Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Flyways and Highways

Great Blue Heron

Spring and fall are good times for watching birds in my neighborhood. We live five blocks from a pond (we call it a lake, but it's really a borrow pond leftover from highway construction, being fed by a few springs) and there's another one a mile further up the road, near a hospital and medical office building. Both ponds are home to flocks of domestic looking ducks, but the hospital pond has acquired some egrets and at least one blue heron.

I saw the heron and an egret on a trip to my gastroenterologist two weeks ago, or thought I did. Sunday I went to the drugstore in the area and took my camera with me so I could take pictures if I saw them again. The egret was there (and very camera shy), but no heron. There was a gaggle of very fat geese and I wondered if I could have mistaken one for a heron given the brief glimpse I had.

When I got home, there was a hawk sitting on my back fence. That's not a usual sight. Since I had my camera handy, I took its picture through the windshield. The pictures are quite blurry, but it was a hawk, possibly a sharp-shinned hawk. It flew off when I got out of the car.

Yesterday I was back at the gastroenterologist, again with my camera. The heron was there again, and not so camera shy as the egret, so I got a good picture.

This morning, driving along the interstate to work, I saw two more egrets. When it rains, puddles form in the drainage ditches along the highway, and they love to stand in them. Back in the early 1900's, when egret feathers were all the rage for hats, egrets were in danger of dying out. Now they are common features along our roadsides. I miss hats, but I'm glad the birds survived.

Friday, September 18, 2009

How About If I Don't Talk Like a Pirate Day

View from Fortress de San Felipe Bacalar, built in 1729 to protect the pueblo from pirates

Friends on Facebook tell me tomorrow is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. I think I'll sit this one out. Maybe I'll wait for Talk Like a Mugger Day, or Talk Like a Home Invader Day, or even Talk Like a White Collar Criminal Day.

Modern day piracy costs shipping companies an estimated $13 to $16 billion a year, with reported pirate incidents happening at a rate of 20-30 per month. When crew is held for ransom, it costs an average of $120,000 per person to free them. Eventually these costs are going to get passed along to the people buying goods being shipped. Beyond the financial costs, there is the trauma to the crew and their families to consider. Even those who have never been attacked by pirates must be worried about the possibility.

Why is it that everything seems more romantic if it happens on a ship? If someone holds you at gunpoint in the street, you aren't going to see the romantic side of it, but put the same someone on a ship, replace the gun with a grenade launcher, and have the target be someone else, and suddenly it's all good fun.

Oh, wait, it's supposed to be the pirates of old we want to talk like. Yeah, that makes it better. I'm sure they were much nicer people, due to the influence of living with all those parrots, or something. Okay, you can't mow people down with a cutlass as fast as you can with automatic weapons, but the mind set is the same. "You have it and I want it" just isn't romantic to me, whether it's coming from Bluebeard, modern day Somalis, or Bernie Maddoff.

So, matey, talk like a pirate all you want, just leave me out of it.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

You're Going to Miss This

The azaleas and bench in the backyard

You're Gonna Miss This is a Trace Adkins song which I like, but the premise of which amuses me. The chorus goes:

You're gonna miss this. You're gonna want this back.
You're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast.
These are some good times, so take a good look around.
You may not know it now, but you're gonna miss this.

On the surface, that sounds like very good advice, but when I think about it, people in the song are trying to convince a young woman not to keep wishing for the future by telling her that one day she's going to look back and long for the past (and implying that they themselves do). Apparently the whole idea of living in the present has eluded everyone in the song.

I know there are things I am going to miss when I finally sell the house and move away. We can't bring the huge magnolia tree in the backyard with us. We won't even bring the concrete benches, because they are heavy and likely to break. The wisteria-covered pergola will have to stay. I'm not sure a magnolia will grow in our new location, but of course we can build a new pergola, plant a climbing vine and ornamental tree, and buy more benches.

I'm just not sure I want to. I'll miss the things I left behind, for a while at least, but I don't want the future to be an attempt to recreate the past, no matter how happy. I want to enjoy my memories, but not miss them, because I want to be busy building whatever kind of present seems appropriate in a new place. I might want a curved concrete bench, or I might remember that I never really sat on it much, and opt for something else instead. I might want a sunny spot for herbs instead of a tree and a shady pergola, or I might want a porch with a real roof that can hold a fan.

Since no one seems to be in a rush to buy the house, I'll enjoy it while I have it. And then I'll leave it behind, in the past where it will someday belong. It will be happy there.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Little Things

Little things have been weighing me down lately. Besides the house not selling, or even showing, the death of my cat, the illness of my other cat, my increased gastritis, and the general economic miasma, a group of my coworkers took over the office next to mine and demanded that my file cabinet had to go, after I thought we had worked out a deal for it to stay. I wouldn't be so pissy about the file cabinet if there weren't another equally suitable room available for their project, with the one drawback being that a volunteer who uses that room one hour a month has final say over what can go in there. It bothers me that it's easier to inconvenience me 36 hours a week than to inconvenience her one hour a month. The file cabinet is now perched awkwardly in my office behind a toy kitchen set-up and I am making my peace with it, because snarling at a file cabinet 36 hours a week is no recipe for mental health.

And besides, little D has come up with his own way of cheering me up. As I wrote in a previous post, we have been working forever (or at least 8 months) on getting him to say "I want truck" and getting either "I want" or "truck", but not all three words together. Yesterday, he looked at me, said "Mom" (his one word for all adult females), "I want to play truck." He smiled triumphantly. I smiled ecstatically. He got to abandon whatever suitably pedagogical activity I had planned for him and go play trucks. I got to enjoy one of the little things.