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Skunks announce spring

Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Meeting

It’s important that I put my shoes in the closet with the left shoe to the left of the right shoe.

Superstitious?

No, it hurts my knees if I do it the other way.

Driving by Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor, named Bruce. Whenever I pass his drive, thoughts occur to me, such as: We got a mess of weather. As Ricky Ricardo (played by Desi Arnaz) on “I Love Lucy,” said, “Ay-yi-yi-yi-yi!” The remains of a melting snowman tipped over. I hoped it was the last snowfall of the season.

I spoke at a couple of things, did a seminar, and led a bus trip in Kearney, Nebraska, around the time of my birthday. My birthday is on St. Urho’s Day. The legend of St. Urho originated in Northern Minnesota in the 1950s. The myth has grown among North Americans of Finnish descent to where St. Urho is known and celebrated across the U.S., Canada and Finland. St. Urho’s Day is celebrated on March 16, the day before St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick is said to have driven the snakes from Ireland. St. Urho was to have chased the grasshoppers from Finland, thus saving the grape crop. He did this by uttering a phrase that roughly translated is, “Grasshopper, grasshopper, go away!” He’s celebrated by wearing royal purple and Nile green colors. There is a statue of St. Urho holding a pitchfork with a grasshopper impaled on it in the cities of Menahga and Finland in Minnesota. I wasn’t dressed in purple or green, nor armed with a pitchfork when I’d made a jocular crack about the lack of dessert at dinner. On the bus, I’d found a Twinkie in my breakfast bag. It was surprisingly good. At lunch in a smart hotel, friends served me two Twinkies with birthday candles aflame. Then, one-by-one, other friends walked to my table and each gave me a Twinkie or two. They placed some in my shirt pockets and took photos. My wife said she’d never seen me eat a Twinkie. I’d devoured a few when I was a lad. I’ll be able to survive the dark, cold nights of sprinter (spring with a lot of winter in it) because I have Twinkies to eat. I’ll drive the Twinkies out of my house by eating them. The mythical St. Urho should have eaten the grasshoppers as they’re still found in Finland.

I share a birthday with our fourth president, James Madison, who said things like, “Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?”

James Madison, St. Urho, Twinkies and I will abide.

Nature notes

Hal Borland wrote, “No winter lasts forever, no spring skips its turn.”

The smell of spring was in the air, compliments of a skunk. Spring was in the flight of migrating birds too. I encountered robins that had migrated back. I could tell because they were skittish and vociferous. The robins wintering here are hushed and reserved in comparison. Killdeer stirred, calling out their name excitedly. There were grackles galore. I once played the part of the mayor of a make-believe city named Grackle Junction, leaving me with a soft spot for grackles.

I saw tiny, black flecks sprinkled in the melting snow around the base of a tree. They were springtails called snow fleas.

Chipmunks chipped. Chipmunks don’t enter deep hibernation like ground squirrels. Chipmunks rely on food they’ve cached in their burrows. It’s good to see the little mammals in the spring, but some individuals become active on warm, sunny, winter days.

Wild turkeys gobbled. A red-tailed hawk carried nesting material. This raptor’s nest is a tall pile of sticks. I thought of Aeschylus, an Ancient Greek playwright, who has been described as the father of tragedy. He died in Sicily in 456 or 455 BC without having given a thought to Facebook. Valerius Maximus wrote that Aeschylus was killed by a tortoise dropped by an eagle or a lammergeier or bearded vulture (which feed on tortoises after dropping them on hard objects). It’s written that the bird had mistaken the bald head of Aeschylus for a rock suitable for shattering the tortoise’s shell. Pliny, a Roman scholar and naturalist, wrote that Aeschylus had received a prophecy that he’d be killed by a falling object, so things worked out. This story may be mythical, but I’m happy spring is taking its turn.

Meeting adjourned

“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the greatest intention.” — Kahlil Gibran