It’s the warmest day of the year by far. In the mid 50s, spring seems to be upon us. Yet, spring, though we’ve now heard its’ shouts in the form tree-buds and birds from somewhere down south, still has a long road ahead before the embrace will be felt––tomorrow is back to below freezing.
I’m sitting by the open patio door turning over some soil in a terra-cotta pot. I’ve had a potted basil plant for over a year and although bits of it are still hanging on, the repeated trimming for recipes calling for said herb, and neglect on my part in allowing it to mature, has resulted in winnowing, woody stems with little life left. I’ve popped the remaining leaves in my mouth (I’ve always thought they taste the slightest bit like spice drops) and pulled the roots. I’m going to plant more to begin the cycle over, but for this pot, I’m sowing some einkorn wheat berries.
I’ve got my brakes and my knee totally locked. I’ve got the steering wheel and my breath totally held. 10 feet, 20 feet––still sliding. 30 feet, ‘Man, I’m going to rear-end this car’.
The antilock brakes and my heart are thumping in unison as I’m engulfed in a tunnel of asphalt, ice and snow––and bumper.
Breathe. Clutch. Into first. Breathe. Clutch. Out of first into second. Breathe… I slid nearly forty feet but stopped a quarter of that short of the car ahead. By the grace of God all is well.
There’s a block of Black Maple (Acer nigrum) sitting on the back of my desk that is cut from its core to the bark. In counting the rings I’ve come up with 126. Since the tree was cut from my parents property in 2019, we’re looking at the germination and the first woody growth starting in the year 1893. This is exactly 100 years before my brother was born and 103 before me. My Mother’s paternal grandfather, Edson, was three years old at the time making him my only great grandparent in existence at this point in history. My second great grandfather (my dad’s great grandfather on his father’s side), whose first name is my middle, was in his twenties hard at work as a farmer some 10 miles away. He and his family would have farmed with horses and mules, grown the vast majority of their own food, walked or rode by horse or wagon into town and would have lived without electricity.
This tree, living through both world wars, the invention of the automobile, women’s suffrage, the great depression and one-hundred other significant events, now sits as a silent witness to local and international history.
It’s been a rainy, blustery day and although the sky seems to be bursting and blooming at the seams with signs of warmer weather, today it’s sheared with almost torrential rain. Raindrops must have a short memory because they only ever say what they’ve just heard the one below them say. But as the rain washes the window in song, my mind muses to past spring days.
My fingers are underwater squeezed in between two rocks while my wrist is covered in silt and sand as the stirred water finds its route around––I’m pulling stones and sticks and odd bits from around rocks in the river-bed. Being a dumping ground for an old strawboard mill, farmers, country and city folk and everything in between, this stream has just about everything in it. A friend and I have panned for gold in it in past months and found the bottoms of our gold pans filled with birdshot lead. In this case, the only prospect is the long life of the critters who evaded all the rounds rifled into the creek.
Pieces of undercut sedimentary aquacludes and glacial till also are strewn beneath the rolling water, making the geology nearly as diverse as the junk.
But even when taking into consideration the sundry strewn style of this river gorge, I would have never guessed I’d find what I’ve just plucked out of the mud and rocks. That is, before my friend found one last week.
My friend was doing very much the thing I’m doing just about a week ago––moseying around the river bed looking for cool rocks and what not, while simply enjoying the fresh air. He showed me his almost inexplicable find that afternoon and I, half-joking said, “I’m going to go down there (to the river) and find one of those, too”. Read: You found a needle in the haystack? I’m going to go find another one.
There’s really nothing exciting about finding a mineralized bovine (certain hooved animals like Cows, Buffalo, etc) tooth in a river, but for guys that like the outdoors, history, and a healthy bit of random things, several hundred year old teeth are pretty cool.
So as I raise my fingers from the rocks and the water falls to the stream and one mineralized bovine tooth settles in my palm, I have to crack a half smile––one haystack, two needles, thirty fits of laughter while thinking about telling my friend.