Tanglewood wildlife

June 15, 2014 8pm
W/​S, NC

My Father’s-Day day start­ed a bit ear­ly. Fri­day, I was able to pick up the kids from school on their last day of school and so we head­ed out to Tan­gle­wood Park, an estate owned by the Reynolds tobac­co fam­i­ly now donat­ed to the coun­ty, and went on to Mal­lard Lake. I want­ed to take them out on the pad­dle boats. After some cajol­ing and then threat­en­ing to maroon them with the con­ces­sion-stand staff if they did not board the pad­dle boat, I got us underway.

The lake sur­face is glass-smooth. It’s bro­ken only momen­tar­i­ly by the wakes of water-skeeters careen­ing, whizzing and spi­ral­ing out of the boat’s way; it’s like watch­ing time-lapse pho­tog­ra­phy of win­dow-frost form­ing and sub­li­mat­ing away. I only men­tion all this because Scar­lett is point­ing this out to me.

Jack and Mac are seat­ed in back watch­ing their own show, now and then ask­ing to go back­wards to look at some­thing clos­er, some­thing just under the water—nominally a gator but usu­al­ly just some branch or rock sub­merged and appear­ing to gen­tly bob, break­ing the sur­face predatorily.

We are all alone on the Lake except for a Great Blue Heron1 watch­ing us ped­al clos­er and clos­er, casu­al­ly dip­ping its head into the water and then look­ing side­ways at us. Even­tu­al­ly we get too close and with a flap or two of its wings it sails a few hun­dred feet away in ten sec­onds that took us 10 min­utes to ped­al across.

Scar­lett, of course, is up front and along­side me; she is furi­ous­ly ped­al­ing and try­ing to steer the boat along the shore and under­neath the over­hang­ing tree branch­es where the shade is cool­ing and wel­com­ing to us after being baked in our life-vests cross­ing the mid­dle of the lake, devoid of all breeze, the sun­light hit­ting us full-force.

We trawl along the shore­line qui­et­ly, eyes-peeled for any sur­face-sign of what lies beneath. The kids imag­i­na­tion are primed to be played with and so every ‘plop’, ‘ker­plunk’ or loud rip­ple becomes a shark swim­ming under­neath the boat— “You’re Gonna Need a Big­ger Boat,” I tell the kids— or a mys­te­ri­ous wave is real­ly a Burmese Python come north from Flori­da.

Even­tu­al­ly, even I start to believe what I’m telling the kids is in this lake, because at one point I see a pair of frog-legs the size of my arms zip by. Of course, none of the kids see it but they believe me. Soon, Mac sug­gests it’s time to head back to shore. Our hunt for Nessie over.

Get­ting off the boats, the kids then start walk­ing along the shore­line. We spot a tur­tle that is repeat­ed­ly div­ing under and then a minute lat­er pop­ping its head out, look­ing at us and then div­ing again, some­times pop­ping up clos­er, some­times far­ther from us and does appear to be sur­rep­ti­tious­ly tail­ing us. I don’t under­stand what I am see­ing until Mac asks if we can get some bread we brought along from the Jeep and soon the kids are chuck­ing grape-sized globs of bread at the tur­tle who is pluck­ing them from under­neath. Of course. Lots of kids come to this lake and this tur­tle knows it’s feed­ing time.

So for a few min­utes this goes on until I notice a cou­ple of ducks wad­dling towards us from over the hill near the playground—An Amer­i­can Perkin duck and a Wood duck. They are head­ed straight for us. Soon the kids are being aggres­sive­ly pan­han­dled by the pair, like sea­soned grifters work­ing Times Square. Again, lots of kids have been here and the ducks know a mark when they see one. They must have cleaned up the play­ground, work­ing the crowd and then saw us and decid­ed to check out the action. The ducks are not exact­ly vio­lent in their pes­ter­ing for bread from the kids, but if a duck can—and these two can—they con­vey a rough­ness, a coarse­ness, like two hobos on the lam.

To wrap up, we ran out of the bread and the ducks adiós us and we head to the play­ground and the kids find oth­er kids to play with and even Mac who tends to go solo plays well with oth­ers. The play­ground equip­ment is alter­na­tive­ly turned into a space­ship that has run out of fuel or a pirate’s ship run aground need­ing urgent repairs.

Envoyé de mon miniPad

  1. which I only thought lived in Ore­gon that I took as a good omen back then and take as such here now []


Jan 23 2013

It’s a cold night and the air is still and feels frozen sol­id, no longer flow­ing unno­ticed. The sky is very clear and the moon is flash-light bright. For some rea­son, the cold­er the night, the more apt I am to take Jack out for a walk. Jack nev­er objects to being out­side and Scar­lett joins in; she joins in, because some­one is doing some­thing she is not. Scar­lett does not abide.

