Friday, March 22, 2013

A Spring Interlude

Before I fully open my eyes each morning, I listen. Long before the sun has popped up, the world outside my window is gray and it is very quiet. My German Shepherd lays by my bed and looks out the window beside the bed and watches this world out side, keeping guard, always on duty. She patiently waits for me to rise, but I remain in bed to hear to the day’s beginning. Another good pull of the covers and I drift.

As the sun makes its slow ascent, the animal kingdom outside begins to wake and the noises begin with a few tentative peeps from some tiny unseen birds and gradually increases to a raucous symphony of many bird songs, from Cardinals, Red Shouldered Hawks, and many more unidentified troubadours. It is still too cool for most of the other woodland sounds of crickets and frogs but their songs will soon join these in a harmony of the spring ritual, one as old as time, and each year, a new beginning. 

So far this season we have five Purple Martins claiming gourds which hang on the pole for their housing for breeding season, three males and two females. It remains to be seen just how this arrangement is going to work out, but perhaps another female will join them in time. Their songs are once again filling the air as I walk back and forth to the barn to feed the horses. These perennial songs have serenaded me when I have been in the garden taking out the spent winter crops to make way for the summer seeds, and they are usually gone before the corn is ready to pick by mid summer. Theirs is a deeply comforting sound that I have heard now for many years, and associate with the welcome beginning of spring.

By paying attention to the sounds out here on the farm, I occasionally get to see things that had I not heard and turned my head, I would have missed. The other day I was standing in the garden pondering my over investment in collard plants last fall. The few tiny sprouts that I planted have grown freely and have now taken over the garden. We have eaten all that we can stand, I have given away bags and bags of them, frozen what I have room for in the freezer, and still they keep on growing. Anyway while I was mulling thoughts of how to murder a  bunch of collards, I heard overhead a strange, but kind of familiar squeak.

I looked up, and was stunned, to see two Bald Eagles flying together, one a white headed mature bird and the other still in immature, most likely second year old feathering. They circled each other climbing higher in the sky and then suddenly both folded their wings and dropped like rocks falling towards each other. They flung out their wings and each grabbed the other by the talons and fell in a dizzying spiral, screaming out the squeaking whistle that had first drawn my attention. Finally they let go of each other and began circling and rising again to repeat their courtship dance. Riding the thermals and the winds from the north they quickly flew out of my sight, and just like that were gone. Had I not heard them I would have surely missed this incredible sight. They were amazing, huge, and surprisingly agile in their aerial display and I was very glad I didn’t miss seeing such a special treat. 

It is officially spring now, mid March, and today is cold, rainy, and yucky. Yesterday by contrast was cool, but blue and bright. I happened to be in town doing errands and I was nearby one of the oldest neighborhoods in Montgomery, a lovely cottage covered  garden area of towering ancient oaks, pines, and magnolias. Having a few minutes to spare I found myself turning down one of the many winding lanes under the branches of some massive oaks.

Hanging on these branches were long and graceful strands of the soft silver and greenish grays of the Spanish Mosses. These strands swung in the breeze and cast dancing shadows that moved across the tiny lawns and gardens below. A hint of a pale green haloed the trees with tiny leaves just emerging, but it was the gardens below that I had ventured to see. 

I am sure that spring every where is welcomed as a respite from winter, no matter how mild or how severe, but the early spring in the South is special and can be no less than extraordinary depending on where you are. By combination of the right climate and soil, Montgomery, and other lucky areas in the South, have areas which are home to a unique combination of plant life. These plants bloom prolifically for only a short period of time, but they do so in a dazzling, and spectacular display of crazy colors and shapes. 

This neighborhood, Old Cloverdale, is one such lucky place where the charming older houses are tucked away, on randomly laid out roads, hidden under the shadows of these massive and ancient oaks, and at this time of year, their yards are ablaze with the blooms of azaleas in every hue, and size. The shrubs wash the yards with broad strokes of pure outrageous color from whites and pale pinks, to scarlet, violet, purples,  and oranges. These banks of color blend together and are continuous through out the entire neighborhood, running together like a water color wash down a page. 

Punctuating the azaleas are the taller camellias, now also covered in full outrageous blooms of reds, whites, and mixes. Below them both are the seas of various bulbs with their bobbing heads of yellows and oranges on stalks of fresh green. An occasional Dogwood tree gracefully stretches its limbs covered with its pristine white, or pink, four petaled blooms through the scene giving visual pause from the garish color below it. 

I drove past my grandparent’s yard, now owned by someone new. I was very sad to see that so many of the lovely camellia shrubs had been removed. I remembered my walks with my grandfather as he admired the blooms on the shrubs he had loved so much. There was one shrub left though, on the front of the house that I could see through the new fence. It was covered with large, deep red, ruffled heirloom blooms, but sadly it had been pruned and looked rather pitiful in its newly misshaped form. My time running out, I drove on away, my lovely interlude was over.

Spring is about flowers, but it is also, fishing time. Last weekend, St Patrick’s Day, we spent a pleasant afternoon with our daughter, son in law, and little Margaret in the small pond on the farm. We were fishing for, what we hoped would be, a first of the season, fried fish dinner. Margaret took her turn driving the boat while some of us threw hooks in the water. The bream, and the bass too, were biting well and we caught what we needed, a bit sunshine, enough fish, togetherness, and a nice memory of a beautiful spring day in the South.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Passing Time

... and then, a rain began to fall outside the open door.... 

