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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Life, Death, Suburbs

      Out for a walk with toddler grandson, I hear tapping in a tree. I walk around it until I spot a woodpecker high on a branch. I pick Edward up and point out the bird. We both stare until it finishes its lunch and flies away. The scene comes to mind as I’m watching “Nature” and hear the Himalayas described as “a place to see the power of nature and the fragility of life.” So is our suburban neighborhood.
     In the Himalayas, a snow leopard stalks and chases a markhor goat. Right under my front window, a cat battles a black snake. They freeze and stare at each other. When the snake finally makes a move, the cat pounces. The snake slithers up the wall, drops, tries to hide under the wood siding, is batted out by the cat. They spar for a good half hour until both give up and wander away. In that same front yard, a crane has stalked a lizard in the mondo grass, and flocks of ibis stroll through occasionally, nibbling at the lawn. Down by the library, an alligator lives in a drainage ditch.
     As Edward and I kick a ball back and forth, sparrows begin to peep in the oaks and dash from branch to branch. A mockingbird calls and glides to another tree. I wonder what the fuss is about. Then comes the indescribable whistling “scree” of a hawk, and there it is, wheeling in its self-assured way high above the houses. One of them glided into our back yard when it saw a snake entangled in netting that I wrapped around a fig tree to keep squirrels away. I saw it from the kitchen window, hopping forward to snap at the snake, but pulling back as the netting tangled its talons. By the time it gave up, it had made a long gash in the side of the snake. Some little birds, diving and chirping, drove it away. The snake had pulled the netting so tight, I couldn’t work a blade in to cut it loose. I saw the eyes lose their light.
     The nature program shows people erecting an enormous flag-bedecked pole that is supposed to convey their prayers to the mountain top where their gods reside. Mine goes with me all the time. He shows His character in great oaks that grow from acorns, in the smooth bark of crape myrtles, in fluorescent fuchsia ti leaves and the exotic yellow-flowered shrub that my South American neighbor says can help regulate diabetes. This created world has neighbors who smile and garbage truck drivers who honk the horn and collectors who wave to my grandson and make him feel like the center of the universe. And I get to stand there with him.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Swift News Service; This Just In

          The Wekilla Mall of Baffin Island announces a new tenant called “Curtains,” a women’s health center with an unusual approach to financing: seal pelt harvesting. “We want to keep our contraceptives and breast exams as inexpensive as possible, especially since we don’t actually do mammograms and have to send clients to the mainland for them,” explained director Jane Brazen. “We have a deal with Charon Ferry Line, but it still costs money.”
          Curtains staff will travel to fur-seal breeding grounds every spring to “club as many baby seals as we can,” according to Ms. Brazen. “It’s labor-intensive too. We tried using a big vacuum hose, but it tore off the flippers and made a mess of the pelts.”
          Asked whether anyone had expressed moral objections to the seal harvest, Ms. Brazen said, “Oh, only a few ignorant and closed-minded people who hate women and want to force their beliefs on others. Besides, the seals are only about three percent of our business. We give out at least three dozen condoms for every seal we terminate.”
          Wekilla Mall will host a grand opening for Curtains on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. with drinks and snacks. Children are invited to play the action-packed “Whack-A-Seal” game at the front of the mall. Wekilla Mall is at 666 Reaper Boulevard in suburban Dark Soul. All are welcome.