November 7, 2016

Today was a work day, but I took a break and stopped by Farmer Orville’s house. The temperature was seventy-five, and mosquitoes were in a feeding frenzy. And miracle of miracles, I picked a ripe tomato and two red and orange peppers. Green tomatoes were still growing, still ripening.

Ruby Puppy and Reba the farm dog were chasing each other and mock fighting in the far meadow. Incredibly, the beehive was active, and sulfur butterflies still floated above the ground like small yellow-green leaves. Gnat clouds roiled at head height.

Orville, his beloved Quilt Queen and I had coffee and talked with dread about election day tomorrow. There was no joy in Mudville, in the warming neo spring.

And then I walked home and sat on the front stoop and watched the birds diving at my feeder. Two pair of cardinals, a blue jay, countless house finches, nuthatches, black-capped chickadees, juncos and some south-migrating, striped thrushes: all these competed for sunflower seeds.

A murder of crows raised an unholy ruckus of squawks, meaning that an owl or a hawk were perched nearby. And sure enough, the Cooper’s hawk which has been stalking the bird feeder, rose up from an oak tree and screeched: busted.

A special guest, a northern flicker sent all the other birds scattering like bowling pins. Its head was brilliant scarlet, its breast mottled. The flicker’s body was three songbirds large, too big for the space; it couldn’t perch on the seed platform. It grasped the rim of the feeder with its claws and seesawed up and down, plucking up seeds on the upswing.

Those birds waiting for a turn scurried along the ground in and out of fallen, bright-colored sassafras and maple leaves. The leaves rippled, a winding stream of compost and splinters.

Birds are calming, songful, comical, scolding. The nuthatches run down the tree bark, and the chickadees perch on the ends of twigs, replacement ornaments for the once dressed-up dogwood tree.

What keeps birds, the evolutionary ancestors of dinosaurs, from attacking us in great swarms, like in a Hitchcock movie? Nothing. What stops dogs from eating their masters? Nothing. We are unique, an unrestrained species, and only we will stop us from extinction.

I’ve been watching Season Four of “House of Cards,” which eerily mirrors our county’s dilemma with its updated Macbeth theme of mad husband and wife who think nothing of a murder or two, for the greater good, themselves. The last line of the season, uttered by Kevin Stacy’s president as he stares at the camera: “We are the terrorists.”

I was so struck by the World Series, of the many ballplayers who mentioned their anxieties regarding historic legacies, as if history were a thing, not a human construct. History is a short list.

Which is why we always forget: to ‘never forget,’ and occasional monsters rise up and bloviate and trample us, and we beat them back, only to forget and grow complacent again.

Cue Nat King Cole, make a g & t with lime, and sit back, and hum along. ‘This too shall pass.’


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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