Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Hide in Plain Sight

When they made our driveway, they basically cut through a swell in the ground, so there “mountain” on one side, and “valley” on the other. The “valley” side is lined with lots of brush, but just as one reaches the frontage road, there is a break in the brush that offers a clear view into the thicket. At this one spot lie the remains of an old tree, and one of its branches sort of arcs up into the air. A chipmunk frequently sits on this branch, and so when we pass that spot as we stroll down the driveway on our daily walk, we always look down there to see if the chipmunk is sitting on the rotting branch. Only in recent weeks in addition to occasionally seeing the chipmunk, this rabbit has been hunkered down amongst the dead leaves and bark. We have seen it quite a few times, always in the same spot. The first time R saw it he said it looked like it was sitting on a nest. Which of course prompted a comment about “the Easter bunny” sitting on eggs. Finally I made him take the camera one day to get a picture of it. From this picture, the rabbit doesn’t look too well hidden – I mean it’s clear as a bell that it’s sitting there (and yes, the green plant to the left that is starting to turn color for fall is our old friend poison ivy). Actually though, the rabbit blends in very well with the surroundings, and if you aren’t paying attention, your eye tends to slide right by it without seeing it. In fact, R had some trouble finding the rabbit in the viewfinder, and of the 5 shots he took of it before it finally had enough and bolted, only one of the pictures actually has the entire rabbit in it. I think ability of this rabbit to “hide in plain sight” has some interesting implications for those of us who profess to be Christians. How well do we blend into our surroundings? How visible are we, anyway? The rabbit is well camouflaged as a defense against predators. Are we hiding? If so, who from.... and, more important, why?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Where ‘ya Headed... or, Why’d the Worm Cross the Road?

Beats the heck out us! The tomato hornworm, one of the most hated of the garden pests, comes from one of the most interesting moths – the sphinx moth or hummingbird moth. This fairly large moth is out during the daytime and hovers in front of flowers just like a hummingbird (hence its name); and, just like the hummingbird, it has a long tongue that it sticks down the flower to suck the nectar. So a week ago while we were on our noon walk, we came across a tomato hornworm crawling down the middle of the road, “miles” away from the nearest tomato plant. True, they do eat other plants, such as nightshade and jimson weed, which do grow in the area, but again, not anywhere even remotely close to the road (the state keeps the right-of-way fairly well mowed down). So where did it come from? I took off my hat and scooped it up and put in on the grass by the church yard. And the next day on our noon walk on the way out, there was another tomato hornworm crawling down the middle of the road. Was this the same one that I had rescued the day before? R says “Leave it alone.” So I did, and when we were on the homeward leg of the journey, there it was, still crawling on the road – it must have been going in circles or something. So I gathered it up and put it on the side of the road. It was not there the next day, but over the next week we saw a virtual army of other various types of caterpillars and wormy things crawling on the road. And then yesterday, at least a week after the first incident, there was yet again another tomato hornworm crawling down the middle of the road. I asked Richard if could I bring it back to the house, put it in a jar and feed it some tomato leaves to see what would happen. He did not equivocate: “Absolutely not. We are NOT breeding tomato hornworms!” Ok, ok. But still, the minor mystery remains. Walking on a treadmill instead of on the road accomplishes the same thing, but it sure is a lot less interesting.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Grandpa Dittemore

This is Walter Dittemore, the grandpa I never got to meet. Aside from his wedding picture, this is the only picture I have of him. I love it. I think maybe he had just taken a bath and had gotten dressed, but forgot to put his shoes on, and sat down with his little girl (my mother). But on this day, October 9 in 1936, just before she was 10 years old, their lives changed forever. It happened to be a Friday, and I suspect the day started out much like any other day on their small ranch near Elbert, Colorado. At some point during the day, Walter got his gun, saddled the horse, and headed off across the fields. Maybe he was going to shoot a rabbit for dinner, or maybe a coyote that was eating the chicken. Eventually, the horse came back, but Walter didn’t. They found him later on the ground, dead. They think the horse probably stumbled, the gun went off, and the bullet hit Walter. That day changed my mother’s life forever. Knowing how much I love my own father, I can’t even image the devastating loss that must have been for her, not to mention her mother and her brother. If I had the chance to go back in time and tweak things just a bit so that he had not died, would I do it? There’s a question. I guess I wouldn’t. Because his death was the beginning of a chain of events that led the little family to California, where my mother eventually met my dad. So, going back to fix things for her would “undo” me, and my brothers and sister and heaven only knows where else those ripples would have gone. As terrible as the past sometimes is, I guess it is a good thing that we can’t “fix” it. I hope we will recognize our loved ones in Heaven. I want to thank this man with the kind face for loving my mother and being a good father to her, so that she was able to choose a good man for her own husband, who eventually became my father.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Location, location, location

Although Fall is officially here, it is still very much summer in the Ozarks. The last flowers of summer are putting on a dazzling display, mostly yellow but also some purple asters and white flowers as well. It’s still very noisy: The crickets, grasshoppers, and the other singing insects are still serenading us throughout the day and night; I even heard a cicada yesterday, this late in the year. And the attraction to moths of the light streaming from the bedroom window at night has also attracted a large, pale brown spider to build its web right in front of the bedroom window just about every night. It is a perfect spot, and the spider has been quite successful. As the phrase goes, “location is everything.” R went out on the deck last night to look at it while I was in the shower and pretty soon he was in the bathroom with me washing his hands. His response when I stuck my head around the shower curtain: “I put my hand on the door when I went out and touched a slug” (been there, done that; slug slime is very hard to wash off, take my word for it). The other night we were outside at 10 p.m. looking at two of the same type of spider. They were building webs in front of house. At night, I have to bring in the lard mixture I feed the birds because the raccoons get it and I noticed them when I went out. One was right in front of the maple tree where I hang the lard mixture and the other was right across the driveway near the walnut tree. R remarked that I would have an obstacle course in the morning, but I reminded him that it wasn’t likely to happen – these spiders only build at night, and then they take the web down while it is still dark out, so that by morning there is nothing to show that a spider was ever there. Soon this amusement will be gone: the first frost isn’t far off. The moths will quit flying to the light, and whatever happens to the spiders in the winter will happen, and the crickets will quit singing, and the silence of winter will settle over the land.