116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
My daffodil leaves are six inches tall now. A number of years ago I purchased an old-fashioned basket full of daffodil bulbs and planted them in clusters around the edges of the forest surrounding the hollow. I planted them for my own amusement, thinking that long after I am gone perhaps a young couple in love will be walking through the hollow, see the daffodils, wonder how in the world they got there, perhaps pick a few, turn to each other, and smile.
Thus, I'm amused every spring when I see the yellow flowers, because their presence here is improbable, rather like mine. You see, I'm relatively new to the rural life, arriving here a mere 22 years ago. I'm really more of a city guy, born in suburban Chicago, returning often. And any time I travel for a vacation it's to a big city, a place where one can be anonymous, maybe sitting in a cafe, attending a concert, or simply jostling fellow travelers on busy sidewalks, feeling the energy. But I always look forward to returning home, to the quiet, to the almost religious stillness one experiences just before an opening hymn.
The birds out here have been busy. Fewer and fewer eagles are hanging about. The parents of newborns will stick around a while longer, many until autumn, while others are checking with their travel agents and waiting for warm breezes from the south called thermals to lift them high in the air and carry them north, to Minnesota or Canada.
The big muddy river to the east of here is finally free of ice and the monster barges, often named for women, are once again making their way north and south, hauling grain, coal, and God knows what. In my youth much of my summer free time was spent on that river and muddy doesn't begin to describe the crap that mixes with the water and, from what I hear now, 60 years later, it's much worse. Eagles will be along the shoreline for just a bit longer, as the fishing is good.
A couple of days ago I watched a red-tailed hawk flying low over the field in front of the house, and when I say low I mean she was a foot above the dead grass, as she must have spotted some movement, a mouse, a vole, maybe a shrew. I have to report, she came up empty. Maybe next time. I love the word ‘shrew.' It makes me think of Shakespeare's 'Taming of the Shrew,” which later became a Broadway musical called 'Kiss Me Kate.” I attended a 2000 Broadway revival of ‘Kate' with actors Brian Stokes Mitchell and Marin Mazzie and it was glorious, reason enough to travel to cities.
A number of years later I caught a cabaret act in New York starring Ms. Mazzie and at the intermission I had a lovely chat with her. She was a brilliant stage actress and singer, starring in many Broadway hits and get this, she was originally from Rockford, Illinois. Who knew anyone came from Rockford, Illinois? Anyway, two years ago she passed, at age 57, of ovarian cancer. I look to these kinds of stories when I think about life being arbitrary and often unfair which it assuredly is, and for many the past year has proved it. Oddly, there is some comfort in knowing we are not alone in this unfairness.
Kurt Ullrich lives in rural Jackson County. His book 'The Iowa State Fair” is available from the University of Iowa Press