Tanglewood wildlife

June 15, 2014 8pm

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 adios 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.