“We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander.”

Henry David Thoreau

Our trailcams on The Mountain are less than 50 yards apart, one placed about 20 vertical feet above the other. Both are fairly close to (potential) human activity — the homesite below, the UTV trail above. I’m sure we’ll relocate them eventually, but for now this has been a fascinating exercise in learning the cameras and reading wildlife patterns.

I have the cams set for a four-second reaction time and a four-shot burst — that is, the device waits four seconds after detecting motion, and then it fires four shots. Over the last three days the higher trailcam has recorded 216 images, the lower one 312, which translates to 132 “events.”

Sometimes, of course, there’s nothing to see. A puff of wind rustles leaves in the camera’s field of view or changes the pattern of sunlight on the ground, and that’ll produce a series of photos. Occasionally a squirrel or a bird will trip the PIR (passive infrared) motion detector.

Whenever I come across a shot that at first appears to be “empty,” I always take a closer look — I mean, something triggered the camera. Often I’m rewarded with a whitetail at the edge of the frame or creeping through thick brush in the background.

Discovery is a function of curiosity and patience. That’s how I spotted an adult gray fox on the lower camera last week. It visited again yesterday, this time up-top (highlighted in the second image above). Only after deliberate examination did I see it.

Because these trailcams are equipped with cellular communication, every time a new image is recorded it pings my phone. I can view the photos either on the dedicated app or on the Stealth Cam website. The feature also allows me to adjust each camera’s settings, which are updated during a daily sync.

We know that The Mountain is a wild and vibrant place. With our own eyes, plus reports from Deb’s cousin and our neighbors, we’ve learned that those woods also host bears and bobcats, coyotes and quite possibly a cougar, armadillos and hawks and much more.

It’s intriguing to have a couple of windows on this world. We embrace its beauty and recognize its bounty, grateful for its gifts.

Deb and I would rather be on The Mountain today, in person. Her recovery from (presumed) food poisoning has been like climbing out of a deep hole, but the last couple of days she’s made impressive progress. I’m bouncing back from that migraine in typical fashion — not froggy just yet, but better.

We set the bar low today.

I think what I missed most being down yesterday was getting outside. Somehow the simple ritual of savoring coffee under the warmth of a sunrise has become essential to me. It’s hard to explain. Maybe you understand.

And so I did that this morning.

The now-familiar stoneware mug came from Pigeon Forge. I bought it 18 months ago yesterday while we were on our “shakedown cruise” and to date it’s held coffee brewed in ten states, from Ohio to Arkansas to Montana. A few cups of hot chocolate, too. It’s a material constant, a known, a certainty of each new day.

We need stuff like that. Permanency is an illusion, but constancy can be had. It’s harder to come by in people than in things, but it’s gold.

Something that’s neither permanent nor constant, or so the years tell me, is my body and what it’s capable of. Frame and function aren’t what they once were. And while I acknowledge limits served up by age, I’ll be damned if I’m gonna lay down.

For inspiration, I can look around this or any campground and watch nomads older than me, more frail than I hope ever to be, just a-killin’ it no whining, no excuses, livin’ life. Elsewhere I see people so obviously willing themselves to the store, shuffling painfully down grocery aisles, bodies broken but spirits intact.

I say again, their spirits are intact. They embody that well-known line from The Shawshank Redemption:

“I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’.”

If we’re fortunate, we age. We lose, we gain, we adapt, we continue. Day upon day arrives with promise — but also with an obligation not to squander the gift of another sunrise.

We can, I suppose, do anything we choose with that. I say we’re better off thriving.

Face forward. Get busy.

One year ago today we got the band back together — Dipstick, his progress having satisfied the vet, returned to us after his near-death experience.

Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath

#LetsGoBrandon #FJB