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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Wise Old Skink

I found the first draft of the following post in one of my writings folders where it wasn’t supposed to be.  I wonder if I already posted it here a year ago, which was probably when I wrote it.  Doesn’t matter.  I will just post it again, not least because the changes since then are no more significant than a finger’s single whirl of the hands of a clock.

It's always great to see in the Spring, after the vegetation is almost finished with turning green, to see that all the moving little animals and insects have come back from wherever they go and whatever they do in the long, cold Winters, when nothing is seen or heard of them.   In the cold weather their absences are so total that it seems that that situation will be permanent.   Though maybe those absences are not at all total.  Maybe, every once in a while, my senses -- challenged these days in several ways -- do nevertheless catch little things but they're not loud or vivid enough to cause me to take special notice -- a slight trill in the wind, a small scurrying under the dead leaves, a quick darting of something small and dark just beyond my fields of  vision.

But now here in the Spring the little moving things are at it again, in the same numbers as always, as if the cold and the darkness didn't diminish them in any way, here, there, and everywhere, in increasingly full color, sound, and definition with the passage of each successive day.

For the last several years an old five-lined skink has been living on the front deck of my workshop, under a big slatted box where I store firewood, and yesterday I was glad to see him for the first time this year.   And I know I will see him again and again, not always but often when I climb the three steps onto the deck.   He likes to scurry into sight from the edge of the deck, stop suddenly, and stay motionless for quite a long time, staring at me, and it's as if he's waiting to hear what I have to say for myself.   After a minute of that, he decides that I quite idiotically can't speak five-lined skink, and he scuttles on under the wood box, disappearing.

I call him "the wise, old skink," or "George," and I'm sure, though I can't really know, that he's the same one that reappears there, year after year.   I know he's old because he's a dark grayish brown all over.   Those who haven't looked it up always call his species just "lizards," though the likes of those who are graduates of MIT and who are therefore responsible for such things have classified them as being "five-lined skinks."  That's because when they're young their bodies are marked by a series of stripes that extend from the tips of their tails to their necks.   These lines, which must have most to do with the usual reproductive purposes, are a yellowish brown that alternates with same-sized stripes of blue that are so bright that these younger skinks  are among the most beautiful things to be seen in the animal kingdom around here.  

This year the wise old skink looked slightly different.   He stood higher off the deck than I remembered, and his body looked larger but shorter and more rounded.   Maybe his legs have grown longer, and maybe he's gotten a paunch.

I wonder if he saw comparable changes in me.   I'm sure he did.   But as always he kept his observations to himself and eventually stopped waiting for me and hustled on off about whatever his business might be.  

It's sobering to think how little we humans fit into the equations of the wild life around here.  They stop and wait for us to follow whatever whim comes into our minds or otherwise get out of their way.   Meanwhile they always do the same stuff that they always have done and always will do, give or take an eon or two, and they don't spend a lot of time showing up for examinations or applause.  I doubt that the same will ever be said of us, on the cosmic scale of things.

"My" Creek

Wow!  Can it really be that I have made no new posts in all of 2014 so far?

Yes, it actually looks to be that way!   Yet it can't be that in all that time I had nothing to say.  Nearly every morning I awoke to the ringing of lots of things in my head that I might have wanted to say and to post.  The Republicans and other Nasties of the world are still as toxic and repulsive and destructive and imbecilic and inexcusable as ever, with no signs whatsoever of lowering their voices or of raising their standards.  Nor did I stop writing things.  I just did those in other areas -- emails and some of my past stories.

I feel that I can't take credit or discredit for this seeming negligence on my part, and instead it would be convenient to blame it all on the passage of time and its ever increasing rate of speed wherever I might be involved.   Or it could all be summed up by one of the greatest glories of this property where I am so lucky to be spending most of these days building a new bridge, across "my" creek.

Time has definitely taken on the identity of my creek -- a masquerade of sorts.

Most days, like now, my creek -- our creek --  just ambles along, averaging about 10 feet across and about eight inches deep, clear, quietly eloquent.   But every once in a while, and not even every year, but definitely more frequently than in past periods, enough rain will fall all at one time that the water will have no time for all of it to soak into the ground, so instead it runs off to my creek and then to the river a mile away and then to another, larger river maybe 10 miles away and then to the ocean 200 miles away.    And when that happens, back here at home, it's never smart to get too close to my normally ambling, casual, absolutely safe little creek, because then it becomes nothing less than a raging monster, almost the same width as ever, but now ten times as deep and with the water pounding through with unbelievable speed and ferocity and carrying along rocks, logs, and any other projectiles it can get its hands on.

We are the only property owners who live full time on this creek, and it doesn't even become a full-fledged creek until the outlets from four springs much farther upstream unite just before coming onto our land.    So, as we have the lion's share of it, we get to see more of what it's doing all the time than anyone else, including when the heavens above turn it into a whole army of raging lions.

We are really lucky to have this creek, just a stone's throw down the slope from our house, and we know it.

What else can I say?