Sunday, September 27, 2015

Autumn Memories

Autumn smells tickle wonderful memories of my childhood. My mother, father, brother, and I lived on a parcel of land near the Rio Grande in west Albuquerque. I know “down by the river” conjures a specific image by those who enjoyed the comedy of Chris Farley, rest his soul, but our cozy adobe, flat-roofed home was nestled under huge cottonwood trees. We referred to it as “the farm,” even though it wasn’t really a farm in the sense of boasting hundreds of acres of land. We had a stable with two horses, a mare and her foil, several banty chickens, three white ducks, and two Boxers - E, I, E, I, O. Two or three acres of alfalfa grew in our front yard. After the alfalfa had been cut, the bales were stacked, creating a huge haystack from which my brother, his friends, and I swung on a homemade tire and rope swing tied to a huge cottonwood that protected the hay. I loved the smells of the freshly harvested plant. The cottonwoods glowed with an aura of gorgeous yellow-gold in autumn, and with the cooler weather came winds that blew the leaves to the ground. In the 1950’s there were not many worries about air pollution or smoke inhalation, so the valley residents raked and burned the dry leaves. The aroma epitomizes Fall. Sounds also summon fond recollections of Fall. The constant cawing of crows always predicted cooler weather, and their calls remind me are of my early years on “the farm.”

            Fast forward 50 years to our summer home in Minnesota. As I walk around the lake, I spy puffs of smoke along the shore where lake-home owners burn their fallen leaves. The aroma brings back memories of Albuquerque along the Rio Grande. In addition, the caws of the crows fill the air with noisy contentment. When we first moved into our community, it was still under development, and I had a nice view of the lake across the street beyond a vacant lot. I enjoyed my coffee on the side porch every morning, listening to the Loons call and the crows caw. One day while fixing my coffee, I heard a loud bang against the window. I thought it was a hunter’s stray bullet at first and was afraid to venture outside. My curiosity peaked, so I gingerly opened the door and walked around the house. I noticed a crow pushing himself in circles on the ground in our front yard. Oh my god, he flew into the window and now he’s injured. I ran back into the house and called a neighbor to see if there was a bird refuge anywhere close by where I could take him. In Phoenix I’ve taken sparrows and hummingbirds to a nearby bird refuge in a shoe box after they have flown into the window, stunning themselves. My neighbor didn’t know of any facility, and chalked me up as a crazy city woman having a panic attack. I went back outside to inspect the injured bird when one of the construction workers drove by in his truck. I flagged him down and showed him the poor little dazed creature. Without saying a word, he stomped on the crow’s head and flung his body over into the field across the street. I gasped and clasped my hands to my face, tears welling up in my eyes. He turned to me and laughed, “Obviously you didn’t grow up on a farm. Crows are just scavengers, and I just put him out of his misery.” “Well, Mister,” I thought to myself, “I actually did grow up on a farm! I was just trying to save a little creature’s life.” After my emotional breakdown inside the house, I researched
crows on the Internet. I discovered that they are among the world’s most intelligent animals and have
demonstrated the ability to distinguish individual humans by recognizing facial features, and are able to transmit information about bad humans. My only solace is to hope they will hunt this construction worker down, hover over his head, and poop on his neck for the rest of his life.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Practice for the Journey

The birds and waterfowl are starting their migration South for the winter. Geese are particularly noisy this time of year. One autumn after visiting Minnesota for the summer, our campground was adjacent to a cornfield. I was sitting in my lawn chair next to our trailer enjoying a cup of Joe and the crisp fall air when I heard multiple squawking noises in the distance. The sounds became louder and louder as I turned to look at the cornfield. Over the top flew 20 or more birds, which, after careful scrutiny, I determined to be geese. They flew in a wild manner - up and down - all over the place. They obviously didn’t have a plan; they just were flying haphazardly through the air and over the tassels on the corn. However, there was an air of determination as they tried to stay together in a group, flying in the same direction over the campground. I observed the same pattern with a variety of honks every day for a week. Each day, the geese became a little better at flying behind or next to one another, and harmonized a little better with their song. Then one day I heard the honking, but it sounded more like a musical instrument than random noise. Amazed, I watched the geese as they flew over the cornfield and across the sky in a perfect V formation. They had perfected their flight pattern, decided who would be the leader, and were ready for their journey South.

