A quiet morning. Coming downstairs, I hear the tap-tap-tap of a tail on the floor (attached to a dog) joyously greeting me. I’m dog-sitting, and Moana knows it’s almost time for her walk. The tea kettle whistles, as I put on my shoes and down vest. I let the tea steep for a few minutes, before adding just a little milk. OK girl, time for your walk. It is frigid outside, but there is no frost this morning. Some of the trees have raindrops from yesterday hanging from their branches, a pretty sight, reflecting winter around them on a small-scale. As we walk along the long path, I come to a spot where hundreds of little acorns, no larger than a sunflower seed are scattered all over the path. Surely of keen interest to any squirrel that may reside in these parts. I pick one up to admire it, and playfully toss it near Moana. It is ignored however — she prefers sticks and stones, or an occasional soccer ball. It is completely still all around, a blanket of silent gray hanging over the valley.
I wonder what will the new year bring? Only you know God, but I thank you for the peaceful beginning today.
As I came back down a narrow pathway, grocery bags in hand, looking at a squirrel above me dashing across a telephone wire in what seemed to be quite a hurry, a girl approached me with her pint sized dog, who was tugging on the leash with abandon. I smiled at her and said: “I see your dog is taking you for a walk”, at which she got the giggles. I bent down and petted the dog, who now stopped pulling, as his nose caught a scent of my cat Calvin. Brief interest, then back to tugging on the leash — there are things to be explored and sniffed. “Bye”, “Bye”.
My hand was then sniffed of course when I entered my apartment with my groceries, with disdain and casual interest on Calvin’s part, as best I could tell. Occasionally when I have petted dogs, Calvin’s tail gets super bushy — something that always amuses me. Interestingly enough, it has nothing to do with the size of the dog — a mystery.
There are some trees that grow in my neighbors’ yard, that are rather peculiar. I keep forgetting their name and wrongly identifying them as beech trees. It just so happens, that from now on, I won’t forget their name anymore. The mystery was solved at Calvin’s birthday party (who by the way turned 4 and was the recipient of a much appreciated can of tuna fish). My neighbor Bill mentioned to me at Calvin’s party, that he had his gardeners over one time, and pointed out that the trees in question, were sending out lots and lots of side shoots. He thought the trees were over-“elming” and needed to be pruned back. So, without further ado, here is another observation about the now properly identified elm trees: they bloom very late in Spring, and from a distance it looks like the trees are getting leaves, when in fact they are blossoms. The leaves come in even later, once the blossoms have dropped. The blossoms are also a favorite treat of the neighborhood squirrels. This morning, while I was sitting outside, drinking a cup of coffee, I saw two of them in the trees, which I would guess are a good 40 to 50 feet tall. One squirrel, of pleasantly plump appearance, was comfortably seated near the top of the tree, stuffing himself full of blossoms to his hearts’ content. The other squirrel couldn’t make up its mind, and first kept looking in all directions, and then started tip-toeing to the outermost end of a branch, which was getting thinner and thinner as it proceeded, and then was put into motion by the weight of Ms. indecisive. A hasty retreat ensued, as a catapult type action was imminent. The squirrel then finally settled on another branch and started eating blossoms too. The scene reminded me of a kid in a candy store.
It is astounding what a few days of warm weather can do. The trees are in bloom everywhere now. In just one week, the magnolia in front of church has gone from buds to blossoms in all their beautiful splendor. A tree up the street has littered — if I may use that expression — its blossoms all over the sidewalk — a carpet of pinks, violets, and whites, one hesitates to step on. Yesterday the first blossom on my apricot tree opened up, and the photo I posted brought comments about apricot pie from a French friend, who is perhaps a bit impatient, I think. I recall a few years ago, the squirrels got all the apricots (there were only 6-7), and last year an unexpected cold front killed most of the blossoms, except one. And although I protected the lone remaining apricot with mesh, a squirrel beat me to it again! Today, many more blossoms opened up, so anticipation is high. Although apricot pie is good, my favorite is still apricot jam. I use it to cover a thin apple tart, a recipe I learned in a French cooking class a long time ago, that should be resurrected. So all you squirrels, back off, or I’m sending my cat Calvin after you for a tête-à-tête!