Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Sometimes you have to fall back on the important stuff.
WHERE THE SUN COMES UP. Yesterday was a bummer. Every screaming idiot in the universe seemed to be in full cry, and every observable outcome was bad. In the finale last night, Jack Bauer didn't kill every employee of CTU and the government. Laila Ali was doomed to lose Dancing with the Stars by judges who think breasts, hips, and estrogen are abominations against the natural beauty of the human race. The Republican Party upped the ante in its irrational impulse toward suicide by libelling its most faithful adherents for their "bigoted" rejection of an immigration bill designed to swell the ranks of the Democratic Party to an insuperable majority. Leonardo DiCaprio got abundant friendly press for his "Apres moi, le Deluge" pronouncement that Global Warming should compel our children to live like cavemen rather than movie stars. A former vice president of the United States (nicely defended with respect to his opulent lifestyle by Leonardo DiCaprio) hurled hysterical imprecations against the president of the United States. And a former president of the United States slandered both the current president of the United States and the prime minister of the United Kingdom just because he could.
Most of this nonsense can be tolerated. But the two most important news items can't be. It's impossible to accept that Jack Bauer has more family than the Waltons (Does James Bond have a father, a brother, a nephew, a witless sister-in-law, and a Lincoln-esque ex-girlfriend distracting him from battling Smersh?) and more family issues than clips for his Glock. It's horrifying that the dance vote in America rests in the hands of 10 million dotty women who prefer a a diminutive speed skater and a fat boy-band has-been to the electrifying daughter of the greatest athlete in recorded human history. The mind boggles.
Since the mind can only take so much boggling, I've learned to take a step back when the news gets too bad. You should too. If you don't already live there, move to the country. It won't unboggle the mind, but the boggling that does occur is of a much more manageable variety.
For example, the picture at the top of this post is of turkey eggs. The nest is situated at the base of an aged willow tree no more than fifty feet from the house.
The eggs are hidden in the day lilies.
Now here's something worth boggling over. Are turkeys as stupid as they say? Or are they smarter than we think? We have two turkeys living on the property -- a mama and a papa -- and we're nonplussed that they've chosen our little patch of country to be their home.
If your own experience of free-range turkeys consists of seeing them run panic-stricken from every sound and movement they encounter, you'd be hard put to explain this particular domestic arrangement. Our yard is not the most somnolent of habitations. There are two driveways, subject to the usual coming and going of vehicles that seem to unnerve even large flocks of turkeys. Gardening occurs on a regular basis, accompanied by lavish amounts of swearing and tool throwing. At least a couple times a week, a very loud lawn tractor veers hither and yon, flinging stones and weed clippings in all directions. Less than a hundred feet from Mama's nest, there's also a terrifying noisemaker from Milwaukee that erupts into a frightening din on no regular schedule.
The tractor and the noisemaker live in the little house at the far left.
The noisemaker perilously close to the nest.
Granted, there's a tolerably decent view from the nest, both east and west, but don't expectant mothers prize peace over the picturesque?
Mama's view west.
Mama's view east.
One more thing. Did I forget to tell you that this is a mixed marriage? We don't pass judgment about such things down here in the country -- live and let live is our motto -- but color can definitely be a factor. Papa turkey is the standard tweed color of most wild turkeys. Mama, however, is snow white. Which means that if you happen to pass too close to the nest and she decides to vamoose, any humans on the scene are overwhelmed by an explosion of whiteness so blinding that it could precipitate a heart attack. To date, this has happened twice. First, when I was cutting grass (or what passes for grass in our wilderness), which was no big deal, really, because I came to only a few hours later and finished the mowing without the least outward sign that twenty years had been amputated from my lifespan in a nanosecond. Second, when that exceptionally pleasant older man from the junkyard came to haul away the rusted old pickup truck I installed opposite the willow two years ago just to show our new neighbors I knew the kind of lawn ornaments that are de rigeur in South Jersey. I swear the poor old duffer actually clutched his chest and called out to the Lord when Mama took flight from the day lilies two feet to his left. She could fly, too. She cleared all the trees to the northeast at about thirty miles per hour. (I'm thinking she's not a domestic turkey but a kind of wild Jean Harlow specimen, only more athletic.) I had to give him a smoke and a shot of bourbon to stabilize his cardial rhythms before he could proceed with the rest of his day.
I don't know. Maybe the mowing is worth it for the smell of cut grass, which is sweet and fine regardless of your species, and the gardening brings the songbirds in profusion, which must be a wonderful orchestral lullabye for gestating young'uns in their shells. The views east and west, as I've said, are soothing. But there's still the puzzle of why both Mama and Papa put up with what's happening due north. That's where the sighthound run is located. Three or four times a day, two greyhounds and a deerhound charge out of the big white box into the open air, and they see EVERYTHING. The deerhound in particular feels compelled to comment whenever he sees a turkey. He says, "HOO HOO HOO HOO HOO." Then he springs about five feet straight into the air and says, "HOO HOO HOO HOO HOO."
Due North: "HOO HOO HOO HOO HOO."
It's true that Mama never puts in an appearance while all this is going on, but Papa does. He strolls in, his head jerking back and forth in a sort of perpendicular Oprah motion, and makes his way to the bird feeders located about twenty feet from the slavering hoo-hooing ones. HE DOESN'T CARE ABOUT THEM AT ALL. It's hard not to reach the conclusion that turkeys, supposedly the dimmest of the entire feathered branch of the zoological community, can conceptualize the impenetrability of a fence. Either that, or Papa can somehow envision the import of a scene he never gets to see:
Psmith and Andrew: "We're hunter-killers."
The predatory instinct doesn't go away when the sighthounds come inside. Since the turkeys arrived, a sort of rotating guard has been established in the room that overlooks the garden. The lead sentinel is the greyhound shown above: Andrew. When he arrived in the household, Andrew was timid and made it a practice to embarrass close friends of the family by acting as if they were child molesters or people who made campaign contributions to Global Warming. Now he's the d'Artagnan of turkey terrorism. He stations himself at the window and waits for the tweed interloper to show his face. Which means it's time to BARK. And BARK. And BARK. You get the idea.
You can't let the turkeys invade.
Papa Turkey is particularly fond of the corn the woodpeckers peck out of the feeders. He motors right up to the best spot, about ten feet from the window, and goes to town while the greyhounds BARK. (The pug also barks but she's no sighthound, so it's safe to say she's never laid eyes on the turkey and has no idea whatsoever what he looks like.) Confronted by a nearly constant wall of barking during his trips to the feeder, Papa Turkey -- huge and more dignified than Edward Arnold -- DOESN'T CARE AT ALL.
The mind boggles. But pleasantly. And that's a tremendous relief. Even so, the greatest sigh of relief will be heaved when the eggs hatch. I still can't believe Mama has no concerns about the hullaballoo surrounding her nest. It would be great to be proved wrong. Which I mostly never am. Or why would I be so depressingly right about Jack Bauer and Laila Ali?