Once husband and I decided to pack up our trailer and head south to our home, it took four days to drive the 1,800 miles from Northern Minnesota to the middle of Arizona. Husband played golf several days after our arrival in Phoenix, and to his amazement, he watched as a gaggle of geese, in a perfectly formed V, swoop down for a landing on the lake in the middle of the golf course - home for the winter. I am certain it was the same group, who days before, practiced for their long flight to warmth for the winter.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


Lawn art is abundant here in the Midwest. Take for example this lovely toilet garden I spotted next to someone’s mailbox. It takes on a whole different meaning of potted plant, and I’m sure the postman is sure to enjoy a whiff of sweet aroma as he deposits the letters and bills into the mailbox. Even though this picture was taken in autumn, it’s certain that spring and summer flowers beautified the white porcelain throne a few months prior. I would venture to make a few suggestions for next year’s toilet flower seating. Perhaps Aster, Tulips, Sweet Pea, Peony, or Poppy.

On our Sunday drives through the farmland we discover all kinds of lawn art adorning front yards. Take for example a white metal bed, turned at a gentle angle so all who drive by can admire the intricate ironwork and lovely array of colorful flowers. I can hear Sven and Ingrid now, “Sven, now that Solveig has moved out, vhat shall we do vit her bed?” “Vell, vhy don’t we put it in the front yard, doncha know, Ingrid.” “That’s a vonderful idea, Sven. I can plant Daisy’s in it.” And that’s how the white iron bed ended up in Sven and Ingrid’s front yard.

A house recently was built not too far from us. I had to walk by several times to fully realize what was sitting on their lawn. They created a lovely oval bedding area for flowers; however, there was a smattering of items that took me a few walk bys to figure out just what all was in there. I think it would have been too suspicious had I started taking pictures or staring like a hungry vagrant. First of all there is a mirror. Yes, a mirror sitting on a log table, about the size of a chest of drawers. Maybe it is a chest of drawers. What better place to put an old chest of drawers than in the front yard. It appears that the log table is actually a planter, because flowers are protruding from the top – then the mirror. I’m not understanding this. Is it a Norwegian custom to place a mirror in your front yard? Is it kind of like burying a St. Joseph statue when you want to sell your home? Perhaps the mirror is for the deer who want to admire themselves before they go on a feeding frenzy with the Impatiens. The other items in the “flowerbed” are a rusted pitchfork, a rusted metal wagon wheel, and a small rusted cart. Perhaps they are trying to infuse more iron into the soil.

And yes, deer love Impatiens. As soon as the last crackle of ice pushes away from shore, the home owners run to Wal-Mart, K-Mart, nursery’s, and Menard’s to buy colorful flowers for their planters, pots, gardens, and shepherd’s hooks. A favorite are red or pink Impatiens. One morning last summer I walked out my front door and said to myself, What happened to all my Impatiens? All the blossoms were gone and there was nothing left but the stems. Then I looked around the neighborhood and noticed everyone’s Impatiens were chewed down to the first leaf. A hungry momma deer obviously was showing her fawn around the community as they feasted on the little round flowers. Everybody’s Impatiens disappeared overnight. The caravan of cars headed out to Wal-Mart that afternoon.

Perhaps I should take up this lawn art tradition. My house is filled with items I don’t really have a use for anymore. The front yard is beckoning. The fishing net has a hole it in – it would make a perfect trellis for a climbing vine. I have a lamp without a shade – a unique bird feeder. My cooler’s lid doesn’t close anymore – a receptacle for Geraniums. The possibilities are endless. I don’t think our HOA would mind. After all, it’s art – on the lawn. (Get up, Art, it’s time for dinner.)