Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Missed Names

June 4, 2013 6 a.m. Pond Report:

Piston's Toy
Todd is home so I'm relieved of early morning dog duty. Yet, curiosity drags me out of bed...what's happening on Elmira Pond?

Well, not much. The waters are still, the toads have thankfully corked the tuba-calls for now and not even the geese are cutting currents across the waters. In the pasture north of the pond, the horses are up. They were sleepy-heads yesterday morning, bedded beneath the old apple tree.

Piston Plays
The gelding, Piston--and don't get too attached to that name--found a toy. What might have been a Rubbermaid garbage can is now battered black plastic. I watch him grab an edge with his teeth as he tosses his head in a vigorous nod then throws the can a couple feet in the air.

Horses have humor. It's also said that horses reflect their owners. Now, I'm not Piston's owner, but lately, we've been bonding, enough to think he's picking up on my sense of "let's have fun!" I laugh at his toy-tossing and snap a quick shot for later, then slip back into bed until I can smell the coffee Todd brews.

June 4, 2013 10 a.m. Pond Report:

A-ha! I see you Blue Heron! Stealth-stalking frogs once more is my favorite long-legged pond bird. Blue Heron is wary of me, though. The minute I step outside, ever so careful to close the door quietly, he's ducked into the reeds. I sing, he hides. Such is our fragile relationship.

Blue Heron in Reed Pose
So, I set up the morning bird-spotting station on the south porch--a camping chair, oak t.v. tray, binoculars, bird book, bible, mug of coffee and Nikon D-80 with the miserably-too-short lens for capturing birds. Todd bought me my wonderful camera, including a snazzy telephoto lens, but the first outdoor excursion to remote northern Wisconsin I dropped the lens into the sandy bank of a lake. An amateur's heart-break.

Prowling This Way...
Between sips of coffee, pondering the Israelite's inheritance in the "Book of Joshua" and warming my bare feet on the sun-soaked boards of the porch, I wonder what osprey are. Birds, I know, but by what name.

...And That Way
I'm not good at names. My brain neurons fire keenly for curiosity and connection, for the stuff of good stories. I can tell you someone's tale, but not recall her name. I love that song...you know, the one by that singer. It's not age, it's simply a brain misfire I was born with. If I can "feel" a name, I can keep in easy recall. Often, it's why I come up with nick-names.

Yet, by what name does an osprey go? A hawk? A raptor? My bird book says, diurnal...this is venturing into Todd's territory. I'm good with the story flow, he's the master of correct details. Diurnal? That only leads me to terms like "accipitridae" and "falconidae." Ospreys are "pandionidae." Yet, the classification is based on ancestry.

Just like in the "Book of Joshua" with all those names that muddle about in my brain. I can't remember them, but I read, recognizing their importance. And, I know that osprey descend from an ancient family, too.

Ah...but there's Blue Heron again! I watch him eat a bull frog, legs poking out his mouth and a huge lump bulges in his outstretched neck. And I rejoice.

June 4, 2013 4 p.m. (or so) Pond Report:

Todd gets out his fly-rod and strings the reel. It has been so long, but the old excitement creeps into my bones and I remember adventures from when we were fly-flingers in Montana. He flung flies at fish, cussed and I watched kids clamber over granite boulders. In Minnesota we flung flies together in one of the few cold-spring fed streams in the southern part of the state.

We call it fly-flinging because we didn't actually catch fish, which is my favorite type of fishing.

Ready to Fling Flies
Todd's curious to know what the osprey and mergansers are hunting. I grab my camera and abandon the garden, following him down the trail like days of old. The pond is so full, it overflows from one pasture to another and he pushes through the wires of the fence and I hedge my bets on having a good enough spot for shots. The horses harass him, and I giggle.

June Sky Reflected in the Pond
From the pond reeds where Blue Heron had stepped earlier, I can hear my dogs barking. Then I see a woman come into the pasture. It's the horse-owner and I wave. She stopped, having seen us in the pasture and worried the horses were stuck. I ponder stuck for a moment, not sure what that would be, but point them out to her. Ears perked forward and standing in the willows, they watch Todd fling flies.

We chat and I mention Piston's new toy.

"Piston?" she asks, "You mean Pistol."

Looking South Across the Western Edge
"Oh, Pistol, sorry, I thought it was Piston."

She smiles.

"And the mare is Spark?" I ask, knowing I'm already wrong.

"Snatch," she answers. And I laugh; how could I forget a name like that!

Flinging Flies on the Eastern Edge
Ah, and here comes the story. They named her Snatch because she was such a mean little filly, but when their kids started calling the mare Snatch, they realized they needed an emergency name change. Her name is Snapper. Better to call a sassy horse that nips, Snapper.

Todd gives up the fishing part of his curiosity and comes back to where we stand in the wet grass on the edge of Elmira Pond. He hasn't met Justine's wife (I know it's Justine because he gave me his business card and he looks like the kind of cowboy to be named after boots).

"Todd, this is Justine's wife, Christine," I introduce.

"Uh, it's Liz." They shake hands and I shake my head.

"Yeah, and I was wrong about the horses, too." I wonder if after 25 years Todd just accepts he'll be relearning any name I tell him. That's grace.

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