March 10, 2014

It was the first day over 70 degrees. The windows of Genehouse were open and the cat pawed at insects on the screens. All birds had nesting material in their beaks. A field full of robins moved frenetically like a crazed marching band, spearing worms. The air reeked of mating; it smelled like deep, dark, soft earth.

On my walk I saw two Cooper’s hawks acrobatically tumbling in the air, the male under the female, touching claw to beak. The first woman jogger in spandex ran past me, her winter-fatted buttocks rippling. Oh yes, mating was in the air—well, in my case, fantasizing about mating. And what was that ripple in the low meadows? Checker spot butterflies, tens of them, heating their wings and clinging to dried grasses—butterflies in March. ‘I know why the caged bird sings.’ ‘Will you love me; will you love me forever.’ With apologies to Maya Angelou and Mr. Meatloaf.

I walked to Piasa Creek and discovered it was still sheeted in ice, crisscrossed with cracks, the etched lines looking like Indian cave paintings. And, because I’m Gene and want to give you a full sensory experience, I walked the fifty across the ice, the frozen surface bending not breaking, picturing my pal Sheila S. rolling her eyes and my hotel boss Earl A. wincing at the thought of losing his blogger to spring drowning. Greenish carp wriggled underneath the ice.

I turned north onto Stanka Lane and there was Hummingbird Man, stripped to the waist as always, and working on a car. We exchanged waves. Hummingbirds cannot be far away. I climbed Stroke Hill on Stanka Lane, passing the greenhouse at mid-hill. Cars were parked three rows deep as dreamers lined up for greenery and flowers. One can only mate or dream on such a day—or both. And the lone bullfrog was joined by a chorus of spring peepers. A fat, obsidian-colored rat snake was stretched across the road, soaking up heat from the asphalt. I moved it to the pasture, lest some greenhouse dreamer squash it.

This was the last turn of my sixty-five laps on this earth. The sixty-sixth begins tomorrow, if I live. If nothing else, I have been the fool on the hill. I have loved and have been loved.

Water has been the guiding metaphor of my life: ‘“The world is mostly water.” I read that in the Adult side of our public library, when I was seven in the summer of 1955. Lake of the body, oceans cocooning our planet: I was fixated on this; water became my talisman, buried in the subconscious. Books about water on the right side, Children, in the context of anthropomorphic, happy animal stories, were plentiful. No characters talked about drowning, on the right side. The left Side, Adults, was where the truth was kept.’ From my book, “Confluence.”

Betsy. Caroline. A woman from the north country, who reads these Chronicles and so I cannot name her, but she knows. These were my loves. These are my dreams. Last night, Orion shone down from the heavens. Coyotes yipped. My resident screech owl emitted a blood curdling yowl. In the house, Scout the cat, perhaps dreaming of rabbits or mice, mewled in her sleep. She too is my love, as is Orion, as is Screech Owl, as are the coyotes.

As are you.

As are you.




About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: eugenebaldwin.com. I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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