Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sounds and smells

The questions from the trail this morning dealt with sounds and smells. The sounds are the welcoming peeps of the diminutive frogs called Spring Peepers and the Cardinals and their colleagues with stripes on their wings called Red Wing Black Birds. The peepers make almost a magical chorus of sounds that accompany summer night activities. The frog repertoire is somewhat limited and repetitive as they vocalize their simple “Peep”. From a musician’s point of view the peep starts with an abrupt staccato and phrases through a brief crescendo with an abrupt end at about the dynamic level with which it started. It doesn’t take long to describe it, but it is amazingly beautiful in its simplicity and form. Experiencing the peep show is much more enjoyable than trying to explain or describe it. As we approach their rehearsal rooms tucked in shallow cold swamp areas they begin to go silent one by one until we pass. It does not take long for the rehearsal to begin again as they feel safe by our passing. I wonder what they think we are? It is human nature to imagine scenarios of thought spinning around in their heads, but in God’s critters at this level we are probably only experiencing their hard wired instinct. Most of us have seen too many Bambi movies where animals have anthropomorphic intellect and activity. In reality the peeps probably only mean, “Hey, I am over here! Now where are you?” And, “Hey when it gets a little warmer I may want some company – you interested?”
As morning emerges on the trail in early spring another critter joins the rehearsal. This dynamically clad bird in full red regalia is nature’s first announcement of morning breaking out of the night. The night shift of Whippoorwills begins to clock out as the light rays from ole Sol erase the dark and they go silent. Owls announce the end of their nightly chores and Turkeys from their roosts brag about their plans for the day. Crows rakishly remind everyone with their calls which feel like a cold glass of water poured down your back that the stressless night of quiet is over in the woods. It is then that the judgmental red and fundamentally religious Cardinals begin to accuse us of moral failure. They say, “Cheater – Cheater” until we all feel guilty and remember the times we allowed our eyes to stray to that smart girl’s test paper. There is nothing in winter more stunning than a red Cardinal in a green Cedar tree on snow covered ground. So, we will agree overlook the legalistic tendencies of the Cardinal to feast our eyes on their striking color despite their accusatory call.
I want to include the water music of the Red Wing Black Bird as I conclude today’s installment. Their wet and wonderful gurgle reminds me of cane poles, Blue Gills and worms and bobbers. The Red Wing Blackbird has sung the soundtrack to many a fun day around water as I remember my childhood and fishing with my grand dad and Aunt Wilma on Clarence’s’ pond. So, as the daily trail ritual is nearing completion and we make the final pass by the alligator swamp we are allowed to hear the beautiful water music of the Red Wing Blackbird and it takes our memory back to days in the sun.
I almost forgot that I was going to talk about sounds and smells. Smells, skunks love the early spring too. Nuf said

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Oh, the Irish

Today is St. Patty's day. My favorite Irish joke goes like this. Two old Irish men were talking. One named Mike said, "Pat I am dying of cancer. When I am gone will you pour a bottle of the best Irish whiskey you can find on my grave so my bones will enjoy it forever?" Pat said to Mike, "Sure, but can I run it through me kidney's first?"

I will never forget my first look at the emerald isle. It was in 1967 and the plane I was on successfully crossed the Atlantic and through the clouds I saw the most different shade of green I had ever seen. The captain said, "Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to fly over Ireland." I was a small town boy and had never been anywhere and now I was flying over Ireland. It was almost more than I could take in. The quaint towns with miniaturized houses, scaled down cooking and heating stoves, diminutive refrigerators were like something out of Gulliver's travels. It was different, so different from the way we lived in rural Missouri. We live BIG here! We have lots of room to build big houses, cook with big stoves and have large refrigerators. The scale of the way we live was also driven home when Yumi (our Japanese foreign exchange student) came to live with us. Her first day here we were moving cattle with horses and motor cycles and all the rest of the family positioned at key locations. Yumi had never been in a place before that you could not see houses all around. The openness of the space was a little unnerving for her. I thought we lived in a big place until I traveled through Montana. It really is big sky country. An Indian chief we worked with on a mission trip left the New Mexican desert for a visit to the Ozarks. He was also uncomfortable in our forests. He had never been in a place like this. I am just like our friend the chief. I have never seen a place like the Ozarks either. It is my home and I love living here. So, if you want some good Irish whiskey poured on your grave give me a call and I will be glad to help.

Well I better go to the closet and find something green.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Signs of spring

Why is winter so much longer than spring?

It has been a very long and cold winter and I am ready for sunshine, shorts and tee shirts. The old time rustics raved about sassafras tea as a tonic to thin down the blood from winters thickening and sluggishness. When the first color shows in the sassafras tree it is time to dig up the roots and begin to boil them in water. The tea tastes like root beer and if you put in enough sugar the concoction is quite pleasant. It really smells good in the house too, especially if steeped on a wood stove. I don't know why, but some sassafras makes a green tea and some makes a red tea. I have tried both and can't tell any difference at all.

Those who love to get their hands in the dirt are also ready to drag their winter worn hiney's out of the house into the garden. Gail and I planted two rows of Pontiac potato's (Dan Quayl's spelling - potatoes). These are our favorite variety of spud because they taste amazing creamed with young peas. We have found them to the be the most prolific producer too. And, let's just say it - the red color is pretty!

We also put out a mixed bag of lettuce early. We buy several varieties of lettuce and mix them all together and sow them. When they are ready to eat you have a mixed salad ready made. My favorite lettuce is Red Sails. Make sure you get some of those seeds in your mix.

So, let's summarize: we have red sassafras tea, red potatos and red sails. Maybe the reason winter seems so much longer than spring is the color red. I can't for the life of me see how this could possibly be the reason for the inequity in the seasons, but it seems to be gaining weight in the argument. I guess we will just have to leave some of the mysteries in life unanswered. But I really like the color red.