Where we are right now the sky is not blud­geoned into a schmear of grey, lit up street-light yel­low from the city below. The sky is an inky black-blue which lets the stars stand out pre­cise­ly and pristine­ly. We stare up at the white-bright moon and Jack tells me, ‘I see the moon, dad­dy.’ Scar­lett then tells me the same thing. We stroll down the side­walk next to our house, clear­ing the walk of small branch­es and bram­bles blown down by the recent, strong winds from the West.

This is about Jack, finally.

Jack enjoys these walks. He should; his feet are built for it. Large for his size, they stick out like planks and fur­ther accen­tu­ate his reed­i­ness which Arnæzs’s are not known for. His feet look tougher and more weath­ered than our cir­cum­stances would indi­cate: We are not holler-ed in hill coun­try nor dust-bowled on the Plains. His life is not hard-scrab­bled to explain the lack of excess in body and action he exhibits. Unlike Mac and Scar­lett who’ve devel­oped a propen­si­ty for flour­ish­es in body and mind, Jack­’s acts are effi­cient and clear. His body is already ath­let­i­cal­ly lean and his move­ments are steadi­ly prac­ticed. If he wants that cook­ie, he acts only toward that end with­out fail. Be it a cook­ie in a cab­i­net or fifty feet up on a ledge.

It is this phys­i­cal self-depen­den­cy that I think explains Jack’s lack of speech. Until very recent­ly Jack was mute. I’d like to believe it’s because he had noth­ing to say. If he need­ed some­thing and he could see it, then phys­i­cal­ly he could do what­ev­er nec­es­sary to get it. The times he could­n’t act but need­ed to com­mu­ni­cate some men­tal-state, his per­spic­u­ous grunts and ges­tures demon­strat­ed to me1 how cave­man got along dur­ing most of the Holocene until true speech evolved. But I’m glad to say that in the past few months sur­round­ing his third birth­day, his speech has improved immense­ly and he is quick­ly com­ing up to par with his sibling’s ver­bosi­ty and while it’s still hard to under­stand him, if his speech devel­ops any­where near his phys­i­cal abil­i­ties, I will be a bit scared about get­ting into argu­ments with him. Also, I’m afraid he’ll just beat me up.

Some more about Jack.

Jack is cau­tious and adven­ture­some. I’ve yet to see him repeat the same mis­take or be fooled twice. How­ev­er, this does­n’t mean he is ret­i­cent; he’s the least timid of our kids. At parks, he has climbed high­er than a little-kid’s par­ent ought to let him. It’s nerve-wrack­ing to watch. Fre­quent­ly, anoth­er par­ent will move in and hov­er around him, until I tell them not to mind and that it took me a while to relax and get used to see­ing Jack tee­ter­ing on the edge, up high and look­ing down at the rest us and usu­al­ly smil­ing because he knew he was mak­ing us ner­vous. But this boy is not rash. He knows he’s up high and knows it will hurt if he falls. He’s fall­en and cried, but unlike Mac and Scar­lett who will make sure we know they’ve fall­en, he will brush him­self off, espe­cial­ly his hands, wip­ing them—surprisingly fas­tid­i­ous­ly on his pants—and get back up and go at it again, know­ing full well what made him fall.

He is unceas­ing motion from the moment he gets up: climb­ing, jump­ing, run­ning, inde­fati­ga­ble until about 6:30 pm when he will ask for his pooh-bear and his binky. Being only min­utes from falling aseep, he will climb into your lap and nes­tle his head into your left shoul­der. You will take him up, put him in bed and say ‘go to sleep, Jack’ and he will reply, ‘Oo-kay’ and then pass out, the on-switch final­ly being switched off.

Feb 3, 2013 6:08pm gea

  1. see Ges­tur­al the­o­ry on the ori­gin of lan­guage []

New Year’s Day

Head­ing home from Indi­ana, we are on a long trip and a 70’s sta­tion is on and the kids are in the back all asleep. We’ve been on the road for hours and still have hours to go and the mrs is asleep. I’ve picked the 70’s sta­tion because you can feel that peo­ple were just try­ing to relax after those 60’s and some­how knew the 80’s were com­ing and so it’s son­i­cal­ly a warm, fuzzy place for me to hang out and relax and dri­ve and then I imag­ine for a moment I’m Every­man on that long ride. I have this expe­ri­ence of actu­al being—it’s tran­scen­dent: I know I’m not the only one who’s been here in this moment nor will I be the last and just for those few min­utes that the Eagle’s ‘Already Gone’ plays on radio, I am exact­ly where I want and was meant to be.

And ABBA, I play a lot of ABBA and hope that it soaks into every­one while they are asleep.