.

Re- Skunks, I my be Brisitsh & live in the UK but you don't have to describe the smell to me...
I've spent enough time on the Canadian prairies to remember the 'perfume' on house cat Isis, & dogs Welington & Daisy after they encountered the little darlings.
And, only just missed being sprayed my-self when I disturbed a wintering family surviving off the farm wild cat winter food when I went to check it's levels this time last year.

Here's to your next 50 posts.
Best wishes, pats & pets

Sharon said...

Rusty's mom here: Congratulations on your 50th post! As usual I enjoyed this!

Boy do I know about skunks and I don't think there are any owrds to describe the smell. YUCK! I used to live in Missouri out in the middle of 400 acres. The dogs were always coming home smelling know what. I was always taking them down to the stream to wash them then douse them in tomato juice, not that that actually did too much good. I think I helped my brain moer than my nose.