116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
At first I thought I was hearing a flock of chattering blackbirds or crows down in the woods behind my house, like they might be ticked off about something: so I walked slowly through the snow down the hillside until I came upon a wondrous sight, a dozen American bald eagles feeding off a deer carcass.
Eagles have hung out here for decades, yet their tiny voices always surprise me.
One expects large, commanding, Darth-Vader-of-the-bird-world voices but alas, eagles fall in to the same expectation category as Abraham Lincoln, whose voice was described as high-pitched, reedy, almost falsetto, not the voice one expects to hear offering a great address at Gettysburg, a voice that likely was heard only by the first few rows of listeners. Fortunately, a few of them paid attention.
It has been an interesting couple of weeks. The other morning I was up just before daybreak and a softball-sized golden/orange moon was resting low in the western sky, just above the treetops and I had to marvel at the magnificent lure of space. A day later NASA safely, even delicately, landed a rover named Perseverance on the surface of the Red planet, Mars. Life on Mars can never equal the prose assigned to it by writer Ray Bradbury so, frankly, I wish we'd move on to some other place, or spend the money on those we know to be alive here on earth.
After a lousy 2020 I have finally given in to old age in a very important way. I have mowed my lawn and the lawns of others with a push mower for the past 60 years, and I'm done. I'm exhausted. For a number of years I even pushed an old, un-motored reel mower. The neighbors thought me crazy. I expect they were correct.
So this week I took delivery of a brand-new riding mower with, of all things, a cup holder! I've never driven a mower so we'll see how it goes. Over the years I'd occasionally see some very large person on a very small riding mower and I'd unfairly and snarkily think, 'You'd weigh a lot less if you pushed a mower rather than rode one.” I wish to apologize to my fellow mower riders for having such thoughts, as I have gained weight during the Pandemic and I too will be mounting a small riding mower and, let's be fair, I was wrong. I sometimes stumble across the line toward pettiness and smugness. Forgive me.
We are still in the winter of our discontent but take heart, the ice pack has faded, and Canada geese are once again on the move, stopping briefly on my pond before winging their way north. Pheasants up the road have increased their population, coyotes still move past my bedroom window in the night, yipping, yapping, and sometimes keening, which has to be one of the truly sad sounds on earth. But it's entirely OK because it's going to be a great spring. And if you drive by on the graveled road above my place be sure to watch for a tired old guy on a lawn tractor. He'll be the one smiling, singing in full voice. Be sure to wave.
Kurt Ullrich lives in rural Jackson County. His book 'The Iowa State Fair” is available from the University of Iowa Press.