Wednesday, July 26, 2006

It’s the Little Things that Count

I heard someone in the office use that quasi-Biblical phrase: It’s the little foxes that ruin the vineyard. I was thinking about that in comparison with friend Wendy’s blog ( and the joy she manages to find in teaching nature to kids—little foxes all. Then I began contrasting Wendy’s ideas with the cliché of seeing the world through a child’s eyes and how it relates to my new-found role as grandpa.
I’m learning. Taking a walk with a four-year-old does open one’s eyes, that’s for sure. There’s an excitement in kids most people over 48-inches-tall have long gotten over—or forgotten. Our grandson picks up what I might think of as trash and tells me it’s material for his art project. Of course it is. He asks who or what; all the while my adult brain is trying to forget all the strangers I’ve met. Wendy’s kids learn that owls eat bones, then get off on the fact that their mothers would throw up if they knew that fact. How cool is that?
When we get to be adults, where’s our wonder? Most of us don’t even wonder about that name at the bottom of our pay check. Who is that person? We don’t care; only that the check arrives.
We don’t want to dream. We want the night to leave us alone. As writer Edward Abbey said, old men have guilty dreams. And writer/singer Patty Griffin says "Night only wants to kiss you deep and be on his way; pretend he don’t know you the very next day."
As Wendy frequently notes, nature can drive you to your knees. I thought that was kind of hokey. Now I get it. If we get down to that four-year-old’s eye level we’ll begin to see things as they really are—or the way they could (should) be.
And those little foxes? They’re just doing their fox thing. If losing a few grapes is a problem for you, get out of the whine business.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Things Happen in Threes

A co-worker was bemoaning something disastrous that had happened at her house this past weekend—hot water tank implosion or something. What caught my ear was that this was the third such trauma for her in as many days. I don’t put a lot of stock in that business of movie stars dying in threes, etc.
A couple nights ago we heard lots of scratching and squeaky noises along with something being banged around on our deck. We peered through the blind to see three young raccoons reenacting the World Cup Championships, using an empty whicker basket. There was a fair amount of head-butting going on, too.
Then last night we heard some scratching sounds near the bird feeders. With the aide of a flashlight we watched three young skunks dining on that expensive stuff that’s supposed to repel critters like skunks and raccoons. With this trio there was a lot of butt-butting which I feared might lead to something less pleasant than the smell of victory or agony of de feet. We cranked the windows shut and turned on the air conditioner.
And this morning, Susan calls me away from my delicious bowl of oatmeal and Kim Perez on the Weather Channel to see the final threesome. The raccoons had returned. Soccer, err, football, was not on the agenda. Today it was high-wire acrobatics. Larry, Curley and Mo had climbed the pole holding our feeder array. All were swinging from the feeders, acting like break-dancers trying to outdo each other with ever more elaborate moves. About the time Mo was going into his hand-stand head-spin I rushed out, doing my best imitation of a pterodactyl.
The crowed roared as the guys flipped, twisted and basically fell all over each other trying to get down.
No curtain call attempted. They dashed under the deck where, I’m afraid, they will eventually meet up with Huey, Dewy and Pewy. We can hardly wait for the time all six to provide act number four, which, when divided by eight hours of restless sleep, will equal yet another three.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Some—Not Many—Like It Hot

The temperature bumped its head against 95 degrees here in Cleveland today. Second day in a row. Al Gore’s right—we’re all toast.
I was looking at the birds in the yard, from the safety of my air conditioned house, and it was like watching a silent movie. Their beaks were flapping but there was no sound. I stepped out on the deck to see what a pair of crows, in particular, were so agitated about. Still no sound. Chickadees on the rim of the bird bath were active, mouths open, but no sound.
Ah, heavy breathing. Had to be the heat. Since they can’t sweat they must have been trying to get cool by venting heat through their mouths. I tried it and it didn’t work. In fact it made me sweat more.
So I decided to take an unscientific poll while on my bike ride. I noted all the birds I saw and whether they were singing. The grand total was 13 species. Some I could not tell if the mouth was open—like red-tailed hawks and great blue herons. Of those I could see, only two species were singing like they really enjoyed the sauna: indigo buntings and American goldfinches.
So the obvious scientific conclusion is that less than 10 percent of the birds in northeast Ohio enjoy this muggy buggy weather—about the same ratio as humans.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Living In a Time Warp

Birthdays, mine or those of people near to me, have a way of making me think I’m living in a time warp. Or, maybe they just make me think more about the span of time. Or, maybe it’s that time does not always seem to be flowing in the right direction. Well, that’s not it either. Time is not taking as much time to happen as it used to.
Here, let me explain. Just the other day the kid around the corner was having a graduation party. School’s out! That sort of thing. Then two days ago I walked into a local store and the shelves are groaning under the weight of “Back to School Specials.” What happened to summer?
Friday a friend invited me to fish at his private trout club. This is the kind of place guys like me can only dream of. Or, never dream of. Rockwell Springs Trout Club was established in 1900 and little has changed. Or maybe a lot has changed. I viewed the old photographs on the wall. The guys don’t wear white shirts and ties to go fishing. There were more women on the stream—none wearing long dresses, however. But when I stepped onto the immaculately cared for grounds, I felt like I was stepping into one of those pictures. The stream was the stream. The fish were the fish—maybe a bit smaller. It was a strange feeling. As my friend pointed out, never lose track of the thought that this [fly fishing at the club] is not real. I knew what he meant, yet, when hooked into a feisty brook trout, it seemed real enough.
And on Saturday evening we attended a friend’s birthday party. It was one of those birthdays that ends in 0, which can be tough on people. Among the guests were those philosophers who bemoaned the lost years, those looking forward to new things, and those sort of neutral and accepting of another year gone by.
In the end, the birthday signifies, no matter whether life is fast or slow, confusing or simple, boring or challenging, expensive or rewarding, it does include one free trip around the sun each year.