[lit-ideas] Hereabouts

  • From: David Ritchie <profdritchie@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 2 Aug 2015 11:30:04 -0700

Chickens have decided we have a tree surplus hereabouts. It began with
Appenzeller's attack on the lemon tree which I have grown from seed and
nurtured through several winters. When we returned from vacation we found a
shriveled and dry thing, which I was barely able to save. Much of the pot's
dirt lay on the ground below. Appenzeller too. Other eco-thugs have now
turned on the chestnut and the cherry, both young trees. We've had to pile up
tiles, rocks, pieces of wood to deter chicken assault on the roots, which makes
watering difficult.
Standing there with slow hose, I muttered to the assembled and innocent-looking
flock, "Go eat polystyrene." There's an old jacuzzi cover under the compost.
The chickens have pecked through the plastic surround and, whenever I'm not
there to stop them, they gobble small white balls. I can only assume these pass
through the digestive system like lightweight rocks, but I have no science to
back this. Maybe I should try some kind of witches dunk test? I add piles of
dirt atop the tree roots and the jacuzzi cover. I warn the chickens that a dead
tree can fall quite suddenly on unsuspecting beasts below. Accidentally, or
when pushed.

On Friday we were up past midnight, singing. L's cousin has the ability to
translate any tune you hum--even ones I hum-- into a piano arrangement. We
were nine for dinner and afterwards had at, "Danny Boy," "Waltzing Matilda,"
"Bread and Roses." Facing a mountain like, "Danny Boy," my tactic is to leave
the summit to those with ability; I enjoy reaching camps one, two and three. I
mention this noise-making as preamble to making the point that even though I'm
noisy once in a while, generally I am fond of quiet, especially in the garden.
I go outside in search of peace. My neighbors seem to step outside only when
armed with a chainsaw, leaf-blower or compressor. I think they're afraid of

There's nothing quite like calling New York to remind you of your place in the
world. I do not live in paradise, but people here are often both nice and
kind, reinforcing the illusion that no one much minds that I'm taking up space.
Calling New York disabuses one of such notions.
Voice one: "You'll have to call another number. They're another department and
I can't put you through."
"I'll do that."
Voice two: "You want Ms. D. I'll connect you."
I get voice three. "Wait a minute." Long pause. We introduce ourselves. I
explain why I'm calling. "Say that again." I do.
It emerges that Ms. D. doesn't much like her job or the telephone or people who
use the telephone. I'm with her on at least two of those views, but we fail to
find common ground. Maybe when we talk again on Monday, I'll mention she could
try moving somewhere nicer. But not here.

Thinking of singing: Paris' soccer team has a guy named Trapp in goal. Not von
Trapp, and he's not their captain.

I report to you as a scientist, week after week, what I have understood the
chickens to have said and what I think it means, but I am imperfect. Case in
point: the chickens often gather of an evening outside the kitchen door. I
have assumed all along, without actually asking why, that they are there with
two aims, begging and safety. But this week the windows were open and so while
I gathered up scraps, I overheard the evening conversation.
"Ladies, we gather once again to thank those who govern our world for the
manifest and abundant tranquility, for the freedom to roam, for the ready
availability of food ..."
"For protection from bears..."
"It's not always tranquil...be precise...
"For safety at night..."
"For protection from artistic inspiration..."
Cheddar said, "You never know when inspiration might strike. Like trees."
"So you're thanking the gods for protection from possible future inspiration?"
"Why not? Otherwise we might end up painting."
"What's painting?"
"It's like scratching in the dirt, but more aspirational"
"Does anyone else aspire?"
There was a good deal of head woggling.
"I think I've aspires to wanting longer flights? That might be nice."
"Long flights can be uncomfortable."
"Who said that?"
"I did. And squirrels."
"Do squirrels fly?"
"Not that I've seen."
"Don't know what they're on about then, do they?"
"Show me a squirrel with wings and I'll show you someone who knows what he's
talking about."
"Very useful things, wings. Imagine being a squirrel in this heat. All that
fur and no wings to flap."
"Oooooh no. I wouldn't like that."
"No, no."
"You definitely need wings in hot weather."
"Also gratitude."
"It can be rewarding, gratitude."
"Look, there's a god."
I'd appeared on their radar, so like a plane scattering chaff, I threw rice out
the window.
"It's raining riiiiiiiice."
"We should thank gratitude."

David Ritchie,
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