This is March. Typically not my favorite month due in large part to the fickle nature of the weather. It is always windy whether it is still cold or prematurely warm. Either a cold front is moving in or one is passing through. Yesterday was nice, partly sunny, warm enough for a t-shirt, not humid, a slight breeze as always, but in all an invigorating day to get stuff done outdoors. We rode our bikes. We cleaned up old junk that had been laying around for a decade or two. We tapped our beer that we made on the last day of the year ’12. (Regrettably it was not so successful as hoped and will most likely be used for trapping slugs or it could possibly be reduced to its primary ingredient courtesy of a bit of steam and copper.) Over all, the sunshine was good and made the day smoother and the feeling of being semi-productive was nice.

Today, however, the cold front arrived on time as the weather maps had predicted, a thin yellow line surrounded by an expanse of green. It advanced upon the state and finally reached our house. This is the problem with March, this yoyo-ing of weather that keeps consistency of doing anything outdoors at bay. In grade school so many of our class pictures were taken in March. With the wall of windows behind our desks and smiling faces there was always the rain and a drenched playground covered with Robins pulling worms from the still brown grasses of winter. 

With the finish of some rather intense weeks of doing little besides practicing the drums for the “Cabaret” project, my recent aim was to try to return to my more normal routine in farm world and to the horses. The more I do it the more I find that the being away from and being out of synch with the beasts is tough to come back to. It just takes a consistent effort to keep the horses all working well, and a few weeks off is harder and harder to come back from. Add the silly weather factor and it becomes frustration with a capital “F”. By the end of last week I actually strung two days in a row of getting to work most of them and was hoping for a good week starting today. No such luck, the rain wins again.

And so I submit to the sound of the steady rain and write, and multitask. Laundry is going, corned beef is in the crock pot, the apartment books for our units lay over the dining table and beg for my attention. Graci, the Yorkie terriorist, keeps a look out the open door to the porch and the bird feeders just beyond, ready to chase any unsuspecting squirrels away but they are hiding from the rain. Heidi, the kraut, lays behind me snoring oblivious to my wanting to be in barn world with her feet twitching as she runs in her dreams, always a puppy there. The garden seeds I ordered are here and are waiting to be planted, depending on frost predictions, and on and on ad nauseam. Things are in a bit of a limbo, all waiting with impatience, on the weather, but, the rain does sound nice.

“Beware the Ides of March”, Portia had told Julius Caesar before he left for work back long ago. He didn’t heed her warning and it was indeed a very bad day for him. It was on the 14th, the infamous ides of March, that three years ago now, my sweet gelding Atlas got a case of colic and sadly died. It seems a decade ago, the memory is still raw but has kindly been pushed back into a place that stores grief so that life can go on. So much has happened since then that grief doesn’t get to linger. Things like grand daughters make for living in the present more of the better option.

Margaret is fifteen months old now and has kept us entertained and mesmerized since her arrival. No longer a helpless infant, she is wildly independent (she thinks), has a highly opinionated fashion sense, talks without words (though she has a few words in her repertoire, she prefers to make us monkeys do things without words , and we gladly do her bidding). She loves to dance, has great rhythm, and can play a mean set of drum licks. She loves books and can be fascinated for long periods of time with them, but show her that you have an Ipad and that’s it. That, is what she wants.

It is kind of scary world we live in now, being connected to this or that with cell phones, pads, computers always beeping or drawing our attention. I am a retard at most of the tech stuff and will remain so most likely, but to watch this little kid run around programs clicking, dragging, unafraid, curious, and totally absorbed is amazing. Hers will be much different world to grow up in than mine with technologies exploding exponentially into uncharted areas and her brain is taking it all in as fast as it can. 

I supposed each generation has a bit of that to deal with, the changes that innovations and discoveries make on our lives. As a kid I was visiting my grandmother, who was very ancient I thought, and we were taking HER mother to the doctor or something and I was stunned that my great grandmother could not figure out how the door to the car opened. When I pointed this out later to my mother and questioned her about this, she enlightened me to the fact that this really ANCIENT old lady, her grandmother, had been born before cars and had spent the majority of her life in a horse and buggy world. This idea was startling to me and I had to think hard about the fact that life for folks in the past was vastly different from my own reality,  and I could not even imagine nor comprehend the possible changes in the future. It was also my first taste of realizing that I was just another being on a timeline. The thought that my birth had not been the beginning of time had really not occurred to me.

Like the water that falls from the sky, flows across the land and back into the seas, to be picked up again to become a cloud, to repeat the process over and over is what our lives are. We are all just passing through, hoping for a good ride along the way. In the big scheme of things it is a short ride and time flies. Well, that is unless one is waiting on the rain to quit and the sun to come out. Time is relative to that which you want to do or not and it is crawling right now. . .ah well, back to multitasking.

Wow, I just found some ancient cans of green bean with an expiration date of ’04. Probably not good, you think? Think they will be better off in the garbage can than testing my intestinal fortitutde.  Funny thing is, that there is no on it, only a telephone number and an address to mail to. Yup time flies.